Are You Focusing on the “Right” Things?

Silhouette of a golfer putting at sunset

I was hit by a freight train yesterday, right between the eyes.  I revelation so powerful it rocked my world and should fundamentally change….my golf game.  Whoa, what does this have to do with business leadership?  Everything!

Let me explain, I was speaking with a sports psychologist after a chamber event.  I was complaining about my golf game, I have a decent swing but I haven’t turned it into an equivalent score.  In conversation, she just throughout “…you need to focus on what you did right” and it hit me.  Whenever I hit a bad shot I think about what went wrong and break 2-fundamental laws of the universe.  The first is “success builds on itself” and the second is “we get what we focus on”.  By focusing on what went wrong I doom myself to repeat it and by not focusing on what went right (the successful part of the shot) I don’t allow myself to build on that success.

The same thing happens in business every day.  As business leaders, managers and owners, we want to see our companies improve.  To do this, we look for what is not working and try to correct it.  We usually meet with resistance and push back from our team.  What we should be doing is looking at what does work and then build on that success.

How the Best Business Leaders Build on Success

In order to build on success, effective business leaders must change their frame of reference.  There are 4-steps to make sure you come have a positive approach.

  1. Start by acknowledging what went right – few evolutions are a complete disaster, there is always something that went right. Start any discussion on improvement by acknowledging what went right and who was responsible for that success.
  2. Identify what elements would be the easiest to improve – we want to make success a habit and success begets success. Find the easy wins that will require the least amount of change but will have a positive impact.
  3. When discussing the proposed changes, take a positive tact. Do not say “We did this wrong and we need to improve upon it” instead your approach should be “If we improve this we will improve our____”. – The difference between these two approaches makes all the difference.
  4. Make small changes that build to a big impact – Don’t try to tackle too much. Small changes are easier to manage and are less threatening to your team.

By focusing on the positive and juxtaposing your opportunities for improvement with your areas of success you keep your team on a positive track.  Acknowledging the success will actually cause dopamine to be released in the brain, providing a sense of accomplishment.  Dopamine is addictive and your team will want more.  Your team may also experience a release of oxytocin which creates bonding and other prosocial behaviors.  In addition, oxytocin reduces fear and anxiety which will make it easier to implement change…thus success begets success.  Therefore, continue to reinforce the positive and change your business for the better.


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