Playing to Win Is an Inside Job

When you are focused on safety, your mental energy and attention are distracted from winning. The “not losing” approach to leading fosters contracted visions and fear-based decisions.

How many opportunities slip through your fingers? Even in the most challenging business environment, unexpected opportunities emerge. When your attention is on winning, you draw these opportunities to you and are keenly aware when they arise.

Friends of mine at a commercial construction company know how to play to win. One of the partners told me that his company listens more closely and intently to the client. Building on the strengths of long time, successful client relationships, his company has expanded its ability to meet and exceed the needs of clients.

The prevailing wisdom of planning and finding solutions starts with identifying weaknesses and problems. With a focus on problems, developing a negative culture is likely. Can your business afford this approach?

Consider the Appreciative Inquiry (AI) method of change that David Cooperrider launched in 1980. Re-frame the picture of what is happening in your business from “where is the problem” or “what do we need to fix” to “what is working” or “how can we do more of this.”

This approach does not ignore or negate problems but shifts the perspective to something new and of what is possible. To learn more about AI, visit http://appreciativeinquiry.case.edu

Use these guidelines to set your course for the coming year:

1. Assume that more is going right than is going wrong.

2. Look for successes and strengths in people, systems, processes and results. Peter Drucker, said, “The task of organizational leadership is to create an alignment of strengths in ways that make a system’s weaknesses irrelevant.”

3. Approach problems from the success side not the failure side.

4. Create a buzz about what is going well in your business now and historically by celebrating successes. What are the stellar moments?

5. Train and mentor for success at all levels of your business.

6. Establish your strategies and goals to build on the best NOW in order to create your aspirations (your shared vision) for the future.

7. Put the structure in place to support strengths and successes. For example, use checklists to sustain the excellent customer service for which your business is noted.

As part of an expanded marketing and business development strategy for her company, my client chose to update her resume. Identifying her successes and strengths reminded her of the value she provides to her clients. As a result, she has increased her confidence to attract new business and develop new services. Her marketing and sales strategies are rooted in strengths. In a recent email recapping an unsolicited incoming call from a potential customer, she said, “This is exciting.” Yes, indeed it is. Fun, too.

Keep your eye on winning by building on a foundation of strength and success. Lead your business with an expansive vision and courageous decisions. What do you have to lose by playing to win? Winning is an inside job.

© 2011 Ann Elliott All Rights Reserved

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