Let’s start with a story.
Two business owners are in the same market, offer essentially the same products, target mutual markets, and yet at year end, produce very different results. One business is doing well, the other is doing poorly. One business owner seems on top of their game, the other isn’t succeeding. One business is growing, the other business is barely scraping by and the owner is beginning to wonder whether it is time to sell, or maybe just shut the doors.
What is the difference between the two businesses? There can be any number of factors to consider. Perhaps the owners differ in the amount of knowledge and skills they have for running a business; there may be a difference in the systems which have been put into place--or maybe they are missing altogether. Consider the team that drives the business forward, how pricing is determined, how marketing is presented, and how sales are made. Many factors play into the success and growth of a business. Yet, there is one characteristic that creates the largest differentiator between the two business environments: the mindset of the owner and/or leadership. What is their perspective on every situation, every economic obstacle, every customer, and perhaps on life in general? The attitude of leadership sets the tone for the environment of the business.
Is there a pervasive attitude similar to Eeyore, the donkey friend of Winnie-the-Pooh? In this type of environment the we get below-the-line thinking which produces a string of blame, excuses, and denial manifested in “woe is me” attitudes such as life is hard, this is what happened, I don’t get the same opportunities as others, the economy is really hurting, etc. In below-the-line thinking we often hear people blaming someone else, producing excuses for why things didn’t get accomplished, and denying that their attitude is a main source of the issues at hand. Below-the-line thinking creates a reason for everything and generates a need to offer explanations.
On the other hand, the attitude that propels above-the-line thinking is more like Pooh’s friends Kanga or Owl. Above-the-line thinkers accept ownership, accountability, and responsibility for everything they do. They understand that what they cannot control (economy, taxes, etc.) is only 10% of life, but what they have great control over is 90% of their life. This is what Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, calls the 90/10 rule. How your day goes is totally up to you, as is how you react to the difficult situations and even the successes you achieve through disastrous times. Steve Jobs got fired from Apple which most likely was not what he called the best day of his life, yet without being fired from Apple he would not have created Pixar and NeXT which are part of the foundation of the Apple products we love today. Above-the-line thinking creates results, and results don’t require explanations. They speak for themselves.