Is your vision visionary?

When asking clients to think about their vision for the future of their company (and by implication for themselves personally), I am struck by how much difficulty even very entrepreneurial types can have in seeing the potential for their business.

It can be hard to think of what your company can do without comparing it (and you) to your perception of those around you. Our knowledge of how others are performing is our most used reality check and if those you know are struggling to build their businesses beyond a certain level, or have failed in the attempt, then this can be a very real factor in limiting your vision and ambition.

Writing in the Sunday Times a while back, Dominic Lawson was discussing the general UK approach to the very rich and used a great metaphor to describe our attitudes to success:

It is, he suggested ‘like the person who thinks he is a great success being able to fly business class, until he sees someone he knows walking past him into the first class cabin’.
He expanded the metaphor to describe the plight of the remaining vast majority of the passengers, who ‘turning right when they enter the aircraft can see no difference between those who turn left’.

If you never aim to fly First Class, the chances are that you never will.

Beware your beliefs

I was working with a client and we were discussing the power of Beliefs; there was a light bulb moment that prompted a memory from the client “years ago”. He said, “my wife worked for an antique jewellers and silversmiths and she was telephoned by a client, who said she was looking to purchase a wine funnel.” His wife checked the stock register and replied that they did have one and it was priced at £65 (it was a while back!). The client replied that she was looking for a ‘better’ wine funnel and that as this was £65, it was not going to be good enough. On putting down the telephone, the shop owner told my client’s wife to wait for 30 minutes and then he rang back the client to explain that they had had another look through the register and yes they did have a ‘better’ wine funnel in stock and it was priced at £165!” Apparently the client purchased the funnel there and then.

For those of you who might have just woken I should perhaps explain that she had purchased the self-same funnel, the only difference being that she had happily paid £100 more, happy to believe that because it was more expensive it must be better.

Now I am not condoning this particular method of selling which today would border on the criminal, nor am I relating the story as an amusing anecdote of some collector’s naivety; the story struck me as a powerful illustration of the power and the danger of beliefs.

Our beliefs force us to act in ways that rational analysis would describe as being totally irrational.

This doesn’t apply to you?

Maybe, but just pause and consider a typical belief that I have encountered this week:
‘Waitrose is better quality than Tesco’ a belief that keeps middle class housewives flooding into Waitrose.

And then consider all the beliefs surrounding the mystique of choosing wine, or on the golf course, or about restaurants and airlines (BA are polite, budget airlines are rude).

Real evidence seldom if ever, is a part of the creation of the belief, although individual experience frequently reinforces the belief.

It may well be that in everyday life these beliefs have little major impact on us as individuals, apart from preventing us from experiencing alternative and possibly cheaper or better options.

But what about in your business life?
What are the beliefs that you hold that are limiting your business from super-performing?

Remember Henry Ford: “Whether you think you can, or whether you think you can’t, you’re right”.

Who will you be today?

A while back I was early for a meeting with a large bank in the city of London.

My meeting was for 2.00pm and so I waited at a coffee bar opposite the bank and enjoyed the rare sunshine.

As I was people- watching I spotted a group of young executives walking down the street towards the bank. They had been out, presumably to get some lunch and were in great form: very relaxed, with jackets over shoulders, ties undone and they were laughing and joking together.

As they approached the bank they tightened their ties and put on their jackets: that was not surprising, but what I did notice was the other, more subtle changes as they approached the swing doors…

Their body language changed- they moved slightly apart, straightened up and altogether became more serious. Quite unconsciously they were slipping into ‘work mode’. They were putting on their masks before entering the bank.

What struck me then was how instinctive this was, how without thinking they had adjusted their internal sense of being as they approached the doors of their workplace.

We all do this instinctively and we all know that we can go into work mode and become a different person to when we are in home mode. So if we instinctively change personality as we go to work, it follows that if we give this a bit more thought we can choose variations of this personality to suit specific occasions.

I am sure, if we are honest, that we can all remember times when, before a meeting, we have failed to read the minutes of a previous meeting, or to study the relevant papers and we will recognise how much of a disadvantage this put as at during the meeting. We all know that if we come into a meeting fully briefed we are going to perform better.

But getting briefed is just part of the preparation: we also need to decide ‘who’ we are going to ‘be’ during the encounter.

When we are in ‘working mode’ we will naturally adapt our style to the type of role we feel most comfortable in and there are many different work roles: friend-boss-disciplinarian-salesman-conciliator-organiser to name but a few. We need to understand that our instinctive role will not be best suited to every situation we encounter.

So, if you are a natural conciliator (and many of us are), and you are about to deal with a confrontational issue, not only do you need to prepare yourself for the encounter by reading all the background material, you also need to prepare yourself internally by considering which mask to put on, by choosing ‘who’ you are going to ‘be’ for this particular meeting.

Taking account of the ‘who’ will not only better prepare you for the meeting, it will ensure that the chances of a successful outcome are increased.