If You Want to Win, Stop Focusing on Winning

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It seems counterintuitive that you could actually win more (in sports, life, or business) by focusing less on the win, but it’s true. Let me explain. Coach Bill Walsh (named the second greatest coach in NFL history by ESPN) celebrated every well-executed play, whether or not that play resulted in a score or a win.

To him, it didn’t matter if the play was unsuccessful in its results as much as that it was successful in its execution. Because of his sincere love and respect for the game of football, Walsh focused on training his team to play with precision. On the other hand, a “successful” play, executed sloppily, earned his correction.

Related: Build a Stellar Sales Team

It’s the same for us as business leaders. The more we focus on winning, the more stressful and less productive the environment becomes.

Focusing less on the win isn’t about lowering the standard, it’s about creating an environment around the disciplined execution of winning plays (the process) and focusing on what you can control rather than what you can’t. This leads to less shame among team members, creating a better environment.

Highly disciplined execution of plays (in other words, when team members do what they are supposed to) doesn’t just happen. It requires you to invest and provide leadership to those team members. It requires a culture that focuses on long-term goals without getting stressed about the short-term ones.

Bill Walsh liked to practice so hard that the plays became instinct. In the sales department, a “play” might be closing someone on the value of the product or convincing them that your solution is the best available option. These “plays” may or may not lead to someone signing on the dotted line, which is beyond the salesperson’s control.

Speaking of what you can control…there’s a lot you cannot. That’s why we, as leaders, need to hold our people accountable and measured on what is in their control. Focusing on those areas will increase your probability of success.

Related: Even Control Freaks Need Wisdom to Accept What They Can't Change

Spending all your focus on the desired end result will bring an environment of shame. Team members will be afraid to admit when the intended results don’t happen. Knowing you made a mistake is one thing. Thinking you are the mistake is a recipe for shame and burnout. The more you focus on results, the more you panic and shame people.

Rather than shaming your salespeople for the loss of a sale, focus on improving their understanding and execution of winning plays/behaviors. If shame exists, confidence does not. And without confidence, salespeople won’t sell, and no one will feel the freedom to share new ideas or even to fail in pursuit of a goal.

But if you take this new approach, you’ll “win” and garner success, but you’ll do it with integrity. And your team members will feel respected and valued. And that’s a team they're going to want to commit to.

Related: How to Manage a Successful Sales Team

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