Last summer my grandson Dylan, who was playing on a little league team, went into a hitting slump. He had been swinging vigorously, doing his best to look like a big-league slugger. But he was missing the ball more often than hitting it.
Because I know that Dylan has excellent eye-hand coordination, I told him to quit swinging the bat and start hitting the ball. He objected: "How can I hit the ball if I don't swing the bat?" The difference, I explained, is what you think about when you swing. "Concentrate on connecting with the ball."
"You have a great eye," I continued. "Just say to yourself, I'm going to hit the ball." The result? He hit 27 of the next 30 pitches. Granted, all of the 27 weren't solid hits. Some were fouls, but he had learned to hit the ball.
What is the lesson for leaders? You or your people could be vigorously going through the motions, even necessary motions, but not scoring any runs.
In order to focus, you may need to say a mantra to yourself, or use a prop. Helen Gurley Brown, long-time editor of Cosmopolitan Magazine, used a prop. She made it a practice to keep a copy of the magazine on her desk at all times. She said she used the magazine on her desk to keep her thoughts focused on producing a product—the magazine—and not decorating the office or engaging in pleasant conversations.
Let's say you're a VP of sales, and you have made it a rule that your sales people make, say, 5 contacts per day, per week. You certainly want to emphasize how important it is to make those 5 contacts, because nobody sells unless they make contacts. But make sure that your people recognize that the goal is not 5 contacts per day—that's swinging the bat. The goal is making sales when they make the contacts.
Making the contacts is swinging the bat. Selling is hitting the ball when you swing.
Gene Griessman is a professional speaker and Lincoln portrayer and the author of Time Tactics of Very Successful People. His newest book is Lincoln Speaks To Leaders: 20 Powerful Lessons From America's 16th President, with Pat Williams and Peggy Matthews Rose. Griessman's website is http://www.presidentlincoln.com Adapted from The Achievement Digest, Issue No. 64