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Are you a leader who looks at a problem, hoping to find the solution in your winning formula, as opposed to staying focused on the desired outcome?

Our winning formula is what we do to make up for what’s wrong. The natural state of being human is constantly comparing everything in life to what “should” or “shouldn’t” be. If things are the way they should be, we feel victorious; if things aren’t as they should be, something is wrong and must be fixed. When something’s wrong, most people ask themselves, “What can I
do to compensate for the thing that’s wrong?” The thing they usually do is depend on their winning formula, the thing they depended on the first time something went wrong.

Our winning formula keeps us stuck because it keeps us focused on what’s wrong. When we’re focused on the problem, we’re not moving forward. To illustrate, I’d like to use a personal example from decades ago, but don’t be fooled. It’s not just about me or about individuals. It’s about organizations that are failing to move forward even though they are doing everything in their power to succeed, using the success tools, e.g. winning formulas, that have always worked for them to “fix the problem.”

In August, 1993, I presented at a large venue and hadn’t received the feedback from key people I’d wanted and expected. This left me fearful,focused on what I should have done to get a more positive response from those people. Unable to figure out why my winning formula hadn’t worked, I felt trapped in a black box with the lid on tight, and began searching desperately to find a pinhole of light.

A year later, I signed up to take a course and, in the process, much was revealed to me.

On the evening of the second day, the course leader introduced the term Winning Formula. He said there comes a time in everyone’s life, usually between the ages of 3 and 5, when we are faced with fear, and to get through that fear, we call on whatever resource we have available. Whatever we call on becomes our life’s winning formula because every time we’re faced with fear, we call on the same strategy that got us through the first time. So throughout our life, not only does the winning formula gain strength, but so does the fear that created it in the first place.

Our winning formula seems to work and work until it no longer works, and when it no longer works, the only thing we have left is the fear that created it. The important thing to know is that both the winning formula and the fear are a lie. The winning formula isn’t really winning and the fear is not the truth about you (or your organization).

The leader asked, “Who knows their winning formula?” I raised my hand.

“What’s your formula?” he asked.

Because I had gone to the program with work in mind, I said, “Performance skills.”

Then he asked me to identify a time in my life when I was faced with fear.

When I was 18 I had the honor of being one of 5 finalists in the Miss Michigan pageant. As a finalist, I was asked a question, mentally blanked, and started to talk, talk, talk about something of which I knew nothing. When I finally stopped talking, I knew I’d made a fool of myself in front of over 2000 people in the auditorium that night and over one million people who were watching on television. I relayed this story to the instructor, but then blurted out, “But I performed well.”

“What do you mean, you performed well?” he asked.

“Well, I didn’t win the pageant, but the next day the local newspaper did run three pictures of me taken from the talent portion of the program and underneath was written, “Real Talent!”

“And when you couldn’t answer the question, Mary Jane, how did you feel?”

“Stupid. I felt stupid.”

In that moment, I realized the truth about what he had been teaching. My winning formula wasn’t really winning after all. It hadn’t been winning at age 18 and it hadn’t been winning at that venue in August of ’93. That black box of fear I’d felt trapped in was nothing more than the fear that’s left when the winning formula ceases to be winning – the same fear that
created my winning formula as a small child.

For individuals or organizations to move forward, “what is” must simply be viewed as “what is” rather than a problem that needs to be fixed. An acceptance of “what is” allows us as leaders to keep our focus on our declared future, take a stand for that future, assess our current situation, and look for ways to move forward. Once we begin to move boldly in the direction of our vision, we are able to inspire others to follow.

A leader can create possibility where none currently exists. When possibility exists, there’s energy, and with energy comes commitment, passion, and productivity!

Become your own best coach, ask yourself:

  • When I am confronted by a problem, where is my focus? On the desiredoutcome or on “fixing the problem?”
  • When something goes wrong, what do I depend on to get me through it? Does it always work? When it doesn’t work, how do I feel?
  • If I were to take a current situation that is causing me fear andfocus on the desired outcome as opposed to “fixing the problem,” whatdifference would that make in my behavior? What difference could it make inthe outcome?

Individuals or organizations— all have winning formulas. Eventually those formulas will stop working for you, and another way must be found. The key is to keep your focus on the outcomes you want so that new paths will open up for you. As Paul Arden wrote, “If you get stuck, draw with a different pen. Change your tools; it may free your thinking.” This is what an outcome
creating focus allows you to do.

To find out more about this, you may be interested in DISRUPT – Think the Unthinkable to Spark Transformation in Your Business by Luke Williams

Comments welcome.

© Mary Jane Mapes 2015 All rights reserved.


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