Posted tagged ‘business sense’

The key to business success, Part 1: Attribution

August 5, 2008

To give this blog a proper kick start, I thought I’d begin with some ideas I’ve had (both through my experience in business and from theories that I have developed whilst at University) regarding attribution. Attribution is the reasons you give, externally to your staff and your clients and intrinsically to yourself, for success and failure in business, sport and life in general. I feel attribution is the keystone to successfully learning from each experience and to building strong relationships with staff and clients. I understand that psychological theories are about as much fun as finding a severed finger at the bottom of your pint of beer, but bear with me. You might just learn something…

Ok, just for a second imagine you’re a top sports star (easy for most from my experience at the 5-aside football pitch…). To get to the top, you have to keep learning. The facts show that professional sports star become skilled “experts” at their sport after a minimum of ten years of competition. Through every situation, they are learning. Ten years is a long time to maintain your thirst for knowledge, but they do. Every strategy, every play, every dropped pass, every kick in the teeth or black eye, the sportsman are learning. However, it’s not just about remembering that it’s a bad idea to wink at second row forwards (or linebackers for our American readers) after you stood on their crown jewels in a ruck (hence the kick in the teeth. Rugby’s a tough sport, and has always dealt heavy doses of karma to guys like me..), it’s about giving yourself psychologically correct reasons for your actions and the success and failure of the outcome. For example, if a footballer loses in a one on one sprint, he doesn’t say to himself “damn, I’m so slow”. That is negative reinforcement, and next time he’ll end up pulling out of the foot race early as he already knows he’ll lose. What he should say is “right, I need to put a bit more time in on the running track. I can beat this guy, lets just figure out how.” It’s all about giving yourself a reason to do better next time, rather than a reason for failing.

Lets translate this into a business sense. When talking to your staff, do you ever tell them “you’re not very good at this…” or “that campaign failed because we haven’t got the web knowledge” etc? Do you ever think “no way can I get that client, I haven’t got the confidence” or “they are just plain better than us!”. The problem here, is you are admitting there’s is a problem (which is essential to do, better than covering things up) but you aren’t giving yourself room to improve. If the reasons for failure are out of your control, your staff’s heads will drop and they won’t try to improve. After all, there’s nothing they can do! You’ve already said that things are unchangeable, and you’re the boss. If you say we can’t get better, then why try? However, if you say “we missed out here because we didn’t react quickly enough” or “Ok we are a little small, so lets be more flexible next time” you are providing positive reactions to negative situations. If your staff think that there is a way forward, they will follow that path. Like sheep. Only with more urgency. And less wool…

So, in summary, always attribute success and failures to reasons that are in your control. If you can control them, you can improve them for next time.