Throughout my 10 years as career and leadership coach and trainer, I’ve been continually intrigued by Tony Robbins’ messages, programs and extraordinary business growth. Ranked by Harvard University as one of the “Top 200 Business Gurus” in 2003 and reaching over 4 million people from 100 countries with his life and business mastery books, products and services, Tony overcame a deeply traumatic childhood with an abusive, alcoholic mother to become a powerful agent for change. A multimillionaire (his net worth is estimated at $480 million dollars) who strives to change millions of lives around the world for the better (watch this for a glimpse of his true life calling), Tony has a great deal to teach about overcoming significant personal limitations and reaching our highest potential as individual contributors, leaders and innovators.
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I was thrilled then, to catch up with Tony, and learn his views on the most common — and damaging — blind spots leaders have that can unravel business success today.
“The most common thing that occurs during tough economic times is that entrepreneurs shrink, rather than grow. If you look at the Fortune 1000, you’ll see more than half of them were businesses that began in what I would call an ‘economic winter’ (a depression or recession). Look back to Disney – born in depression. Exxon — born in depression. Pizza Hut, Apple, Microsoft — all born during recessions. If you can find a way to do well during the toughest times, you take market share and when the financial situation improves, you’re the established, go-to brand. But there are significant blind spots that keep business leaders from reaching their potential and creating the success they dream of, even in boon times.”
Tony’s take on the top 5 blindspots that leaders need to address in order to succeed are:
1. The failure to innovate and market during tough times
The importance of innovating when times are hard can’t be overstated. Here’s an example: my dear friend Steve Wynn came to my Business Mastery program to speak and then decided to attend the program. As a result of attending that day, he discovered that his greatest competitive edge after 2009, when travel to Las Vegas had dropped through the floor, was the ability to find a way to add more value to his clients. When all of his competitors were shrinking their services and providing less value, he decided he was going to find a way to produce more.
He designed on the spot this idea for building a giant beach club that would attach to Las Vegas Boulevard and attract another market segment into his casino. He invested his time, energy and effort in achieving great results from the core belief that, “If I find a way to add more value to my clients today during the down times, I will earn market share, and people will come to the Wynn or Encore instead of other competitive hotels. And when things get better, they’ll be our clients and they’ll stay with us.” His strategy has already paid off.
2. Realizing that YOU – the leader — are the most important sales person on the team
Peter Drucker was right — innovation and marketing are absolutely critical, but there’s one more leg to the table. If you’re a business owner, you have to tell yourself the truth, and that is, YOU are the most important sales person on your team. You have to sell everyone in your organization on your ideas to get the funding you need and to create the culture that’s going to make it run. You have to sell the public on the value of what you’re doing. All I really mean by “sell” is cultivating your power to influence. Sales means “influence” and influence is the #1 leadership skill on earth. Most people have forgotten that. They are too excited about their Facebook page and their company’s website, which is all well and good, but without sales and influence, your business dies — end of story.
3. Not understanding that people buy identities, not products
Whether you’re talking about business mastery or life mastery, the key is to understand that your mission (if you wish to be successful and find fulfillment and purpose) is to help people meet their core human needs. Sales and marketing teams have to know specifically who their ideal customer is and not only what they want, but what they need at the deepest level. If you’re able to meet these needs, you’ll develop a raving fan culture.
Understanding human needs psychology is what gives Louis Vuitton the ability to sell a $5,000 purse. The idea of this would sound ridiculous to most manufacturers. Why would someone spend $5,000 on a purse that might cost $50 to make? They clearly don’t understand that what people need is different depending upon their specific need structure. Some people are looking for comfort and certainty; something that is a “good buy” and allows them to meet their basic needs. But others are looking to stand out and to feel they are significant somehow. And Louis Vuitton understands the power of helping those people fulfill their need for significance through their products and services. These individuals aren’t buying a purse for $5,000; they are buying an identity.
3. Failing to anticipate
Anticipation is power. Leaders anticipate; losers react. We live in a world where all business owners have to be able to run two businesses: the business you’re in today and the business that you’re becoming. The world is changing constantly. Finding a way to meet clients’ needs at a higher and deeper level than anyone else requires being aware of new technology breakthroughs, new insights, and changes in culture and economics. The business leader who is constantly anticipating rather than just running the business they’re in now is the one who will thrive and grow.
4. Not understanding that problems are gifts
Another blind spot that leaders have is they become easily overwhelmed and distracted by the sheer number of problems that a business creates. Everyone has a certain threshold of control. Some people control a certain amount of uncertainty in their lives, a certain number of challenges before they become overwhelmed. Other people have a larger capacity to deal head-on with problems. This capacity can be expanded by understanding how to solve problems quickly and effectively. But a large impediment to business owners’ success is a mindset that they shouldn’t have any problems at all. Businesses by nature are creators of problems. Anytime you’re trying to do something new where you’re adding value, there are going to be new problems or at the very least challenges that arise.
Your new problems are proof that you’re innovating and evolving and outgrowing your old ones. That’s the secret to success. Your biggest breakthroughs in business will come from what you once thought were the greatest problems or crises. The truth is, problems are gifts.
5. Letting your psychological limitations constrain you
The psychology of an organization’s leader is the difference between success and failure; it’s the difference between a one-time success that is never followed up with anything and a consistent habit of meeting and exceeding customer needs.
To be successful in business, a leader must learn to destroy the limitations in his or her mind. We all come up with a story when things aren’t going well and the story is about something that is not our fault or something we can’t control. But to be a leader in your field, you have to master your psychology and make sure you acquire the skills that you’re missing. Success is actually 80% psychology and 20% mechanics.
Challenges are inevitable but we have to train ourselves to focus on what we can control. There is no shortage of risk and uncertainty in today’s world of government mandates, high frequency trading, and huge stock swings because somebody fires off 140 characters on Twitter. Still, it’s remarkable just how much we ARE able to predict just by considering what point a business is at in its natural lifecycle. Just like teenagers and 40-year-olds have predictable problems, a business too has foreseeable challenges. A business might have all the right ideas and the mechanics to do the right thing, but without the psychology to do the right thing at the right time, it’s a losing battle. I’ve seen the right initiative at the wrong time put a lot of talented innovators with a great product out of business.
This crucial ability – knowing how to do right thing at the right time — is what establishes you as a real player. Smart business leaders have thought long and hard about what business they are really in— and what’s more, have both the psychological preparedness and the creative vision to know what business they need to become if they want to stick around – and flourish — in today’s volatile times.
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