The No.1 thing that is more valuable than time or money
No matter if your goal is to recover or grow, in these times of change and uncertainty, there is one thing more important to any business leader or business owner than time or money: your attention.
We live in a “VUCA” world —a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The pandemic has created a new global and national economic order with a very uneven distribution of winners and losers.
On a global scale, the Russia-Ukrainian conflict has brought us many new uncertainties due to inflation, capital market changes, uncertain interest rates, high energy prices, localization, food insecurity, global supply chain disruptions and more. Some Filipino companies are more impacted by this conflict than they had been by the pandemic.
Change on a global and national scale is now faster than ever before in history.
Energy flows where attention goes
As a business leader, you need to focus on opportunities because these will ultimately be what will drive the revenues and profits of your business.
In other words: what you focus on, you get more of.
In a practical sense, this means that you should focus your attention and the attention of your teams on opportunities. Especially in these times of change, there are many unique opportunities in any market or industry.
Why? First, big change always creates big opportunities. It is a natural law. Second, in times of big change, most businesses sit and wait. This creates unique opportunities for the ones that do not, the ones that analyze the market and then take decisive action.
In a lot of industries, this is an ideal time to easily “steal” market share from competitors that would otherwise require much more time, energy, money and resources in less turbulent times. Why do most companies sit and wait in turbulent times? Because the No. 1 human need is the one for certainty and consistency, the need for things to stay the same, to stay familiar. Nobody likes change. That is your chance!
Get your best people and the best experts to analyze the markets you are in and the golden opportunities that these turbulent times create. Predict the trends that are about to come and then take massive action.
Feed the opportunities and starve the problems
As a business leader, you should follow this ruthless focus on opportunities in all meetings. Discuss opportunities first, only then address the challenges.
I’ve worked closely with top Fortune 500 CEOs and self-made billionaire entrepreneurs, including some of the famous ones you read about in the news every week. All of them have one thing in common: they are incurable optimists.
However, beware of “optimism overflow.” That is the disease of overly enthusiastic businessmen and owners who somehow think that by their sheer pure optimism, challenges in their business will vanish. In short, they put their heads in the sand. That does not work either.
One small hole can sink an entire ship
This means that you need to pay insane attention to detail to make sure that you spot any matters within your business that can bring the ship down. This is not as easy as it sounds. You need to be able to distinguish the must-dos from the like-to-dos, the blips from the catastrophes.
And that only comes with practice and by surrounding yourself with two kinds of people: first, people who are a lot smarter than you are; second, people who are very different from you so that they complete your vision of reality. Why is that necessary? Because all of us see only a small part of reality but we are caught up in the illusion that we see all of it.
Challenges are by nature difficult to deal with, so most businesses make two kinds of mistakes:
1. They ignore the challenges because they have the wrong idea that they will go away by themselves. This does not work, of course, because challenges only get bigger with time if not solved.
In my work with many of the world’s most famous companies from Johnson & Johnson to Coca-Cola and Google, I have yet to come across an organization where challenges magically resolve themselves. It does not happen. Challenges are like dirty laundry: the longer you leave them unattended, the more they stink.
2. They get so overwhelmed or burdened by the challenges that they occupy most of their mental space. This is a wrong practice as well because it will block all opportunities from your view. And remember: the opportunities are the ones that will make the money for your business so they should always come first.
Not all challenges are created equal
Focus on identifying and exploiting opportunities first. Then, attend to challenges. But do not treat all challenges equally. Differentiate between the ones that need your urgent attention—the deal-breakers, the showstoppers—and the ones that do not.
Focus your attention on identifying and solving not only the immediate challenges but also the root causes of these challenges. Everything has a root cause. Keep asking “why” until you reach it. Most businesses stop too early and therefore never get to the bottom of things. They treat symptoms, not causes.
As a business leader, it is part of your job to look at your business as a machine that produces outcomes. Identify the root causes of the challenges within your business. They will point to the elements in the machine that need redesigning. Then, redesign the machine.
The fountain of youth for your attention
The No. 1 reason why most self-made billionaires and the top Fortune 500 CEOs meditate regularly is that it is one of the best tools to sharpen your attention. It allows you to get rid of the clutter in your mind, so you have your full attention powers available. I have written about this extensively in my article titled “The secret weapon of self-made billionaires and how you can use it too,” which you can easily find online.
Remember, a great business leader can focus on the big and the small stuff at the same time: the big picture goals and the overall vision of the company, and the most minute details that could signal that there is a hole in the ship.
3 next steps
Focus your attention on identifying and exploiting opportunities first. Get your best people and the best experts to analyze the markets you are in and the golden opportunities that these turbulent times create. Predict the trends that are about to come. Then, take massive action to profit from these opportunities.
Only then attend to challenges. Differentiate between the challenges that need your urgent attention: the deal-breakers, the showstoppers. Focus your attention on identifying and solving not only the immediate challenges but also the root causes of these challenges.
As a business leader, it is part of your job to look at your business as a machine that produces outcomes. The root causes of the challenges within your business will point to the elements in the machine that need redesigning. Then, make a new design that produces better outcomes. INQ
Tom Oliver, a “global management guru” (Bloomberg), is the chair of The Tom Oliver Group, the trusted advisor and counselor to many of the world’s most influential family businesses, medium-sized enterprises, market leaders and global conglomerates. For more information and inquiries: www.TomOliverGroup.com or email