Paint reality, give hope

Ginni Romnetty, IBM’s former CEO, shared this simple idea in an interview – “Paint reality, give hope.” In her words –

“‘Paint reality, give hope’ means, this is not about ‘Rah. Rah. Yes, we can do it. We can do it.’ I was integrating two big companies during a downturn and it was this time I had moved off of engineering and into consulting. And you know, when it’s time to get a little tough out there, some of the first things that go are discretionary spending in consulting, right? And so it got hard to make targets and do an integration at the same time. 

And I always remember, ‘No, come on, we can do it. Work harder.’ It’s about paint reality of where it’s at. Be honest with people about, ‘Okay guys, this is what the environment looks like. Here’s where we’re doing well. Here’s where we’re not.’ But then you always have to flip to this, ‘Okay, but now let me tell you why you’re gonna come out the other end of this. Okay. And you will be able to do this.’ And that idea is another way, I guess, of saying appeal to your head and your heart at the same time.

A simple and powerful idea that speaks to the balance between being plainspoken while helping a group move forward constructively.

Easier said than done. But so important nevertheless.