One of the recurring themes at the Aspen Ideas Festival was, of course, change. Between COVID and the race equity revolution, there was plenty for speakers to discuss.

For me, activist Stacey Abrams succinctly captured the crux of the issue. “There is an amazing tension around what should be and how quickly it should happen,” she said. “We agree that things should change, but to what?”

Defining the details is where the challenges lie for all leaders. People are much more adept at describing what is bad than they are at articulating what the desired state looks like, let alone having agreement on the process to get there. But the more clarity you can achieve about the end goal, the more likely you are to overcome barriers to achieve it. Foster informal conversations about what “it” looks like. Have people write white papers to clarify their thoughts (in their own minds as well). Spend a staff meeting creating vision boards. Make lists of the key characteristics you’re looking for in the solution or objectives you’re trying to meet.

Georgetown Professor Michael Dyson noted that “sudden is not sudden; it is a build-up” with movement that has been out of sight for years finally coming to the surface. Even if the necessary change in your organization isn’t imminent, it’s worth your time now to start sketching what the future looks like. It’s much easier to obtain buy-in when people can help fill in the detail than after you present them with a completed painting.

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