Controlling the ‘controllables’

  • 29th November 2017
  • Data
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Bob Bowman, the legendary coach of record-breaking swimmer Michael Phelps, would deliberately arrange training sessions which would make Phelps uncomfortable. He would change training times at the last minute, ban him from drinking water during his breaks and even break his goggles moments before a session*.

Moments after diving into the pool for the 2008 Olympic 200m butterfly final, Phelps’ goggles began to leak, leaving him unable to see anything. At this moment, Bowman’s ‘control the controllables’ training kicked in and Phelps focused on controlling his reaction in order to win the race.

Most people who read that story will understand that the key message to be taken from Bowman and Phelps is to focus on the things you can control in your life, job, and perhaps even your business, and not worry about the things that are beyond your control – and they would be correct. Focusing only on the things you are in control of will reduce stress, increase efficiency and lead to a more positive lifestyle.

I do not wish to counter one of the most commonly used adages in success psychology but I do want to take it a step further.

Being stuck in traffic is a situation many of us will have experienced at some point in our lives. Focusing on things you can control, means concentrating on your own driving, while ignoring things beyond your control such as other drivers and the cause of the traffic. In this case however, the latter can, to some extent, become a controllable. For example, by checking online for traffic prior to setting off, you could alter your journey – ultimately doing research can actually expand what you are in control of.

How does this translate into business?

  1. You may focus on controlling the key clients who regularly consume your services or products. This could lead to you ignoring those businesses who have never even considered using your services.
  2. You may pay too much attention to your own performance at work, while neglecting the views of your staff or colleagues.
  3. You may accept that due to a lack of resources, you can only do so much with the data you hold.

How can you address these issues?

  1. Try communicating with, and finding out about, businesses who are not currently using your services.
  2. Aim to gain, and make sense of, staff and colleagues’ opinions and views. By taking on board other view points you can work together to achieve your business goals.
  3. Consider external resources to enable you to effectively use all of the data at your disposal. Often businesses are desperate to achieve commercial benefit from the data they have but simply don’t have the resources available to them.

By all means control the ‘controllables’ but it’s also worth keeping an eye on any ‘uncontrollables’ you might be able to conquer.

If you are interested in expanding your ‘controllables’ and using data to achieve your business goals we would love to help. Please get in touch to find out how we can assist you and your business.

*Damian Hughes, ‘How to think like Sir Alex Ferguson: The Business of Winning and Managing Success’.

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