Hope is a Strategy

If you have been in a Board Meeting, a strategic planning session, or any other type of team meeting you have probably heard the overused cliché, “Hope is not a strategy." It is debated, but most people credit the great NFL Coach Vince Lombardi for coining this phrase. I am someone who not only has heard this quite a bit, but I have also repeated this throughout management meetings.  It usually is thrown out when someone says something like, “We hope to get back on track by next month”, or “We hope that our success continues”.  To which someone in the room responds, “Well, hope is not a strategy.  What is your plan to make that happen?”  

Not to sound like a hypocrite, and far be it from me to disagree with a great strategist like Vince Lombardi, but I’m starting to question my stance on hope as a strategy, especially surrounding the culture of wellness in an organization.  It actually began a few weeks ago when I had the opportunity to hear Brett Culp speak to a group at The CEO Council of Tampa Bay.  Brett is a documentary filmmaker and his films are centered around what is good in the world.  His latest film, “Look To The Sky” explores the power of hope while encouraging viewers to find the superhero that lives within themselves.  I would highly recommend Brett’s work, which you can find on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.  During his presentation, Brett put on a slide this phrase, “Hope is Magic”.  That really didn’t change my mind, I mean who wants a strategy built on magic?  But, he went on to explain that hope is the bridge between where we are today and what is possible in the future.  By creating that opportunity, hope becomes the magic that allows great things to happen in the future.   This began my change in thought process. 

Sitting at the table next to me was my good friend, Tim Marks, who is the current CEO of Metropolitan Ministries.  If you are not familiar with this organization, this is an independent, faith-based non-profit committed to serving the poor and homeless families in the Tampa Bay area.  Their mantra is “Hope is Here”.  Not only is hope their strategy, it is also their mission!  They are in the business of providing hope, and I have seen first-hand how this has positively impacted their culture as well.  It would be difficult to convince Tim that hope is not a strategy.


All of this made me reflect on the culture in our organization, Bouchard Insurance.  For years I have been saying that at the foundation of our culture is the notion that as a leadership team our responsibility is to create a platform that allows every team member to be the best version of themselves, and then get out of the way and let them do it.  This simple, yet powerful concept has created an organization of people that believe in themselves.  They in turn care for each other, the clients we work with, and the communities we serve. What was my “A-ha” moment is that if hope is a bridge (platform) that creates future possibilities (best version of yourself), then all of these years I have been saying that our responsibility is to create hope for our team members.  Who knew?  Hope IS a strategy! 

Or, at the very least we should have a strategy to create hope for our team, and there is no greater place that this is evident than in creating a culture of wellness within an organization.  Wellness in the corporate world has become such a buzz word and often times is directly linked to health care or physical fitness.  But, organizations that are creating strong cultures based in wellness recognize that it is so much more than this.  A comprehensive approach includes mental wellness, emotional wellness, financial wellness, as well as physical wellness just to name a few.  Ultimately all of these building blocks create a holistic approach to wellbeing.  But, it is also personal because all of us have different wellness needs and goals.  In my opinion so many of the “off the shelf” wellness programs are not effective because they don’t recognize that one size does not fit all. 

Instead, an organization should define why wellness is important to them first because that becomes the litmus test on any future programs, incentives, or initiatives.   As I outlined earlier, our organization has decided that our “why” is because we want our employees to rely on us to be the platform that allows them to be better in the future regardless of where they are today and regardless of how they define “better”.  Wherever that starting point is, and whatever they define as “better”, we want to support that.  We want to create hope for a better future.  With that defined, our programs must meet this requirement to be effective, and in turn the team connects with and improves upon the programs well beyond anything the leadership team could have imagined.  Let me give you a few examples:

  • Our Go365 wellness incentive program created a focus on counting steps, and now many of our teams have walking meetings outside and around the block instead of sitting in a meeting room.  These ideas came from employee engagement, not management.  We just created the Go365 platform and support the idea.
  • We have a group of team members that sign up for 5Ks and other races together.  They are called the B Fit team and proudly wear shirts with our logos on them.  The group has grown exponentially over the past few years.  This was created not by management, but by a group of employees that wanted to do something together.  The agency simply buys them a shirt if the team member commits to the races.
  • Last year the agency partnered with the American Heart Association and Baycare to test pilot a blood pressure initiative called, “Check, Change, Control”.  A completely voluntary program that resulted in not only doubling the participation goal at the beginning of the program, but also recognized and mitigated potential life threatening issues in 15% of our team.  The agency offered the program, and gave employees time during the workday to log their results.  Our team members did the rest and delivered the results.
  • A committee of team members choose where, how, and what we are going to do in giving back to our communities on a quarterly basis.  They are the B Involved team and show up with their t-shirts to prove it.  Engagement is completely voluntary, the agency just supports giving back by offering one paid day off each year for charitable causes.  All of our B Involved events are packed with volunteers.

These are just a few examples of our wellness culture.  No one thing makes up our wellness initiatives, and none of these are mandated by the organization.  But, all of them pass the test of providing a platform to be a better you.  All of these create hope in the areas of fitness, health, life balance and stress management. 

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And so, I have come full circle in saying that Hope IS a strategy, and hope is at the center of our wellness strategy.  By keeping hope within our strategy we are avoiding the hopeless feeling and allowing all of us to continue to focus on better days ahead.  It allows us to build confidence during the good times as well as the challenging times.  It keeps us looking forward and growing.  I challenge you to look at your organization and see if you have mechanisms in place that is creating hope for your team.  If not, it should be the first step in building your culture of wellness.


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Doug Bishop is the CEO of Bouchard Insurance. Doug joined Bouchard in 1997 after graduating from Florida State University with a degree in Risk Management & Insurance. | Connect on LinkedIn