I was visiting with a leader of a local manufacturing company recently about some sales issues they were having. Sales had been falling for some time, and cash flow was becoming a major problem. I asked what his ideas were for giving sales a boost, and he said, “There’s nothing we can do. People just don’t want to buy.” His statement reminded me of a concept that’s been discussed in this space before – Locus of Control.
The idea of Locus of Control is pretty simple. People tend to have either an Internal or External Locus of Control. While we may waffle back and forth, for the most part each of us leans one way or the other. Someone with an External Locus of Control spends a lot of time talking about how things are beyond their control and how their problems are unfixable. For example, looking back on the recent recession, I’ve heard a number of business owners say, “We struggled during 2008-09 because the economy was so bad. Nobody wanted to buy anything, so we just sat here with all this product and no way to move it.” Can you hear the external focus? The problem is the economy, customers, etc, and there’s nothing we could do about it.
On the other hand, I’ve heard the successful business owners say, “We struggled during 2008-09 because we didn’t respond fast enough to the economic downturn. We didn’t move quickly enough to change our processes & streamline our business. It took us awhile to figure out how to reach customers in the ‘new world’. We’ve learned our lesson though, and now we’re going strong.” Can you hear the internal focus? There are problems, but we are going to do something about it.
Why does it matter where your focus lies? It matters because people with an external locus of control tend to be paralyzed. They feel like there’s nothing they can do to impact the world around them, so they do nothing. They’re convinced that they’re just along for the ride. People with an internal locus of control focus on solutions. Yes, there are things beyond their control, but that’s not what they focus on. They focus on what specifically they can do to deal with their environment.
What are you worrying about? Do you have an external or internal locus of control? Listen to yourself when you’re talking to the rest of your team, or your friends, or your family. Are you making excuses for not acting? Or are you trying to figure out your next move?
How can you make sure your focus is internal? First, surround yourself with internal locus individuals. It doesn’t take much of a conversation to find out where people’s tendencies lie. External locus is contagious; don’t let it drag you down.
Second, take time every week to think about your focus. Think about the biggest issue you’re facing that week & do some brainstorming – what pops into your head? Are you thinking about problems or solutions?
Third, make a point to have continuous action plans. The more you focus on action and making positive change, whether in your life or your business, the less you worry about things you can’t control. You become so consumed (in a good way) with change & action that the things you can’t control get pushed out of your mind.
Keeping your focus on solutions will give you energy and make you more productive. What are you worrying about today?