Want Your Business to Be Successful? Behave Like the Company You Want to Become

This article originally appeared in AllBusiness.

Is your company stuck? Have your revenues plateaued? Are your goals stagnant? It might be because your company is simply not behaving right. You are behaving exactly like the company you currently are.

Think about that statement for a minute. I believe that your results are preordained because of your behavior.

This idea came to me recently when I was sitting in on a planning day with one of our member companies. I noticed something unique about the CEO. He was leading his team like the CEO he wanted to become, not the one he is today. He set the tone by challenging his team to think bigger and better. He didn’t treat them like the company they were, but like a company 50% larger.

Think back to when Steve Jobs took the CEO job at Apple for the second time. The company was flat, their competitive edge was gone, and quite simply, they weren’t acting like the Apple we knew. Was there any question that Mr. Jobs was not going to totally revolutionize Apple? Its change was preordained because he knew how to think in the context of the company he wanted Apple to be.

Are you ready to change your company from the inside out? Here are three things that will help alter your company’s behavior:

1. Role play during your meetings

Try this the next time you’re in a planning session:

  1. Have everyone in the room go around and write down their favorite business leader.
  2. Restate the question at hand and ask the team to write down three ways the person they wrote down would solve the problem at hand.
  3. Have someone facilitate the information gathering and write down every idea on large sticky notes, a white board, or an easel pad. The key here is to NOT throw out any ideas yet. Get everything down.
  4. Once the ideas are all down have the team collectively vote on their top three solutions to the problem, and then narrow it down to the one thing you’re going to use to solve the problem.
  5. Go do the work.

The biggest obstacle we see in our coaching practice is the limitations that companies place upon themselves with the way they think through problems. By using this role playing technique, you remove that barrier by playing make-believe and using someone else’s context to help you solve a problem. We, and our own perceived limitations, are the barriers to our success.

2. Implement the adult agreement

This is one of the most important tools we use in our coaching practice and recite as a team before every planning session:

“WE AGREE: We are all adults. We are here for the same reasons. We act like adults. Adults do and don’t do certain things. Adults don’t shoot each other down. Adults own up and bring mistakes to the table. Adults don’t hide problems. Adults admit fault. Adults don’t argue with reality. Adults make hard decisions. Adults don’t shy away and they don’t crush one another for acting like adults.”

Are you truly acting like an adult within the walls of your organization? In most companies I have worked with in the past, people have played the blame game. Get over it. You’re supposed to all be in this together. How many times have you, yourself, reserved an insight during a meeting out of fear because you knew the team would shoot it down? That kind of continuing practice can act as a cancer within your organization.

Take this adult agreement and use it within your company. Once it takes root, you will see a massive behavioral change.

3. Assume positive intent

Don’t you just love it when you get feedback . . . not! What most companies describe as feedback is really criticism. What are you not doing? What could you do better? What do you need to change? It all comes from a position of negativity. Turn that around using this one very simple principle.

Always assume positive intent. Whenever you receive feedback from someone, assume the person is working from a place of helpfulness, instead of maliciousness. You can also use this statement as a way to invoke positivity into the feedback you’re giving instead of receiving. Tell people you’d like to share something in order to help them learn and grow. Assuming the best of others is beneficial for everyone. Write it in big letters on your whiteboard. Paint it on your walls. These three simple words can—and have changed—people and companies.

You must behave like the company you want to become—way before your revenue or some other measurement says you are that company. By removing perceived limitations, acting like adults, and assuming the best of others, you will see an immediate culture change in your team that will allow major growth movements to take place.