I recently read a fantastic book for leaders, coaches, and parents that explores cultivating winning habits, not just outcomes. It’s called Win in the Locker Room First: The 7 C’s to Build a Winning Team in Business, Sports, and Life, by best selling author Jon Gordon and former Atlanta Falcons Head Coach, Mike Smith. Gordon penned the best seller Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life (which is next on my list) and Smith, who had the second best record in the NFL his first 5 seasons, behind the Patriots legendary coach Bill Belichick. However after 2 sub-par seasons, the Falcons decided to let him go. Upon his release, Mike Smith reached out to Gordon to collaborate on what he learned during this humbling experience. This combination created a must read.
During his tenure in Atlanta, Smith asked Gordon to help him and his players develop strategies to improve their performance by creating what they called the Process. A Process is mental and physically disciplines done daily…basically, your habits. If everyone in the organization buys into their process – starting from the top and executed by everyone in the program, then big things will come.
FOCUS ON THE PROCESS, NOT THE PRESSURE OR OUTCOMES.
There were a TON of pearls I gathered from this book, but the one that jumped off the page and stuck to me was this phrase: FOCUS ON THE ROOT, NOT THE FRUIT.
Let me give this statement some context. As I mentioned earlier, Coach Smith had tremendous success during his first 5 seasons at the helm of the Atlanta Falcons, including division championships, playoff wins, and consistency never seen before in Atlanta. This success reached its peak in the NFC Championship Game in 2012, where they were one play away from going to the Super Bowl. The loss hurt, it hurt bad.
After coming up just short of going to their second Super Bowl in franchise history, the entire organization, players and coaches felt like the next season would be a failure if they didn’t reach the Super Bowl. But Smith explains, that was where the problems started. The next season fostered only 7 wins, then 4 wins the following season, which ultimately lead to his firing. Smith said, we got away from what made us great – focusing on our process and doing the little things every day. We only focused on one outcome – the Super Bowl – anything less felt like a failure. This shift of obsessing on being perfect and not focusing on our winning habits, was and is a recipe for disaster.
I believe sports are a microcosm of life – leadership, teamwork, competition, communication, culture, and adversity. All of these examples have similarities and can crossover to families, businesses, teams, and organizations. In life and in athletics, many people get seduced by the fruit – the outcomes or results. This blurred vision is what got Adam and Eve in trouble in the Garden of Eden.
“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” -Genesis 3:6
We know what happened next…heaven on earth was no more. Instead of focusing on what God had commanded them to do, Adam and Eve chose to eat from the forbidden fruit and the outcome was catastrophic.
As a sales trainer, I have the pleasure to train and work with new hires and also follow up with them after they have spent time managing their own territories. The last two reps I visited had concerns that their results where not matching their effort. Thus, I flew in and worked with them in their geographies for two days. Though both situations had their differences, both representatives I felt, where focusing too much on the fruit: daily, weekly, and monthly sales numbers. Instead of the root: winning habits, actions, fundamentals, and sales strategies executed daily.
Before I left, we spent time discussing the power of creating your “Process,” executing your process, and most importantly…trusting your process. I emphasized to stop evaluating yourself only on results (daily statistics)…you’ll drive yourself crazy! I stressed to judge yourself on two things: your growth and effort. We cannot control events; we cannot control outcomes; we CAN control how we prepare, react, and our effort (mental and physical).
We created a “play sheet” on what actions they would take in specific type of accounts, as well as a list of daily actions (several different techniques specific to our products and marketplace) they would execute each day. In the end, if they focused on the root – those daily disciplines, and not just numbers – I stressed, the results will come.
I was so excited when one of these reps called me two weeks later at 7:00 o’clock at night to report that he just closed a HUGE account. He said that he simply applied his process, focused on the strategies we discussed, and didn’t worry about the outcome or the pressure. He said he was in the ZONE, because he had practiced those habits for two weeks, leading up to that call. I was more proud of that result, then anything I could have accomplished in my territory.
How can you apply this approach in your life?..To focus on the root, not the fruit. What mindset do you currently have? If you want to lose weight, stop weighing yourself everyday! Instead, create your process and habits you will do daily to achieve your goal. You want to improve your marriage?…what daily actions must you do to make this relationship rewarding and fulfilling for the both of you? You want to improve your performance at work? Have a mentor or manager help you create your PROCESS – daily mental and physical disciplines. Do these actions each day, trust them, and have the PATIENCE to see them through. Do this and watch your satisfaction and results TAKE OFF!
You can do it! Just a minor shift in your mindset is all it takes. Commit to it and go for it! The grass and the root is greener and healthier where you water it…not on the other side…looking at outcomes alone! Nurture, protect, and feed your roots – daily actions and habits. If you do that, I see a bountiful future on your horizon.