At some point this year you probably experienced a setback of some kind -- missing a financial target, suffering an injury, rear-ending that driver who stopped “suddenly”. We all experience unwanted events from time to time. What’s matters isn’t how many setbacks you encounter but how you apply what you learn to mitigate the damage and avoid repeating the occurrence.
There are certain habits of "winning” that reduce the odds of losing next time, whether “losing” is falling short of your financial forecast, becoming complacent or letting yourself be defined by failure.
CEO and author Sarah Robb O’Hagan and I discussed what separates winners from losers. We concluded this: winners are constantly re-assessing their failures; they’re always on the lookout for learning opportunities. They don’t let setbacks define them. Instead, they define the setback as an opportunity to improve. They leverage their time and resources to turn their “defense” into an unstoppable “offense” that delivers consistently.
When you recognize that failure is only determined by where and when you choose to stop, you also realize that opportunity works the same way. The difference between winning and losing lies in what you choose to do with what’s left after you “lose.”
In light of all this motivational mumbo jumbo here are four practices of winning entrepreneurs (and “winners” period):
1. They favor capacity over capability.
In his book A Light In The Darkness: Leadership Development For The Unknown, author and former Army Ranger, JC Glick makes a compelling case that leaders should focus on building capacity over capability.
When leaders think only in terms of what their companies do -- their capabilities -- they encourage employees to focus on repeating or iterating off past successes (remember Blockbuster and Kodak?) in hopes that those efforts will sustain value. On the other hand, capacity encompasses the whole kit and caboodle (whatever that means) of a system that creates value. This is exactly why Netflix prevailed and Blockbuster failed.
2. When they’re the dumbest person in the room, it's on purpose.
You don’t get any smarter working around dumb people (feel free to quote me on that), nor do you learn if you’re always doing the talking. Surround yourself with cognitively diverse folks and ask questions. Be curious. Asking questions is a powerful way to not only build up your own knowledge bank but also enable others to do the same. If you want a better answer, ask a better question.
3. They have a voracious appetite to learn.
When asked what the one attribute CEOs will need most to succeed in the chaos of the 21st century, Michael Dell replied, “I would place my bet on curiosity.”
Every solution begins with a question. If you aren’t asking difficult questions that unearth deeper insight, then you’re stalemating. Learning is a continual, lifelong process that doesn’t stop after you “win.” It’s absolutely imperative to foster learning as part of the organizational culture rather a one-off practice that people forget about.
In the military, we conducted after action reviews (AARs) after every major training event and every mission. That allowed us to focus on three questions:: What did we expect would happen? What actually happened? What caused the difference?
If, as an individual and as a team, you continually ask these questions you can’t help but become more aware of your environment. Let’s face it, who wouldn’t benefit from more awareness?
Related: 22 Habits of Successful Leaders
4. They’re emotionally adept.
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify, interpret and manage emotions in oneself and across situations. Simply put, it’s knowing when to talk, when to listen, when to walk away. Emotionally unintelligent leaders are the equivalent of a social hand grenade - throw them into a crowd and watch people disperse -- quickly. The good news is emotional intelligence can be learned and developed.
Winning doesn't come from luck. It comes from relentlessly and consistently applying the fundmentals.