• Lorri Palko

How Keeping Score is a Hidden Obstacle to Growth

Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.” - Vince Lombardi

In sports, there is nothing but winning and losing. You keep score and at the end of whatever game you are playing, you are either the winner or the loser. When your favorite team defeats your archrival, you feel exhilaration. Put a “W” in the win column! If your team loses, your disappointment creates a lasting impression and it’s hard to shake that “L” on your record.

Notice in your daily conversations, business interactions, or even watching the news, how many times winning and losing is implied. Think about the feelings associated with: not being heard, getting the deal over the opposition, a story of survival against improbable odds, stock market fluctuations, making progress on your to-do list. The thoughts and behaviors present in these daily situations mirror the underlying feelings associated with winning and losing.

We are socialized to think in binary terms. Either an experience is good, or it is bad. While one person thinks something is not fair, another thinks justice has been served. You may think falling short of a goal is failure while another would deem a shortfall still a success. We have definite perspectives on what is right and what is wrong. Why do we choose to see life in such black and white, either/or terms? We want to have answers. Life seems much less complicated when there are only two options.

In sports keeping score is part of the game. If business is viewed only based on black or red financial results, it is easy to keep score. Sales were up or down over the prior year. Profits exceeded budget or fell short of the mark. We increased payouts to shareholders/owners or distributions remained the same. These scorecards are easy to understand. We are left with a definitive outcome, and we feel we have either won or lost.

The final score of the game is not the whole story and neither are singular results in business. When we don’t embrace the whole story, our perspective is limited, and we miss out on exploring opportunities for growth. If we want to grow our business and grow as leaders we need to move beyond win/loss thinking. Stretching our thinking takes us out of the familiar and opens us up to new possibilities. What are ways to lean into the unfamiliar and let go of the need to have all the answers?

Expand Your Mindset

Carolyn Dweck, Stanford psychologist,has devoted her research to understanding the characteristics of having a fixed vs. growth mindset. The difference in the two mindsets revolves around our response both consciously and unconsciously to challenges, obstacles, effort, criticism, and the success of others. We never operate totally in either a fixed or growth mindset. After all, that would be binary thinking! Take for example the following choices:

1. Challenges – do we avoid or embrace a challenge?

2. Obstacles – do we give up easily or do we persevere?

3. Effort – is it a waste of our time or a path to mastery?

4. Criticism – do we feel humiliated or do we learn from it?

5. Success of Others – do we feel threatened or inspired?

Cultivate Relationships

Get the deal. Make the sale. Sign the contract. There is no better example of win/lose thinking than operating in a business that is focused on the transaction. We either won the day by getting the deal or we lost the day if the deal went to someone else. This is short-term thinking at its best.

Consider that building relationships requires an investment of time that transcends the ideas of winning and losing. Seek to understand how you may serve a potential client. Build trust that you can be counted on to deliver what you promise. Listen to what the customer needs. Cultivating relationships that build loyalty in the long-term is a winning strategy. Those trusted relationships create the following wins:

1. Customers return for additional services and products.

2. Unexpected business comes through referrals.

3. Connections lead to unforeseen opportunities.

Study the Details

In the world of sports and business there is a new field that has emerged called analytics. Analytics is aimed at using data to enhance performance on either the field of play or in the game of business. This emerging field recognizes that performance of an organization is driven by understanding the process. We can’t just look at the end result without interpreting all the underlying data of what gave rise to the ultimate outcome. There is a reason coaches and players study film. Through examination of game film, coaches and players have added insight creating options to improve performance. Perhaps leaders who look only at the bottom line need to dive into the details to understand what is really driving the results. The “winning” happens way ahead of any final outcome.

Appreciate the Journey

We celebrate plays throughout a game with high fives and cheers. We don’t wait until the end of the game to engage. We need to employ the same practice daily in business. Appreciate the people, processes and the results along the way. Don’t wait for a final outcome. You may be surprised how much your business expands. Celebrating the little wins along the way will lead to a broader perspective of what success is and what contributes to its achievement.

Vince Lombardi did not lose many, but perhaps he gave away a few points with his philosophy of winning isn’t everything it’s the only thing. Or perhaps he understood a deeper meaning of winning - embrace a growth mindset, build strong relationships, know every aspect of the game, and give credit to the players along the way. In that case, I would agree with him - winning is everything.

Let Lorri help you meet your financial growth objectives, learn how to play the long game, and create a game plan for your business. Find out how.

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