You have a big problem. And you’re trying to solve it, but you just can’t. You keep saying to yourself and your team “Okay, here’s the problem”. “Here’s the issue.” “Let’s clarify the issue”. And all those words and focus, and the attempt to really gain an understanding of the problem… just aren’t working.
How do you get everyone to come together and find an explanation? Maybe you should try a new tactic: focus on the potential, not the problem. Be outcome-oriented.
The term “outcome-oriented” comes up in discussions about problem-solving, goal-setting, and strategy. Some people don’t like it. They say that you should instead focus on the process, because if you keep your eyes squarely on the prize, you’ll lose sight of everything that needs to happen along the way. There’s a simple answer to that: every big project is made up of a bunch of little projects; manage those projects capably, and you’re golden.
Naysayers of an outcome-oriented approach sometimes think that with too much focus on the end result, any means are justifiable. But I think that’s largely determined by your overall corporate culture. It won’t be a problem for you, because all throughout your company, from the tippy-top corner office to the basement broom closet, your employees know that your Big Goal is to help people – you’re good guys. You’re not greedy, you’re not going to lie, cheat or steal to improve the bottom line.
So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s take a look at the upside of an outcome-oriented approach.
If you approach a problem scenario from an at-the-finish-line perspective, you can put together a plan that, when you account as best you can for the unforeseen, lets you finish the race on time and injury-free.
You know that “new relationship” feeling? The one with all the euphoria? Well, that’s kind of what I imagine it feels like to be involved in a start-up. As a person who loves to collaborate on big ideas, I know that head-in-the-clouds, anything-is-possible feeling. It’s like everything is gonna be great – it’s a feeling of promise and hope and eager desire. For a marketer like me, it kinda equates with “engagement”. And in a business setting, that feeling gets ideas churning like nothing else. Because there’s just So. Much. Possibility. How can well-established companies, whose own start-up roots are buried deep in the bedrock, hone in on – and gain from - that feeling? One word: “Innovation”.
The world of Internet marketing is young – it’s vibrant, bold, and growing all the time. It seems like every day, I learn of another new method to reach customers (and by “customers” I mean people at every stage of engagement – potential customers, existing customers, estranged customers and evangelists) and it’s so exciting. Social media, webinars, pop-up ads, PPC, content marketing, email - the Internet offers a wealth of possibility!
New businesses seem to always be jumping right onto the bandwagon – they see a great marketing opportunity rolling by, and boy do they hop on board. I think it’s because a new company still has such a great entrepreneurial spirit. Everyone’s excited because everything is so new – since the marketers don’t yet know what works for them, they’re open to new things. Instead of saying “oh, we tried that once, it didn’t work,” or “oh, well sure company X is doing it, but it’ll fail” they say “hey, here’s this new thing that might help us be a little faster, a little stronger, let’s try it!” They haven’t “learned” what doesn’t work for them, so they see everything through the eyes of potential. “Hey, this might work!”
It’s not just new companies that manage to do this, though; some very well-established companies manage to keep their entrepreneurial spirit alive throughout the business. Google, for example, doesn’t let their talent pool stagnate due to specialization. Under Google’s “20 percent time” initiative, employees are encouraged to have pet projects, and are even given company-time to work on those projects, to recruit team members and to advertise inside the company so that their ideas will catch on. Maybe every company can’t be Google, but we can all learn from this innovative, can-do grass-roots attitude.
In a previous post, I talked about how you can create your own engagement at work by taking on a pet project – well, I didn’t even know about 20 percent time then (I guess I was under a rock?), so that’s just proof that I’m a genius. Anyway, Google’s not the only company that concurs (about the innovation/pet project thing, not about me being a genius… though I’m sure they’d agree with me there, too) - Apple has Blue Sky, LinkedIn has InCubator, and William McKnight, IBM’s Chairman of the Board from 1949 – 1966 said, in essence, that it is imperative for companies to foster creativity, rather than stifle it, even in the face of mistakes…
“Management that is destructively critical when mistakes are made kills initiative. And it’s essential that we have many people with initiative if we are to continue to grow.”
“Act, Don’t React”. For years this advice perplexed me. How can we possibly “act” to a situation, not “react”? After all, “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction,” not “an equal and opposite action”. A reaction is a law of nature, so we have no control, right? Well… not quite.
When someone or something makes you angry, hurt, scared, or all of the above, you experience an automatic “reaction” – those feelings of anger, pain and fear. Inwardly, you may feel like screaming and throwing things, or like running away. You feel all kinds of small, hard emotions deep inside your belly. That’s a reaction. You may not have control over that. However, you do have control over what you show to the world. You have control over how you “act”.
When you encounter a situation that makes you want to behave badly, step back. Try to understand that your feelings are not in control. You are in control, and as powerful as your feelings may be, you don’t have to let them loose. Set those feelings aside, and when you get some alone time, if you still want to, you can let ‘em rip: scream at the top of your lungs, say all kinds of bad words, cry, throw a pillow at the wall, stomp your feet – have a good ‘ol tantrum. But in the moment that the situation occurs, when you are face-to-face with another person, (or face-to-rear-bumper if you’re in traffic,) maintain your calm. It can be difficult, I know.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Your perception of the situation is different than the other person’s.
- “Fault” is not that important because it’s usually shared.
- The other person may be feeling hurt, angry or scared, too.
Trying to understand exactly where the other person is coming from may be too difficult until you have a cool head; but you can still acknowledge that your perception, your viewpoint, is not the only one. Perception is a tricky thing, because it involves so much more than whatever is driving a given situation. Perception involves back-story, baggage even. In “The Three Laws of Performance,” authors Steve Zaffron and Dave Logan point out that “Situations occur differently for each person. Not realizing this can make another’s actions seem out of place”. They define “occur” as “the reality that arises within and from your perspective on the situation… [this] includes your view of the past (why things are the way they are) and the future (where all this is going).” This is very important because now we can clearly see that if you are in an altercation with an individual, the two of you are having different experiences. You are each experiencing the same moment, but very differently, because your perceptions include preconceived attitudes about the past and the future. You have a clear argument in your head, a clear notion of why you are right and they are wrong, because of these preconceptions.
That’s why you have to step back, outside of your “occurrence” and “act” calm. I am not a big fan of the whole “count to ten” thing because it shows that you are about to lose control and are making an active effort to maintain it – this is far from optimum. If you absolutely cannot reconcile yourself to handling a situation when it happens, then just play it cool and say you want to think things over for a bit, and you’ll get back to the other person. Then, remembering that perception and how an event occurs is different for each person, really think about how you can approach the situation differently, and try to see the other person’s side. Focus on how to move forward and create a win-win experience. These types of situations are valuable learning experiences – they build your problem-solving toolkit. You can use this moment of struggle as an opportunity for growth. Like Hellen Keller said: “We could never learn to be brave and patient if there were only joy in the world.”
An action is an outward display. A reaction is internal. We have control over our actions – we may not always exercise that control, but it’s always there. “Act, don’t react” means: take charge of the situation by mastering your own behavior.
So, when you’re dealing with an unpleasant reaction, you need to “act” like the situation is under control. Don’t react. Not now. Do that later. Now, just Act. Act like a grown-up, confident person who has mastery over his feelings and can maintain composure. You’ll find that, the more you act the part, the more you become that person. And that’s gonna feel pretty good.
Maintaining composure does a lot: it helps to defuse the situation – if you can maintain control, the other person will calm down, too. And it’s good for your reputation. You’ll be known for keeping a cool head, even when provoked. That makes you seem reliable and responsible – someone who can be counted on in tough situations. In the business world, as in all aspects of your life, this is a useful reputation to have.
I leave you with this quote from B.C. Forbes: “The man who is bigger than his job keeps cool. Confident that he is equal to any emergency, he does not lose his head. He refuses to become rattled, to fly off in a temper, to stamp and holler and swear. The man who would control others must be able to control himself.”