Brains, Beliefs and Strategic Growth Blunders

“The significant problems we face cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them.” ——Albert Einstein

Our beliefs can pose one of the biggest threats to our business growth. Yet many business owners completely ignore the toxic beliefs that invade their company. Let’s face it–it is much easier to focus on improving the balance sheet, laying off nonperformers, and generating more sales.  Unfortunately, those actions may not fix our company’s performance in the long term, or help us attract the best team to position us for the economic recovery.

Our minds come equipped with some highly sophisticated microchips that are even more intricate than a computer operating system (or a universal television remote control, for that matter!). Medical and research communities refer to it as the Reticular Activating System, or RAS, for short.
This part of our brain is a filter and is believed to be the center of arousal and motivation. In other words, your brain contains a microchip that increases the chances of your fulfilling your dreams and implementing your plans.

We are equipped with other types of filters as well, often called internal filters. They develop over time and help us formulate our own reality. We are essentially a collection of memories and habits that shape the moment-to-moment flow of the mind.

This is not a brain research report. Bear with me here, because a lack of awareness about the basics of how our brain works ultimately does a serious disservice to our planning efforts—and further sabotages any chance of success.

Here is a basic synopsis of the human filtering microchip that will help you increase your line of sight and minimize costly planning snafus.

As we age, we develop and seven filters.  Here are two to factor into your growth planning activity:

1. Values
Our values determine the way we run our lives and how we do things. They are defined as the unique ways of being that guide our decisions, form family bonds, and define our communities. Our values may fall into several categories, such as:

? Health and wellness
? Financial
? How we treat others (community, family, employees, suppliers, etc.)
? Contributions (to community, family, planet, clients, etc.)
? Service (to community, clients, employees, church, etc.)
? Achievement
? Recognition
? Quality (products, work environment, communication style)
? Professionalism
? Decision-making style
? Learning environment
? Sustainability

When I work with companies, I have discovered that the most effective organizations invest a significant amount of time establishing their values. When they do this, they find an almost immediate increase in profitability.

This method of doing business was evident when our firm worked with JELD-WEN Communities, a large real estate developer. CEO Jerry Andres approached us because they were facing new pressures to sustain growth. They had launched several key strategic initiatives: Three new communities in the Western United States and Mexico, a new brand, and a companywide reorganization. This was a lot of change for a 400-employee organization to absorb. Teams began experiencing unsteady progress toward their five-year, multimillion dollar “Big Audacious Goal.” (BAG). That’s when Andres enlisted our help to ensure the leadership team was prepared to face these changes.

By conducting interviews and surveys with their key executives, I identified their leadership strengths, limiting beliefs, and blind spots. I also discovered that they lacked a clear understanding of the company’s core values—a situation that was causing some costly project communications breakdowns for new employees and managers.

I helped JELD-WEN Communities refine their core values. Together, we built a strategy to get the entire organization to adopt these values. According to Andres, “We once had 23 core values which we called our Operating Principles. Now we have 4. Today, the company’s key values are responsibility, quality and value, the golden rule, and relationships. Everyone can remember and recite them.” (learn more about JWC)

Some compelling research further encourages us to take our values seriously. In their seminal book Corporate Culture and Performance, Harvard Business School professors John Kotter and James Heskett (1992) surveyed over 200 companies across more than 22 industries for 11 years (beginning in 1990). They found that firms with a strong corporate culture based on a foundation of shared values outperformed the other firms by a huge margin in the following areas:

? Revenue grew more than four times faster.
? The rate of job creation was seven times higher.
? Stock price grew 12 times faster.
? Profit performance was 750 percent higher.

This research emphasizes one of the many reasons why I guide my clients toward reaching consensus on values. Establishing agreement on certain basic, action-oriented, guiding principles regarding how they’re going to do business helps an organization create a scalable framework of discipline and decisionmaking.

2. Beliefs
Beliefs are the second filter that we use to help us determine our own interpretation of the truth. They set boundaries and parameters around the way we think. They can either expand our field of possibility or limit that field significantly. Let’s use marketing and planning as a way to frame how beliefs define our business outcomes.

Pete, a successful technology consulting CEO, approached me after one of my workshops in Los Angeles. He told me his vision was to create a $5 million business by 2010. When I asked him how he was progressing toward that vision, he confessed that it wasn’t going well. Although revenues were relatively strong, his firm suffered from a “feast or famine” pattern. While his team was completely booked during some months, other months reflected low team utilization. After we spent time exploring his business model, we discovered that he had a longstanding belief that marketing was difficult and time-consuming. By identifying and recognizing this limiting belief, we had taken the first step toward eliminating it.

In next week’s post, we will explore five other five brain functions and their impact on growth planning: memories, attitudes, decisions, thought patterns, and language. For now, ponder how effectively your company culture fosters positive beliefs and values.

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