Friday, March 26, 2010

Nobody’s Perfect but Know What You’re Good At

We all intuitively know that we’re not good at everything, but the hardest thing to do is to take stock of ourselves. This kind of “personal inventory” means being totally honest with ourselves, our employees, or our companies to identify what is good, positive and successful. We never want to be accused of being too pompous or conceited, so we forget to play up our best and strongest qualities. We are always our own toughest critic.

This exercise, painstaking as it might be is a critical part of business and personal success and let me explain why. When things go well, we have a tendency to be complacent and don’t pay too much attention to the behind the scenes reasons for that success. We’re usually not sure whether it was because of something we did really well or something bad that we didn’t do. When things are going really well is the best time to take inventory and spend some time asking yourself why you are succeeding. You certainly won’t have time to do it when things are going badly because you’ll be too busy fighting fires and deciding how to turn them around again.

When we make a mistake, it is mostly obvious to us, and we often subconsciously do some analysis to determine why then taking corrective action to eliminate its recurrence. This is how we learn from the time we are babies. Think of a toddler's reaching for something on a table for the first time. At first the motions are shaky, uncertain, and almost robotic as the infant tries to control its hand and send it to the desired outcome, grabbing the object. This behavior is repeated over and over each time they make such an attempt and finally after a few tries; their hand goes right to the object they seek – sometimes faster than a parent can prevent it. We are also constantly corrected by our role models – parents, teachers, coaches when we make mistakes as they guide us to successful behavior in whatever endeavor we are attempting. This feedback has made us highly trained and very sensitive to correcting mistakes, so we do it very well.

Ah, but identifying and analyzing what we do well, now that is a different story. We don’t get nearly as much positive feedback when we do something very well. This is because it is expected by our family, class, team, or business. We’ve been trained to only look at the negative end of the equation. So looking at the positive is counterintuitive to the way we’ve been raised. But this is a must if we are to create consistent success by knowing exactly what behaviors create success and repeating them over and over again.

So when things are going well, take some time to ask yourself, your colleagues, your employees, why. Even better from a business standpoint, ask your customers what they like and don't like about your products and services. Then listen to what they tell you. Take inventory of what they tell you. Then take some time to do the same brainstorming and analysis you would do if you had a problem. Create your own strengths and weaknesses list, and then continue to reinforce the strengths and take some action to improve on your weaknesses. Change a business process, hire an employee with better skills, add some new services, whatever it is your customers and the people around you will notice the difference. But never, ever stop doing those things that created the success in the first place. They are your personal or company 1 percent difference.

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