I’m an optimist. I recognised this many years ago and I’ve been reminded of the fact daily ever since. I look around me, see and hear the responses others have to situations that we are all facing and its obvious that my responses are different. I don’t know why this should be and and I’m not about to start trying to understand it, but what I do know is that it impacts in many ways on my life and never more so than right now.
With the economies of just about every country now in turmoil every business, anywhere in the world is having to make significant changes. If you have followed my work for any length of time, you’ll have probably picked up that I like change. Change is good, same is bad. You are only as good as your NEXT big idea. I can’t stand companies who strike it lucky and then settle into the rut of replicating what they did time and time again to milk it for all its worth. I don’t like them because there is an inevitable consequence to this approach – failure. The world moves on, customer needs change, attitudes swing, everything is in a state of flux. It is a very lucky business that has a product that will be equally successful through time with no change at all and right now I can’t even think of one.
I’ve been inside more companies over the years than I could even list and it has become clear to me that successful companies all have a spirit of optimism. Talk to their employees and their chatter is about HOW they are going to achieve things not WHETHER they can achieve them and that’s simply because they don’t consider for one minute that they won’t get there. And why should they? Anything is achievable. We are our own limitations.
I have never been far away from sports of one kind or another and the great sporting enlightenment of the last few decades has been sports psychology. At an elite level most athletes have equal capabilities. What separates them is most often belief in their ability to succeed. That’s where visualisation plays its part. Most athletes these days will sit and visualise their success, sometimes for hours. This conditions their brain so that it doesn’t consider failure as an option and that in turn enables them to perform to their full potential. It works, but if you don’t believe me consider this. Within twelve months of Roger Banister achieving the one-minute mile, 37 other runners did the same thing. What caused this surge of performance after years of believing it was impossible? The belief that it could be done! I’ve seen sportspeople who habitually performed below their skill level, transformed. What’s more, once they realise it’s working it becomes a self-perpetuating cycle – confidence increases, performance increases, success increases, confidence increases etc… It also works with sportspeople who are not in the elite group, even weekend warriors.
Anyway, back to business and why its clear to me which companies are going to make the transition that will earn them a place in the new world market.
I hear organisations all over the world acknowledging that they have to change to survive, but very few actually end up making the changes that are necessary. The reason for this is a combination of comfort with the status quo and fear of failure. Firstly, these organisations don’t have the change culture that I mentioned earlier (You are only as good as your NEXT big idea) so it’s not their habit to constantly look for improvements or changes. Secondly, they are, both individually as employees and on a corporate level terrified of doing something that will go wrong.
This fear is based on the failure to recognise that we are all capable of succeeding at anything. Anything is possible it’s just a matter of how badly you want it. If one company can innovate then you can. It’s just a matter of self-belief. My advice is, instead of focusing on the potential for failure, turn your attention to the risk of failing to exploit an opportunity, because that’s all that matters.
Attitude change like this has to start at the top. If you are a manager who accepts failure as inevitable or who doesn’t assume success, you need to pay a visit to a motivator or business psychologist, or you could quit of course if you think you’ll never make the change! (think about that comment, it’s deep) If you choose to re-focus your mind your next step has to be to eliminate all the doubters in your organisation. You can do this either by firing or re-training them. The latter is the best option of course, but you are going to have to focus a great deal of attention on internal marketing to pull it off.
Once you have introduced your organisation to positive thinking you’ll be surprised what you can achieve. Someone asked one of my contractors this week how sure they were that they would deliver a particular task. “Absolutely” was the unhesitating reply, but the questioner wasn’t convinced. “How can you be so certain?” came the response, to which my contractor replied “Anything can be done, its just a matter of how much time or money or effort you put behind it”. That task would never have been attempted until we came on the scene, but they’ll do it now and it will work and it will improve their business performance and I know that because my contractor recognises that anything is achievable. What’s more, like the cycle of positive thought I referred to earlier, the achievement will fuel further, bigger achievements for the company concerned.
It definitely pays to be an optimist.
June 15, 2012