10 Attributes of Winners
#1 - Winners Make Commitments
This is number one on the list for good reason. Without being committed to achieving, we cannot impart the energy needed to succeed. Achievers make commitments to themselves, but more importantly, they make public commitments. Without strong faith in what you are about to undertake and a committed effort to gain the resources needed for success, you will have great difficulty grasping your “brass ring”.
Successful leaders do one thing well: they excel at making commitments, honouring them and then reaffirming them to exert an immediate and long-term influence on their organization. Leaders of successful projects establish commitments that will fuel the delivery of the company’s values, define its identity and, yes, also cause some of its weaknesses. The old phrase “His word is his bond” is still the basic hallmark of successful and respected business leaders.
#2 - Winners Say, “Let’s Find Out”
Every successful person we have ever met has been a “quidnunc”: busy and very inquisitive. They are not afraid to ask questions. In fact, while they are trying to understand the problem and create a solution, they are likely to be asking and listening more than pontificating about their theories.
A good friend of mine once handed me a compliment that still ranks as one of the greatest compliments I have ever received. Carl and I had just finished an exceedingly difficult meeting over a new application that revived an old technology. The presenter was incredibly knowledgeable in his field, enjoyed his notoriety and revelled in intimidating his audience.
I was there because Carl’s company – a Fortune 25 company – wanted me to determine how this project could be coordinated and whether it was possible to get the “buy-in” of the large group of collaborators needed to pull it together. As well, we were challenged with old perceptions of the technology: whether it could effectively and safely replace current high-volume carriers.
Any time we have what we believe to be an answer, we will then ask at least another five questions to clarify and confirm the information. As you can guess, I, not being a techie but being competent at understanding concepts and patterns, asked a lot of questions. Upon leaving the meeting, Carl looked at me and said, “Ross, you sure are not afraid to ask questions and we sure learned a lot more about the project than I expected.”
#3 - Winners See an Answer in Every Problem.
We have only found two problems that defy answers:
How to create “perpetual motion.”
How to produce energy from “cold fusion.”
The most amazing thing is that people are trying to answer these problems and in doing so are coming up with the information, ideas and knowledge that will ultimately bring us closer to solving these challenges. Once, we had a client that spent a lot of money to buy the rights for a “perpetual motion engine” that had supposedly been developed in an Asian country.
Yes, you heard me right…perpetual motion!
When I contacted leading mechanical engineering experts from MIT, Stanford, Queens, McMaster and several other centers for mechanical research, I was rewarded with comments like:
“What have you been smoking?”
“Are you an idiot? Everyone knows…”
The best was “Ross, you have had some wacko ideas, but this is the most ridiculous…!”
The client believed he had found something and should be commended for at least looking for a solution. The client’s partners wanted to know if his idea was viable, and they were willing to invest to find out. Fred is a well-respected engineer with a couple of master’s Degrees, citations too numerous to count, and more practical experience than the PhDs that were admonishing me, and he dared to test this idea. So, he flew to mainland China, all expenses paid (with a nice fee), to report on this amazing ‘discovery’ - no matter what the outcome. He took with him a portable automobile weigh scale. Using this instrument only, he would know if the engine was fake: if it consumed any fuel, then it would get lighter, and if it were using some other form of reserve power, then eventually it would run out. Fred did not find a perpetual-motion engine, but he did find a system that was potentially a very efficient energy management system.
The moral of this story is: don’t be afraid to look and try to find an answer. This effort is how you learn. “Post-It Notes” came from a failed glue experiment at 3M.
The key is trying, and every bit of learning will ultimately be useful somewhere else. Edison tried 15,000 different items as filaments for his light bulb until, in a moment of inspiration, he tried the bamboo out of his overhead fan and achieved success. He then sent assistants to South America to find the best bamboo for his light bulb filaments.
#4 - Winners Say, “I will” and Succeed
Hockey great Wayne Gretzky once said, “You will never score on the shot you don’t take.”
Winners know the depth of their talents and they know what it takes to succeed. Winners are self-aware; they know and acknowledge their shortcomings and can find teammates who will “pick up the slack” to help make all the right things happen in the right order.
Unless you are self-aware, you will not have the basis for a high level of Emotional Intelligence (EQ), which has been proven to be a key indicator of leadership success potential. For more information on EQ and leaders, you could refer to Daniel Goleman’s excellent article in Harvard Business Review titled “What Makes a Leader?” or you can find out more at the Hay Group website.
#5 - Winners are not afraid of being wrong.
The truth of the matter is that by trying new things you will increase your potential for being wrong. But we learn through experience. The only important factor is that we understand what assumptions we made that led to the inappropriate solution. From taking chances and making mistakes winners learn what they must do the next time a similar opportunity or situation arises.
# 6 - Winners believe they make their own luck.
There is no such thing as luck! Winners know how to create opportunities and which opportunities will help lever them or their venture forward.
In Dr. Robert Anthony’s book “Betting on Yourself”, he talks about handicapping horse races and uses this quote: “It [handicapping] is simply eliminating the horses in a race you feel will lose and then selecting one horse you feel will win.” Every horse you eliminate increases your odds of winning; better to pick one of three than one of ten.
#7 – Winners are not afraid to lose. To advance, we must all take risks. Calculated risks are the best kind, but even these can be affected by an element that is outside our ability to control.
Colonel Sanders made 999 presentations of his idea for Kentucky Fried Chicken before the 1000th when he got the funding needed to put one of the world’s most successful franchises together. By the way, the Colonel was over 65 years old when he did this. He took the chance of losing at a time in his life when most people are conservative and protecting their assets.
Yes, we all lose at some point, but it is how we react to loss that is important. If the loss makes us overly cautious, we will be cynical and become “Eeyore,” the famous downtrodden ass from “Winnie the Pooh.” No one wants to be around a cynical person, but everyone respects someone who will be a little skeptical and ask for clarification before continuing.
Executives who say they use “gut feel” have a series of questions they ask time and time again before committing any resources to a project. By the way, these “gut feel” questions come from experience, particularly those where the executive has lost by taking an action.
#8 - Winners Take Action and Do it Now
How many times have we heard “He who hesitates is lost?” This is almost true because reckless abandon will usually cause you or someone else injury, but so too will over-analysis.
At the start of the Vietnam War, the American Air Force had the best planes, ground-to-air defences and trained pilots, but they were losing aircraft at an unacceptable rate to older planes and simple enemy ground defences. Why? Because these skilled pilots thought that they needed to gather more and more information before attacking. The longer they took to decide, the more likely the enemy could target them and destroy them.
Try following the OADA formula that worked in Vietnam and greatly reduced air losses:
O stands for Observe,
A means Analyze,
D is Decide,
A is Act.
The American pilots learned to do each action only once and not go back and revaluate. Repeat an action and you are increasing your chances to be targeted and shot at, with the inevitable crash and burn being the undesired outcome.
The results of following the OADA procedure are simple - you will get:
80% positive results with the first action.
Of the 20% that can be injurious, you can correct 80% of these by following the same process again.
That means only a 4% fatality rate, not bad odds.
#9 - Winners Know Who They are and Become What They are Meant to Be
If we use our skills, build around our shortcomings and do what we enjoy, then we will be successful.
If you are working in an area where you aren’t comfortable or capable and you are not enjoying the daily challenges, you will trip and fall and fail! If you are doing what you enjoy and are good at, then you will succeed!
If you don’t wake up every morning wondering what challenges you will be facing, enjoying the thought of embracing them with enthusiasm, then you are doing the wrong thing!
#10 - A Winner Will Say: “It May be Difficult, but it’s Possible.”
“Once there was a silly old ram,
Though he’d punch a hole in a dam.
Everyone knows a ram can’t punch hole in dam.
But he’s got high hopes.”
Well, according to the song, the ram did break the dam. And it is effort that counts.
“Where there is a will, there is a way.” The easy stuff is simple, the tough stuff will take longer, but the impossible can always be tackled and learned from. Experience will always make your next quest less difficult and eventually rewarding.
Here is an example of leadership based on a strong EI. In an interview for Selling Power magazine, Bill McDermott, the CEO of Service Now, believes that there are five points that should be benchmarks for all aspiring leaders:
1. Expect more to get more. McDermott extols: “Good leaders constantly stretch people… What I have learned is the more you challenge people, the more you ask them to do, the more they will do – providing they believe in the cause.”
2. Become a master of change. McDermott states that there are three elements in change:
“Over-communicate the reason you need to change.”
“Involve people in creation of change.”
“Develop change around a transformational cause that is worth fighting for. Tell it like it is. People just want the truth… you want people not only to become change agents but also the stakeholders you need to win.”
3. Speed up the decision-making. McDermott says: “So if it is right for the customer, just do it. If you blow a decision, you won’t be put down. I want people to look at a missed decision as an opportunity to learn.”
4. Apply best practices regardless of their cultural origin. To quote McDermott; “If you bring all multicultural assets together and celebrate diversity, you’ve got a powerful potion on your hands.” In our global economy we need to understand other cultures. Respecting these cultures will enable us to build more diverse applications and world-class offerings for our customers.
5. Create an indomitable intensity to win. “I learned from coaching that you get better results when you focus on what makes people successful. Many times, when you accentuate a player’s magic and ignore the soft spots, you’ll help them become super-successful,” explained McDermott.