In early 2008, as the GFC (global financial crisis) loomed, I wrote ‘Watch who you let near your mind‘. This was a timely reminder about the importance of maintaining a healthy mindset and looking for the facts for an accurate read on what is happening in the market place so you can make wise decisions.
It served to warn about falling into the trap of relying on innuendo, hearsay and group think to define your future success. Guess what? I find myself again talking about the same issue in 2012, even when Australia is in pretty good shape.
True, it’s hard not to notice the world’s issues and the financial crisis that continues in Europe and the USA. It wouldn’t be wise if we didn’t examine the consequences and impact of these events on our own lives and businesses. That seems smart.
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But the fact is Australia has remained relatively unscathed by the GFC and its after effects. A well-managed banking system, stable government and diverse economy provide solid foundations. The mining industry, estimated to contribute between 7-10% (depending on which figures you believe) of Australia’s GDP, is a major economic driver, but definitely not as dominating as some people think.
The truth is that much of our economy is built on SMEs: 95% of businesses in Australia are SMEs.
So why so much doom and gloom lately?
According to the six-monthly Ipsos Mackay Report, obtained by The Age, many Australians are supposedly more pessimistic about the future and increasingly worried about their job security; they are feeling disenfranchised and distrustful of the Federal Government and the Opposition. Many are saying they feel the same or worse than they did 12 months ago, and fear what will happen when the “mining boom” ends.
The amount of toxic talk swirling around the ether (i.e. social media, news media, businesses, market places, etc.) is incredible. The vitriol, the pessimism, the fear is palpable. It seems the facts have been lost in the turmoil. We need look no further than the current state of leadership and level of debate in federal and state politics to see how not to lead, debate or create a future for Australians to follow. By continuing to behave in this manner our political leaders are inadvertently creating a climate of fear and worry based on Effect not Fact which is influencing our confidence to do business and be a vibrant, resilient community.
What about our own businesses? Are we as leaders also contributing to the issue? What are we doing to present the facts, design strategies and create climates of opportunity for our sales teams, customers and suppliers across the value chain? Are we choosing instead to listen to a narrow band of information that feeds our anxieties and further erodes our business confidence and success?
The Ipsos Mackay Report compared the global economy to a hospital, saying: ”Europe’s on life support, the US is in the general ward and Australia is in the ward for hypochondriacs.”
So are we indeed a bunch of hypochondriacs? Have we let ourselves be held hostage by hearsay? Do we ever ask ourselves ‘How much of this worry is actually true, real and justified?’ Without facts to guide us, this negative sentiment can turn falsehoods, innuendo, hearsay and groupthink into realities perpetuating our own demise. Negative talk is very contagious.
This is why it is so important that we watch who we let near our minds!
The human brain is wired to primarily pick up on signs of danger, caution and risk. We had, after all, to look out for the saber tooth tiger. In the absence of physically life threatening danger, we inadvertently pick up on other perceived threats and pay attention to what can look like risky i.e. bad news. And with so many of them around and the continuous negative talk, it affects our ability to see and take advantage of the opportunities that are right in front of us. Because the fact is there are plenty of opportunities to do business in Australia.
Unable or unwilling to distinguish FACT from EFFECT we get stuck in Flight, Fight or Freeze mode, we become chronically distressed and ineffectual thus limiting our ability to think clearly and make wise decisions.
As business leaders and salespeople we need to deal with uncertainty and probability as we navigate the ever changing world of business and sales. We rationally know that we need to develop strategies, do research and look for evidence of opportunities and then pursue them with confidence.
Yet so many people still fall into the trap of believing the negative talk and losing sight of opportunities. In times of change and uncertainty, when people should be excited about new ideas, concepts and horizons, many become fearful.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. I know.
I recall in my recruitment consulting days (late 80s and early 90s?) the economy was much worse than it is today. Unemployment and job redundancies were really high and interest rates were 17.5%. Many recruitment consultants were going out of business because they were scared and got caught in the Flight, Fight or Freeze mode, not knowing what to do.
Instead of falling for the groupthink, some of us looked at the market and said: “Just because jobs are harder to find doesn’t mean there aren’t any jobs. Companies still exist. Someone will be in business and someone will want to hire good people so let’s get prospecting and find those companies who still want to hire staff and be in business.”
By taking that approach and having a positive, determined attitude, my colleagues and I got some of our best results ever. We looked for opportunity and it was there. Whilst everyone else was in despair and whinging about how hard it was, we were getting the work.
I did the same thing in 2008/09 and we are doing the same thing today. Good business management is a sensible mix of cost control and growth management. It’s not only not necessary, it’s highly discouraged to leave your sales opportunities to chance or to let fear rule you.
Many years ago I was shown the following and feel that it is as appropriate today as it was then. When you look at the word F E A R, the acronym stands for:
There is no denying that we live in challenging and uncertain times; what with climate change, the digital revolution, issues in the Middle East and the financial market ups and downs just to name a few things. But in the midst of all of this there are so many opportunities that businesses can develop and take advantage of. If we live with our heads in the sand all we will get is a swift kick in the butt as those who can see the future forge ahead.
So let’s get our leaders and salespeople out looking for the evidence and talking with our respective customers about their priorities, goals and opportunities. Let both them know that we are in business and there to help them move forward and be successful.
By being visible and letting our customers know we are there to help them do business we will begin to dispel negativities and create more opportunities. The reality is that in Australia we have a lot to be thankful.
Our economy and community are in much better shape than the media, politicians and other naysayers would have us believe.
If you are looking for an antidote to all that negativity, need a little inspiration and would like to see what other proactive, positive people are doing to make a positive difference to the world, here are some great online “Good News” sites for your reading pleasure:
- Yes magazine
- Ode Magazine
- Huffington Post Good News
- Positive News
- New Economics
- The case for optimism (a great article by Bill Clinton)
As Norman Vincent Peale said: “Change your thinking and you change your world.”
Remember, everybody lives by selling something.
Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit www.barrett.com.au