Managing and Leading Your Business in Tough Times

Positive Thinking: Yes… or No?

It’s Wednesday morning, about 11 o clock, your bank manager rings and asks,

“Will you be making a lodgement today – you are right up against your overdraft facilities and there are several cheques to clear by close of business?”

You get that feeling in your stomach which only those who have been there know about.  Just then, out of the corner of your eye, you spot an article in a business magazine entitled “Positive Thinking” and you say to yourself…

“What good is “Positive Thinking” in my situation – I can’t lodge “Positive Thinking” to my current account?”

You are of course correct – you cannot bring “Positive Thinking” to your local bank and use the funds to run your business or pay creditors.  However, from another perspective, you are making an error of judgement which is detrimental to businesses large and small. You are focusing on the end rather than the means – focusing on the cash problem today rather than the means by which you ended up in this situation.  “Positive Thinking” is pretty useless here – in fact it’s delusional or a way of avoiding reality and having to confront a serious business issue.

In tough times, and particularly in crisis situations, there is a tendency for our attention and energy to be drawn towards the end objective e.g. winning more customers, retaining existing ones, maintaining margins or, in the example above, dealing with a cash problem. There is a law of cause and effect and it is operating whether we like it or not.  Everything has a reason. The reason why businesses face challenges (effect) is because of actions or decisions take previously (cause). “Positive Thinking” operates on the causes – the law of cause and effect takes care of the results (be they good or bad)!

So for those of us who dismiss the notion of “Positive Thinking” or who place little value on it – have a look at where “Positive Thinking” is being applied – on the end result or on what brings about the end result…

  • “Yes We Can”

“If you believe you can do it you are right, if you believe you can’t do it, you are also right” is advice often offered to those in business. It has never been more apposite. The notion of “doing it” and at the same time believing you are “not capable of doing it” makes no sense. Ask yourself what the chances are of winning a significant new client or taking your business to new levels of customer service or profitability if you don’t believe you are capable of delivering. Now add to this the fact that your competitors have the self-belief required and you don’t.  Bill Gates said it best,

  • “You’re toast!”

Get a transcript of President Obama’s famous acceptance speech in Chicago in Jan 2009 and replace all the utterances of “Yes We Can” with “No We Can’t”.  Now revisit the question in the preceding paragraph. There really is only one conclusion: Getting the job done without self-belief or “Positive Thinking” is practically impossible.

In order to cultivate the “Yes We Can” approach to our business lives we need to make efforts in that direction. In his 1958 essay “As a Man Thinketh”, James Allen describes our minds being very like gardens – they either grow beautiful flowers or ugly weeds (for flowers read “positive thoughts” for weeds read “negative thoughts”).  Staying with the garden analogy, if we don’t cultivate and plant flowers, weeds will grow by themselves: doing nothing is not an option – we must tend to our flowers (some gardening required) or weeds will arise by default. Practically speaking what does mean? How do we cultivate flowers (“Positive Thinking”)? Here are a few ideas.

1. Drop the excuses and take responsibility.  There will always be someone else to blame (the economy, the Government, business partners, employees, weather – the list is endless). It is not the situation we are in which determines success but how we deal with it.

2. Surround yourself with the best of company.  Spend time with people who are upbeat, positive and hopeful – “Positive Thinking” is infectious.

3. Read and listen to voices which display hope rather than despair.  There is an abundance of material available on “Positive Thinking”.  Make an effort to read some of it and replace some of the energy sapping stories in the media with tales of success and achievement.

4. Be grateful for what you have and who you are.  Gratitude changes your view of the world completely.

5. Think and dream big; look at a longer time frame, a bigger market, hiring the best people.

The next time the bank manager rings looking for a lodgement – deal with it there and then but resolve in your own mind to replace this particular weed with a stunning orchid.