Winning in business takes practice. Not just practicing any old thing, but practicing the right things. Far too often, however, I see organizations practicing the wrong things. For example:
- Conducting disorganized meetings where people arrive late, unprepared, and not focused on what’s really important
- Making decisions based on assumptions rather than hard data
- Failing to follow up and hold people accountable on their decisions
- Refusing to consider data that doesn’t agree with their view of reality
- Ignoring market shifts or increasing regulations and hoping they will go away
The problem is that if we practice doing the wrong things, we get better at doing the wrong things. We are, in effect, practicing not to win. In order to win, we need to practice the habits that will support our organizations in achieving their destinations. To improve your chances of winning in 2022, practice the following winning habits.
- Focus on winning every day.
Take three minutes each morning to think about the day ahead. Ask yourself, “Of what I plan to do today, what will get me closer to my definition of winning or success?” Then organize your day around those tasks and activities that move you closer to your goals, while eliminating the things that clutter your time and attention.
- Focus others on winning.
Between distractions, interruptions, and the struggle to get the product out the door, people can easily lose focus on the big picture. Constantly talk about the importance of winning with employees. Place visual cues throughout your work environment (posters, graphics, customer logos, etc.), and imbed your definition of winning into all your ways of working. Keeping everyone in the organization focused on winning is essential for reaching the destination.
- Expose your thinking.
One of the biggest causes of bad decisions is the tendency to believe that others think and see the world the same way you do. This can be avoided by exposing your thinking processes to others. When presenting an idea or proposal:
- State your assumptions and describe the data that led to them
- Provide supporting detail for the reasoning behind your assumptions
- Explain the consequences or outcomes of your thinking
After communicating your thinking process, publicly test your conclusions and assumptions by actively soliciting feedback. Discussing the “why” behind the “what” will help your organization make higher-quality decisions.
- Recognize when you’re in mental fight-or-flight.
When humans are in mental fight-or-flight (strong fear of and/or resistance to an idea), we tend to screen in data that proves us right while screening out data that might prove us wrong – not a good recipe for smart decisions. If you find yourself having a strong emotional reaction to an idea or a statement, practice asking yourself:
- Why am I reacting so strongly to this issue?
- What underlying assumption or belief of mine is being challenged?
- Is this assumption or belief still true?
- What do I stand to lose by having my point of view challenged?
- Is it time for me to update my thinking?
- Run effective meetings.
To turn meetings from time-wasters into effective time-users, practice the following:
- Have a written agenda
- Start and end on time
- Define what winning for the meeting looks like during the first 2 minutes (what will we do, decide, discuss, determine, seek feedback on…)
- Get everyone involved in the discussion
- Make decisions based on hard data rather than unspoken assumptions
- Make sure everyone knows who has agreed to do what before leaving the room
- And when everyone nods their head and agrees, set a time, and have all participants actively disagree with whatever decision was just made
- This is a great way to find out what others are really thinking (so it can be addressed appropriately) and to provide some space for the brain to ponder possibilities, alternatives, and options
- Prove yourself wrong.
When evaluating an idea, project or even your strategic plan, first look for evidence that suggests things are going right. Then actively seek out evidence that contradicts it. The human brain has a strong tendency to see what it wants to see and to focus on evidence that supports its prevailing view of the world. Purposefully seeking data that “proves you wrong” can help with mid-course corrections (before it’s too late), and can often prevent bad decisions before they get fully implemented.
- Play with your brain.
These days, we’re all overworked, overstressed, and over-interrupted. To keep your most important leadership tool (your brain) in top operating condition, practice building time into your schedule to re-energize and recharge it. For example, schedule time away from your cell phone, email, and other distractions. Go for a barefoot walk in the grass. Do brain teasers or mind puzzlers. Read a magazine or blog that has nothing to do with your business or industry. Take one day a month to think about anything except your business. Use neuroprompts to remind yourself to visit your brain on a regular basis and see what’s going on inside that amazing tool.
We all practice what we do everyday. Will you practice winning habits in 2022, or resign yourself to another year of working hard to not lose?
Call to action: Pick one of the winning habits listed above, practice it every day for a month, and see what happens (hint: starting with #1 is a good idea).