Have You Mastered the Psychology of Business Success?
How Business Leaders Can Leverage Psychology to Take Their Company to the Next Level
During my years spent in different sectors of the business world, I found one thing to be true across all industries: far too much emphasis is placed on business strategy as a means to succeed without understanding the psychology that ultimately drives behavior.
I understand the motivation to lean on strategy as the golden ticket to business success. Strategy is logistical. It’s a game plan. It’s tangible in the sense that it can be written out on a piece of paper and measured with benchmarking or performance reports. It feels controllable and changeable if you keep working on it.
Psychology, on the other hand, is quite the opposite. Psychology feels like something we can’t touch or change, something we can’t measure or track. We can take as many personality tests as we want, but can we ever really get to the core of why we do the things we do? What our associates do? Why do some business leaders rise to the top time and again (seemingly without effort) and others feel as if they’re constantly battling a rip tide threatening to drag them out to sea? The answers to these complex questions can’t be defined with strategy alone.
Psychology Steers the Ship
Our internal success mindset, or our personal “psychology of success,” determines which behaviors we choose to achieve success. Before you can successfully recalibrate your psychology for business success, you must first cultivate self-awareness about where changes need to be made. Since most of your decisions and behaviors are being formed by beliefs and attitudes you may not be aware of, you must understand how you are currently operating in order to improve the outcome.
In the financial services world, advisors refer to these behavior-inducing beliefs as money scripts. Money scripts are the narratives we believe and tell ourselves about money that inform how we spend, save, and build (or don’t build) wealth for the future. These stories may or may not be true. Nevertheless, they apprise our decision-making. Financial advisors often help clients get to the root of their money scripts to (1) identify the narratives or stories they tell themselves that affect their financial behavior and (2) work to build new narratives that support more productive behaviors. The ultimate goal being, of course, to develop short-term behaviors that support progress toward their long-term goals.
In much the same way, you must ask yourself as a business leader, “What is my business script?”
What Is My Business Script?
If money scripts help reveal the stimulus behind financial behaviors, then business scripts unveil the motivations behind professional behavior. To begin uncovering your business script, you’ll need to start tracking your behavior. No, there isn’t an app for that! It’s going to take some self-reflection on actual behavior to get down to the bottom of things. It may take some time out of your day, time you swear you don’t have (I mean, who does?), but if your business is stagnating, you truly have no choice. All the strategizing in the world will be fruitless if you don’t dig into what’s making you tick.
You’ll begin by tracking your thinking, leading up to a particular behavior. It may take some practice to increase your awareness of involuntary business decisions, but it will become easier each time this “muscle” is exercised. Not only will this series of questions reveal what your business script is telling you to do at the moment, but it will also identify patterns of thinking that could be keeping you from engaging in productive, positive behavior.
After making “x” business decision, ask yourself the following:
- What prompted the decision? What triggered the action to be taken?
- What went through your mind as you made this decision?
- What was your impulse? Did you listen to it? Or take another route? Why?
- What did you ultimately do?
- If you could go back, would you make the same decision again? What would you do differently?
Many business leaders find themselves smiling by the time they get to the fifth question. You see, so often we operate on autopilot. We aren’t presently aware of and analyzing the programmed scripts running between our ears as we move throughout our day. But, when we do, we can shape our perception of reality and work for a better outcome the next time around. Envision how you could have handled each situation for a more optimal result. Over time, these “alternative endings” will start to replace the rote response behaviors responsible for your lack of growth.
Flip the Script
Many coaches and consultants lean on the dichotomy of the “fixed” versus “growth” mindset to explain why some business leaders are more successful than others. The person with a fixed mindset avoids challenges, believes their success (or lack thereof) is predetermined and unchangeable and cowers from new ways to grow. Someone with a growth mindset, however, embraces challenges, opportunities to improve, takes responsibility for their future success, and seeks out chances for self-improvement.
I want to flip the script. Instead of thinking in terms of whether you have a fixed or growth mindset, instead believe in terms of infinite possibility. Rather than focus on the state of what is or is not, focus on the state of what could be.
You see, now we’re eliminating the “fixed” option. Now we are programming our minds not to think in terms of “good or bad,” “growth or stagnation,” “successful or not successful,” but in terms of how successful, or how much growth. In a sense, we’re upping the ante significantly. Not being successful is no longer an option.
When you eliminate the possibility of failure from your choices, your odds of success improve dramatically. Some say this is a strategy, and I couldn’t agree more.
Psychology and Strategy are Not Mutually Exclusive
Psychology supports strong strategy, but it can’t replace it. One doesn’t work without the other. If psychology is the undercurrent that steers the ship, your strategies are your fleet. No matter how strong the strategy engine is, progress will lag if the engines are constantly battling against the psychological tide. But when both are aligned—that is, when strategies are designed and implemented with the underpinnings of strong psychological evidence to back them—success can be reached much quicker.
Even with the best business strategies in place, it will be challenging to make progress if your mindset is not intentionally and powerfully pulling you in the direction of the success you seek. If you can alter your psychology for business success, you’ll be able to break through and take your company to the next level.
Author Marwa Zakharia is the CEO of AssetBook. She has extensive upper management experience, holding positions such as CEO, COO, VP, and providing guidance to companies in various industries as a business strategy consultant. Marwa has worked in the financial services industry and FinTech space for over 20 years, helping companies increase their market share and develop revenue growth processes. She is well-versed in human resources, operations, and overall strategic planning.
Marwa actively volunteers her time as an executive board member and volunteer to non-profit organizations whose causes she is passionate about supporting.
Connect with Marwa Zakharia on LinkedIn