Are you for-the-business? To find out, consider the following questions:
- Where is your focus and what gets your attention?
- What guides your decision-making?
- What do you give voice to?
In other words, what do you follow and what do you move past? If you are for-the-business, you don’t allow your vision to be clouded or your actions to be influenced by your personal agenda, ego, or surrounding drama.
Instead, you bring a crisp focus to what serves the business results you are working to create. You ask what is the outcome of this action, not who likes it. You look to where the data is pointing, not where your alliances are. (You also recognize disagreement is healthy and you are comfortable and skilled with conflict. How to handle conflict is coming in Week 7, so stay tuned for that.)
Being for-the-business in what you say, what you do, and what you care about demonstrates your integrity. It’s also a key aspect of this being executive thing we’re talking about this week. Doing it successfully requires pulling yourself above the fray; working skillfully with self-awareness about your blind spots (see Week 2: Self-Awareness — How Are you Showing Up?); and applying a clear-sightedness that comes from stepping off the ladder of inference (see Week 3: Belief vs. Fact — Short-Circuiting Reality).
Each of these tools is a big part of supporting you in keeping your focus on useful subject matter… huzzah, you are becoming such a genius and we’re just getting started!
The following is a real-life case note:
About a year ago, a senior-level client was having a lot of trouble. For him, so much interpersonal friction arose at work because he hadn’t yet learned how critical it is to be for-the-business. For him, everything was filtered through the things others should have done for him or how he felt he deserved to be seen (the filters on his ladder). His work-life was filled with drama, high stress, and conflict. In a word, he was miserable and his effectiveness was diminished. Every email and meeting was a personal attack, as far as he was concerned. He was consumed with thoughts like, “My admin should have turned in my expense reports on time after all I’ve done for her,” and, “My peer in that meeting was trying to make me look incompetent, probably because I threaten him.”
Over time — using the technique I’ll introduce you to below — we worked to bring this client’s focus back to the business so he could have the impact he knew he was capable of having.
Pro tip: being for-the-business isn’t about being a robot or casting regard for your colleagues aside. The point is to make sure you are clear on your business drivers, to put your focus there, and to use that clarity and focus to help you avoid the drama, pettiness, status concerns, and shortsightedness that can get in the way of you delivering the success you’re capable of.
- You can do this! Here’s how to reset in three steps:
First, identify whether you are being triggered. Second, pause and consider whether any of the filters described below are present in how you are making sense of the situation. Third, use the list of challenge questions below to test your approach. Let’s walk through each step.
First, ask–are you being triggered?
If you find yourself upset, negative, or reactive, you might be triggered. As we all know, the workplace can be a breeding ground for conflict. One key difference between having a workplace that leaves you triggered and one that is stimulating is whether you are self-aware about the things that trigger you.
Do you know what your triggers are? A trigger can be a word, a behavior, or anything that stirs up negative feelings. Pay attention to what does this for you. Common examples include: meetings where there isn’t an agenda; people arriving late; certain manners of speech; and so on. Instead of reacting to what triggers you with anger, words, or an outburst you might regret, you can use the trigger as a flag that it’s time to hit the reset button.
Second, check out whether any of the following filters is at work in your mental landscape:
- You want to teach someone a lesson or get your pound of flesh
- You are “should-ing” all over yourself (e.g., he “shouldn’t have gone against me in the meeting” or “I can’t believe she interviewed for that job I wanted, she should have known I was interested”)
- You have feelings of entitlement (e.g., “I deserve _____”)
Yes? Then take a closer look. These filters are all signs your focus is not for-the-business right now. (Instead, it sounds like it’s somewhere halfway up that darn ladder of inference!)
Pro tip: note that in order to use this reset technique effectively, it doesn’t matter whether you are “right” or “wrong” in being triggered or in applying the filters you are applying. What matters is getting things back on track in service of incredible results.
Third, use these challenges to tune your approach:
- What actions and communications would serve the business goals right now?
- Is what you’re doing (or what you feel like doing) useful here? Does it further the business goals?
- Are the things you are focusing on fair, data-driven, and future-focused?
- If past-focused, are you using the lessons of the past in a way that is focused on creating a better future?
What you give voice to, the language you use, and the actions you take, are all windows into the quality of your thinking. Use the three steps described here to reset, ground yourself, and get back to being for-the-business. Now that’s how Challengers demonstrate integrity and be executive.