The Psychology of Success

Ed Wenck | Jul 22, 2020
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Dr. Rebecca Homkes has a blunt bit of wisdom for those running a business: “Your opinion doesn't matter.

“Only the market opinions matter.”

It’s a hard bit of reality at any time, but especially during a downturn, when the notion of “predictability” has essentially vanished. And it’s one of the key pieces of Homkes’ strategic guideline called “Survive, Reset, Thrive,” which proceeds from the premise that, yes, you can actually grow your business when market forces have gone negative.

But in order to get there, you’ve got to reassess your mental approach.

Homkes – a high-growth strategy specialist and lecturer at the London Business School – talks about a shift in thinking that can help: Simply put, one needs to move from “planning” to “preparing.” “Most of us are great planners,” she explains. “If you're an integrator, you get the lay of the land in a certain city: there are X amount of homes over $X million, for example. But now, the variables are still emerging. So we've got to shift our mindset of how we think about business planning to business preparation.”

“The question around the executive team table should not be, ‘Is this a good idea?’ The question is, ‘What has to be true for this to be a good idea?’” Then, the process becomes fairly straightforward, according to Homkes: “As a team, you write down those variables. Rank those variables in order from most important to least important and go down then one by one and say, is this true? If you look at those variables and you say, I feel pretty comfortable that this world will emerge, we can proceed.”

Positive/Negative Asymmetry

Griffing SmallJason Griffing, director of product at OneVision Resources, has a take on how we process that data in the first place. “There’s a term in psychology known as a positive/negative asymmetry, and that's just a fancy way of saying that as human beings, we are very drawn to solving problems,” he says. (To really simplify it, bad things impact our brains more than good things.)

“That’s not inherently a bad thing,” explains Griffing, “but if we're not deliberate and mindful about our approach, what this can lead to is a myopic focus on fixing problems. And that often comes at the expense of zooming out a little bit and saying, ‘Hey, what is working? Where are the places in our organization where we are having success? And what can we learn about where that's happening?’”

Griffing gives a concrete illustration: “You might have an individual who is particularly good at selling service plans, for example. And if you're focusing all of your energy on the people who aren't even including that plan in the proposal and kind of bashing them over the head and trying to fix that problem, and you're completely ignoring where it is working well.”

The next step? “Ask yourself how can we replicate and scale what’s working -- maybe that individual has found successful hacks to the conversation. Maybe they have a really creative way of framing it or presenting it in the proposal. And if you can go dig into those bright spots and figure out what is it about this individual that's driving that success, you'll find that that's a great way to propagate those best practices out across the organization.”

Homkes and Griffing have a lot more to say on this subject and several others: Homkes is a guest on the CEDIA podcast “Survive, Reset, Thrive” and Griffing appears on the episode “Creating Lasting Change," which debuts this Friday, July 24.