Sep 12, 201209:20 AMPetra Learning, LLC
Tips for the Business Professional
Are You Fightng to "Win," or "Not Lose?"
Are you ready for some football? You may have heard me say that a few times over the past couple of weeks because I am ready. I love football. I’m more avid about the NFL than College Football, but I eagerly partake in both. There are a lot of things that I like about the game, but I also have my pet peeves. No pet peeve is bigger than the team that switches into “prevent defense” because they have the lead and they don’t want to lose. They go from fighting to win to fighting not to lose. And you know what, many times they lose. They lose because they’ve lot go of that hunger when the other time hasn’t. Sometimes, I think we’re guilty of the same in Corporate America. Our companies have been on the top for so long that instead of fighting to win, we are just trying to maintain our lead. We’ve lose that passion and that hunger that made as innovative and daring (in a calculated way). Instead of plotting offensive strategies that will advance us toward the goal line, we plot defensive moves that we hope will stop the other team from advancing. We become risk adverse and back off a bit to avoid any penalties and any “big moves”. The problem with that strategy is that the other team is still risk-seeking. They are ready to take risks that we can’t possible consider and they are ready to take every inch of space given to them. They don’t need the big moves because they are able to advance down the field with small moves. Here’s the simple reality that seems so obvious to me, yet seems to vex so many leaders and coaches: a series of small moves will advance you past someone who is standing still. It’s not rocket science. Yet, people with MBAs that have attended countless leadership training sessions still can’t seem to grasp onto this reality. I don’t get it.
Unfortunately, I believe that we often take the same approach to life. We get to a certain stage in life and we are relatively comfortable. We’ve had decent success and we don’t want to spoil that, so we stop taking chances. We count how much we have to lose instead of focusing on what we can still gain. If we do this long enough, we cease to grow. Others begin to pass us up because they are hungrier and, instead of getting angry at ourselves, we cry foul. But, and this still amazes me, we don’t change our approach at all. We stay in this prevent mode even after we see that it’s not working for us. It’s as if we’ve forgotten how to take initiative and attack. We continue to let others set the tone and try to react. I don’t know why it’s so much harder to pull ourselves out of defense mode than it is to allow ourselves to fall into defense mode. Even if you study the psychology of change, as I have and will continue to do, it still doesn’t fully explain why we are not able to go back to old habits that were working for us when our new ones aren’t. We talk about being stuck in the status quo and how change is hard because we’re okay with the status quo. And I get that. I’ve lived that. But we are not talking about a status quo that is working for us. We are talking about a status quo that has a lot of pain associated with it. And we are not talking about a habit that is all that we know. We are talking about bad habits that replaced good habits. The markers for the good habits should still be there but we struggle to tap into them. This vexed me for quite some time until I read “Thinking Fast and Slow”. It hit me like a lightning bolt – we stay in prevent mode because we are focused on the wrong problem. We don’t see our prevent stance as the issue. We think if the limited offense that we engage in can just run some time off the clock, we’ll be okay. So we focus our efforts on how to get a few first downs. Our prevent defense infects our entire mindset so that we are also playing it safe on offense. The two go hand in hand. If we want to get past this, our entire mindset has to shift.
You will have to think of this as a game where you are fighting for a prize and you are willing to fight to the end. So, the question I ask you is what is your mindset – are you approaching life with an “I’m fighting to win mindset” or are you approaching it with an “I’m fighting not to lose mindset”?