Watching England win their first two matches in this year’s 6 Nations got me thinking back to when Clive Woodward managed England to victory in the 2003 Rugby World Cup. (Sorry if you are not an England supporter – please keep reading). In particular how a tea cup had played its part and what we can learn from that in terms of success in business. OK, more accurately it’s T-CUP or Thinking Correctly Under Pressure.
In the foreword to Yehuda Shinar’s book “Think Like a Winner”, Woodward writes how he worked with Shinar to start thinking about coaching the team in a different way. When they first met he describes how, “he (Yehuda) was explaining everything I had experienced and done when I was successful in a competitive environment, both in sport and in business. But up until then I wasn’t actually aware of precisely what I was doing when I was succeeding or for that matter when I was failing. By developing my awareness and self-understanding I saw that I could increase my frequency of success and decrease my frequency of failure”.
I highlighted above what I see as the key points on how this relates to being successful in business. The focus is about developing self awareness. In this case that awareness of how the way you perceive (think about) a situation can influence the final outcome – for good or bad. Success in starting up or running a business is as much about how you think as it is about the actions you take to get you there. This development of self awareness, sadly in my view, is an area that many small business people don’t consider or invest in enough.
There is a cycle where your thoughts influence your feelings and your actions and in turn these influence the ultimate outcome. When you get a negative or unwanted outcome you need to transform performance-inhibiting thoughts into performance-enhancing thoughts and recognise and regulate emotions that are in play. All of this can influence how you manage your business, yourself and your relationships.
This is a vast topic but I want to show you a simple and quick 7-question technique that you can use to challenge an unhelpful mindset and give yourself the better chance of success in a challenging situation. Let’s take an example of how even the way you think about a simple, every day event can affect your future behaviour, which may hinder your business success.
You go to a networking event and strike up a conversation with someone you want to follow up with. You get their business card and then when you get back to the office you email them suggesting you meet up to talk further. After a week they have not returned your email.
Now I know everyone will have a different response to this; which is in large part influenced by previous experiences and beliefs about the situation. In this case let’s say that each day you check your email without a reply you start to think:
- “How rude not to even reply”
- “Hmmm I thought we got on well – how did I get that wrong?”
- “Maybe I was too pushy”
- “I knew networking was a waste of time; I won’t bother again” …
Yes some may be a bit extreme but if you weren’t convinced about networking and didn’t feel comfortable about doing it in the first place this may be how you would think. In that case you may feel a bit disheartened and disappointed – maybe even a bit angry that they have not been in touch. And it’s possible that you may decide that you won’t try networking again, which may impact your success in marketing your business.
The first step to using this technique is to start to focus on capturing your thoughts. Stop and ask yourself – what was I thinking as I sat at my laptop checking my email? Then it’s about evaluating that thought to see if it was helpful or unhelpful or even completely true. This is not easy if you aren’t used to it as we tend to believe that what we think is true – after all they are our thoughts. But we may not be looking at the whole picture, we may be taking some aspect of the situation out of proportion, or maybe you are just having a “bad day” and on another day you might see it differently.
So these questions are designed to help you evaluate your thoughts and see if you have missed something or are getting things out of proportion in some way. For each thought ask yourself one or more of these questions:
- What evidence is there that this is not true (or not completely true)?
- Do my past experiences support or contradict this thought?
- Am I jumping to conclusions and missing an alternative explanation?
- What impact does telling myself this have (on my feelings & actions)?
- How would someone else see this situation?
- Will I think about this the same next week/month/year?
- How could I think about this differently so I have different choices of what to do?
In the networking example above you might consider that, maybe the person is away for the week or busy and their not replying has nothing to do with you. Even if they did see it and ignore it – it’s only one attempt and doesn’t mean that all future networking will be useless. Maybe you could email again and prompt them in case it got lost in an over-full inbox. Other people seem to be OK when someone doesn’t get back to them – maybe it’s not as big as thing as it seems to me…
So hopefully after evaluating your original thoughts, you will get a new perspective which helps you see that there are other options for how you might respond, which will be more helpful for you and your business.
The key to this is self-refection and developing self awareness, which may take some practice – so maybe sit and capture your thoughts after reading this blog. Hopefully your thoughts and resulting feelings and action will mean you read the next thing I write – or is that my own unhelpful thinking coming into play!?