Warren Buffet has owned somewhere between 400 and 500 different stocks during his life, yet has built most of his wealth on only 10 of them. Walt Disney led a few cartoon ventures, declared bankruptcy two times, and was on the verge of declaring bankruptcy for a third time until a last-minute bank loan to see through the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made up for all his losses and then some. Morgan Housel’s book, The Psychology of Money, points out how easy it is for people to believe that outcomes are a direct result of high-quality actions. However, this is not always the case. It is not uncommon that a bad decision leads to a beneficial outcome or well-intended actions lead to poor outcomes. It is easy to conclude from this that 99% of the actions and decisions made don’t matter and only a small number of actions taken lead to the impactful results that make the difference between success and failure. On the contrary, it is the very intention of taking new actions and having conversations that result in extraordinary outcomes.

When water cooler talk sounds like “we already tried that, that’s just how it is,” or “we can’t work with them,” there are clear signs that new action and new conversations are not happening. This is what gets businesses stuck, and in the best-case scenario, incrementally growing. Businesses committed to growth are out to intervene in these conversations. Unfortunately, for executive leaders, human brains are wired to avoid things that didn’t work. So how do the best-run companies consistently get their workforce to have productive conversations and take new actions through the highs and lows? Make no mistake that taking new actions during the highs can be equally critical and difficult to do as during the lows, sometimes more so.

  1. The commitment must be consistently present in order for people to be inspired to take new actions.
  2. Conversations and meetings must conclude in aligned-on actions. Who is going to do what, and by when? As businesses grow, more and more meetings tend to grow with them. Meetings to simply report or discuss until the next meeting inhibits growth and wastes an organization’s most precious resource, people’s time.

It’s all about setting the conditions that allow for new conversations and actions to emerge naturally. Short-term motivation isn’t enough to achieve breakthrough growth through the surprises that occur in the world. Nobody in 2019 predicted that the COVID pandemic would be the economic risk for 2020 and nobody will predict the next surprise, whatever that may be. What business leaders can do is ensure that their teams will continue to have new conversations and take new actions. Warren Buffet’s first action to generate returns and Walt Disney’s first action to produce cartoons did not produce the outcomes we know of them today. However, continually taking new actions produces the environment for success. Unlocking this may not guarantee success, but it will unquestionably increase the possibilities.

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