Jack said something the other day that got me thinking. For those of you who don’t know, Jack is affectionately referred to as Mr. Magoo when he drives. It basically means that he does whatever he wants and assumes everyone else will react to him.
I think this quote from Jack explains it all. “Everyone is trained to be a defensive driver, so I count on them being defensive while I’m busy being Mr. Magoo.”
That got me to thinking about business. Most of us are trained to be “defensive drivers” when running our businesses. We’re counseled by attorneys, accountants, insurance agents, and even friends on what can go wrong and advised to proceed with caution.
Well, if we can agree that most people in business follow this “defensive driver” motto, then there should be plenty of room for the Mr. Magoo’s and the more “offensive drivers” who want to capitalize on opportunities and focus on the upsides vs. the downsides.
I know there are ways we can each be more offensive on the business front and rely on those defensive folks to get out of the way. We see this quite a bit with many of our business coaching clients who are experiencing hyper-growth. They spend most of their time on the offensive and trying to make things happen.
Think of them as a powerboat creating a massive wake as they go along having a great time. Meanwhile, the defensive drivers spend most of their time adjusting to somebody else’s wake.
Here are a handful of ways for you to be more “offensive” vs. “defensive” in your business:
1. Zig When Others Zag: maybe you’ve heard this referred to as “going against the grain.” The key here is that just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t make it right. This could relate to marketing your business or growing it or shrinking it. It doesn’t matter. Gordon Gecko said it best in the movie Wall Street, “‘Cause they’re sheep, and sheep get slaughtered.” In this case Gordon was referring to fund managers and their inability to beat the S&P 500, but it applies to business owners as well. If you’re just a sheep following everyone else, eventually you’ll get slaughtered.
2. Decide Quickly: maybe I’m in a quoting mood today, but this reminds me of a great quote by Theodore Roosevelt who said, “In any moment of decision the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” The best way to be offensive is to keep on moving and making decisions quickly helps. While someone else may be mulling things over for the next several days/weeks/months, you will have made tremendous progress vs. continuing to rehash the same decision.
3. Know Where You Want To Go: in driving and business, it sure helps to know where you want to go if you have any hopes of getting there. Keeping your eye on that end goal enables you to see past, over, and through potential obstacles to get to your destination.
4. Stay Open: this simply means remembering that you don’t know everything. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my time in business, it’s that you can never tell where a good idea will come from. Your job as the leader is to create an environment where new ideas are encouraged and sought out from everyone within the organization and also from places outside the organization. People in your company are involved in a lot of other activities. Everything from coaching their kids’ baseball team to volunteering with a local organization. They may find an interesting idea that applies to your business during these non-business activities. You’ll want to be open to all of these ideas if they can help your organization.
5. Have Fun: it’s easier to be open to new things and possibilities if you’re having a good time. If you’re bored with what you’re doing or even hate it, chances are you’ll be busy worrying about what you might lose. It’s tough to be offensive and move forward when you’re worried about the past or where you currently are. Your view then becomes very short-term, which is the death knell for your business.
I’m reminded of a college buddy named Marc who was a big New York Jets fan. Inevitably in any game the Jet were winning, late in the game they’d go into the “prevent” defense. For those of you who are not football fans, this is when the defense becomes less aggressive and just tries to stop big plays from happening. My buddy Marc summed it up this way, “the only thing the prevent defense does is prevent the Jets from winning!” Unfortunately for Marc, he was right more often than he was wrong about his Jets.
Make sure your company isn’t going into the prevent defense to protect what you have. Remember, your goal is to win, not to try not to lose. This a subtle but important difference.