3 Secret Tools to Get to Your “Next Level” as a Business Leader
Tell me you’ve been there.
You find yourself hitting a wall. For some reason, you have not been able to reach your next level of achievement. You are - literally - stopped. You can’t seem to determine what is holding you back.
You are not alone. Successful business leaders and entrepreneurs have dealt with it all over the world since the foundations of business! The reality is that it’s not always easy to identify obstacles keeping us from success.
So, I want to let you in on three secret tools to get under the hood of your business to assess what is keeping you from reaching greatness. Fair warning: you’re going to have to think backward in order to go forward. I’ll explain.
In order to know why something isn’t moving forward correctly, you have to take it apart. This is called “reverse engineering” the problem. By looking at things from a different angle, particularly in reverse order, you will determine where things have gone sideways, and often in a much shorter time.
It’s something I do all the time. As a strategist and lawyer, I systematically engage in the processes of helping business leaders, executives, managers, owners, and teams to deconstruct and reverse-engineer their obstacles in order to achieve success.
Most individuals, however, have no idea where to start. You’re not alone. Here are three incredible tools I use to render high-powered results every time.
Mapping is a tool I use when I need to get my bearings on a subject that is large, dangerous, confusing, or broad. Mapping is, as your mind already visualized, a pictorial or written representation of the situation.
This is how it works: as you work to identify the problem, oftentimes you need to see the big picture. But, sometimes you can’t see the big picture without laying it out in context.
The practice of Mapping is free-form. It enables your brain to recalibrate your thinking as it sees the outcome of your thinking. It can look different to different people but I’ll explain how I do it. My process begins by laying out the dots and then connecting them.
Step 1: As a visual person, my mapping process takes place on a whiteboard. I lay out thoughts, questions, people, ideas, components, assets, risks, and opportunities. Dump it all “out.” Start listing anything that comes to mind with your business. It could be:
Equipment breaking down
Poor response time to customers
Concern over quality control
It can be a number of things. List out everything.
Step 2: I draw big circles around each of these things, and then start looking for connections between them. For example, I might make notes above, below, or around each circle. As these notes, lines, and words go up on the board, I may erase and reposition or rewrite some things.
Step 3: Now, step back. If you are like me, eventually, you will have a map (aka illustration of your thoughts) on how to approach a situation or problem. You may notice:
Issues that have been a priority that really aren’t a priority
Holes in the organization
The more I see my thoughts illustrated, the more I can understand them, including their implications.
That’s it. It’s that simple. Do it in a way that works for you.
This process can help with questions like:
Should I hire someone for this position?
Should this partnership be explored?
Should we leverage all our assets for this new acquisition?
Big questions with potentially big consequences require mapping.
I first encountered the concept of visualization during a visit to the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs when I was in high school. I was a swimmer.
In one of my discussions with a training coach at the facility, I learned about the benefit of visualization. He described the process of visualizing the entire race, from warmup, to the start, the blocks, the turns, strokes, the finish, and everything in between. From that moment forward, my entire mindset changed. I visualized every single race. In my mind, I won every race before I ever hit the starting blocks.
Why is visualization important? It is a practice that starts to train your mind to be mentally prepared for what is coming. Granted, you can never know what the future holds until you are “there,” but it psychologically revs your engines to anticipate the moments you will encounter.
This skill did more for me though than just helping me win swim events. It changed my mindset for business and success.
I now use the skill to visualize clients I will help, talks I will give, and problems I will solve. The key to visualization, I’ve found, is to walk through every single detail and to break up larger-scale situations into smaller chunks or phases.
For example, prior to the first public training event I ever hosted, I visualized the event from start to finish. Beginning months prior to the event, I would visualize waking up the morning of the event and preparing. I would see myself getting dressed, eating breakfast, and gathering my things to put in the car.
During each phase of visualization, I would ask myself if there was anything wrong with the picture (e.g., does my shirt need to be ironed the night before, will breakfast make my stomach hurt during the event, do I need a hand cart for my gear, etc.). After visualizing through the entire day in phases, I had worked through it enough to where I could see every single detail in my mind long before I would experience it.
Visualization enables you to feel like you’ve already lived the experience, which calms your nerves and gives you the confidence you need to overcome the obstacles. It’s a mental trick like, “I’ve done this before. I can do this again.”
If visualization gives your brain a familiarity with the roadmap for a circumstance, rehearsal gives you the practice necessary to actually connect the bat with the ball.
Author and coach, Malcolm Gladwell says you need 10,000 hours of doing something to become an expert at it. However, many times, our opportunities to overcome an obstacle only come around once.
When that’s the case, you need to spend a lot of time rehearsing how you will engage with the obstacle. Speeches, pitches, presentations, and other business activities often lend themselves to rehearsal. Those become much easier to rehearse because you can practice during your morning commute, in front of your mirror, or anywhere else at any time.
Recognizing that your obstacle is something like fear of confrontation, however, presents a different set of complexities. How do you use “rehearsal” to overcome a fear of confrontation? You have to get creative.
Years ago, I wanted to improve my negotiation skills with pushy personality types. At the time, I was receiving a lot of unsolicited sales calls at home during the evening, so I decided to use those calls as my practicum for skills development. Some went well, some didn’t. I used those calls to develop a skill I wanted to improve, and I didn’t have to feel embarrassed or exposed in the process. When real negotiations with real pushy people happened, I had “rehearsed” a lot. I was – in fact – a much better negotiator.
How about you? Can you think of ways to use mapping, visualization, and rehearsal to identify and overcome some obstacles in your life? I would love to hear about it. Reach out to me on Facebook and tell me about it.