I was sitting in a meeting a while back with a group of leaders discussing performance. As always there were areas of success and areas of challenge. As the conversation grew the topic zeroed in on some statistical issues that impact the bottom line revenue. As I looked around the room, and listened, I noticed that no one was really offering any solutions. Each team member was continuously pointing out what wasn’t working, or what hadn’t worked in the past. I personally have a very low tolerance for this because I was once a master excuse maker in my former life. I could identify all the things going wrong and justify why things didn’t work. I believed, as many others do, that a great reason ‘why not’ was equivocal to great results. Well, the truth couldn’t be further away from that thought, and neither can success.
As I reached my limit of hearing my old story from other people’s mouths I interjected, “considering what’s currently going on with this project, what’s the best thing that could happen here?”. The group grew silent, but, in that moment, I knew that question had shifted the focus of our team from problem to possibility. I continued some questioning in this line of thought and we began to pinpoint some viable solutions to try. As we discovered ideas, and discussed them, I noticed one part of the group would love the idea but present potential ways the idea would fail or be manipulated. I then had this moment of clarity while listening to one manager thoroughly explain 10 different hypothetical negative outcomes in detail; most people are very comfortable answering the question ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ but they are not comfortable with my question, ‘what’s the best thing that could happen?’. I won’t bore you with the remainder of the story but we did get into a position of positive change, with a plan of attack.
Most importantly, I walked away asking myself a really powerful question. How much of the time am I planning my day, work, conversations, relationships or dreams based on a ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen’ mindset? How many of my initiatives and interactions have been limited by that thought or belief? I wanted to believe very little, but when I analyzed it there was quite a bit of evidence to the contrary. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that contemplating what negatives could happen is wrong. I am just asking, is it part of, or a predominant part of the mental approach to what we do and how we do it? If my mindset was a pie chart, how much of it would be ‘what could go wrong’.