This article is co-written by James O’Brien and Anders Liu-Lindberg. Article 2 in our Business Acumen Series

If you’re in business, it’s typically about making money and as an executive you need your team to be at its best to beat the competition and make profitable sales. However, you often wonder why even the best thought and well communicated plans still don’t get executed the way they were intended. Truth be told it’s because your team lacks focus and are not set in their minds on making the plans succeed. The good news is that this can be trained but the bad news is, of course, that you can’t just switch it on tomorrow.

In our new Business Acumen series James O’Brien and I are taking you through all sub-components needed to increase your Business Acumen. The first one is a mindset for doing business. Before we dig into it let’s just be clear and define what a mindset is.

“a mindset is a set of assumptions, methods, or notations held by one or more people”

So, when we claim your team lacks focus they’re either applying different assumptions than you are, using wrong methods or simply just interpreting things differently from what you do.

How to get your team focused


It’s important that you’re in sync with your team to get them to focus on executing the business plan the way it was intended. To do that you focus on developing their mindset for doing business. The Business Acumen Gauge defines the following mindset attributes that need your attention.

· Reflective Mindset – shows that you have both learnt from the past and have the learning agility for the future

· Analytical Mindset – gather relevant data, both quantitative and qualitative, and then make sense of it through evaluation, and finally draw accurate conclusions from it

· Creative Mindset – when solving problems, you think creatively – using many techniques for new ways to approach problems

· Collaborative Mindset – appreciate the value of working collaboratively and draw upon the skills and insights of colleagues to solve problems and implement solutions

· Change Mindset – takes responsibility for initiating and leading change

· Resilient Mindset – maintains agility and perseverance to get the job done

· Action Mindset – have an orientation towards getting things done efficiently and effectively

Often a mindset is thought of as something quite loose although not without significant impact. It’s like Anders described in his article “Do You Have A Finance Business Partner Mindset?” yet here it’s made even more concrete and tangible which makes it possible to actively develop it instead of just quickly trying to change a specific behaviour. Knowing that you need your team to sharp in all these areas you can now also start to question why things are not working the way you intended to with questions like.

· Do we repeat past mistakes?

· Do use data for our decision making or base it on gut feelings?

· Do we always use conventional wisdom for solving our problems?

· Do our different departments work in silos or is there a lot of cross-functional collaboration?

· Do we lead and embrace change or do we resist it?

· Do we give up too easily when a decision doesn’t work out immediately?

· Do we make decisions and get things done or do we spend too long discussing the issue?

If you don’t have a positive answer to all these questions you need to ensure to get your teams aligned and if needed trained before you roll out any big initiatives. Otherwise, the risk of failure is much higher than it needs to be.

The power of a collective mindset


If everyone in your company shares the same mindset things start to get powerful for you and your company culture will then be supporting every initiative that you do.

One could argue that the risk is that everyone things the same and you then miss out opportunities, however, if you revisit the seven different mindset attributes you will quickly realise that they force your team members to look at many different possibilities and through discussion agree on what they think is the best course of action.

This way of doing business might not be for everyone and it’s like “The GE Way that isn’t for everyone” but for doing business the way you want your team to do business this is the way to go. The alternative is an ugly one where every decision you make is being questioned, resisted and not executed at every step of the way down the management chain. You will surely lose money as no one can lead a company or even just a single department like this. That’s also why having the right mindset for doing business is a prerequisite for all development of Business Acumen that you need to take your teams through.

Get the mindset right from the start and all subsequent training efforts will be so much more effective.