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Working with leaders that shoot for the moon is inspiring, and frankly just fun. I have all the time in the world to talk about building capabilities for innovation, risk-taking, learning from failure – all the sexy biggies.

And yet nine times out of 10 (a highly un-validated estimate) when I sit down with the teams reporting to these moon-shooters, I come to learn (now unsurprisingly) that much of what keeps teams from shooting moons isn’t at all about an inability to shoot a moon.

Typically, it’s about a breakdown in the foundation.

For anyone who still speaks Maslow, no one can self-actualize when they’re naked and hungry.

No one can self-actualize when they’re naked and hungry.

And likewise, teams don’t bring their greatest ideas to life when the basics of carrying out their day-to-day work is draining, inefficient, or simply broken.

In other words, for leaders seeking to inspire a moonshot, they should really examine the unsexy day-to-day of how work is working for their teams. Because I’m almost willing to guarantee that something simple is holding them back.

This piece is not a call for leaders to stop trying to innovate – but it is a call for leaders to ensure the stage is set.

How can leaders do this effectively? It’s all about asking the right questions, hearing the replies without defense, and stepping up to do something about it.

Leaders – sit down with your teams and absolutely share your grand vision. Let a moonshot be your North Star. That conversation will always be sexy and in fashion.

But also acknowledge a moon can’t be shot at the expense of getting our already-existing work done. So fly your unsexy flag and ask your teams…

  • What’s the biggest obstacle or slow-down you face in your day-to-day? (I’ll bet you hear things about approval processes, decision-making, consensus building, meeting overload, constant priority shifting…)
  • What is one thing I can do to move or change it?
  • What can we do jointly to prevent this from popping up again?
  • What can / will we gain from clearing this obstacle out of your path?

None of this is rocket science. Which is kind of ironic because I’m pretty sure shooting a moon is actually rocket science.

But leaders – give yourself a break. Make the space to ask simple questions and do something really unsexy. The impact you have may just be the thing that gets your team to the moon.