Opening Up to Possibilities

Jim King

Jim King: Don't waste time defining barriers.

Most shops are aware of the wealth of opportunities in today’s dynamic manufacturing environment. But it can be daunting to think about how to take advantage of them. The key to leveraging the best opportunities for your business may not be what you do to support growth, but how you think about the process.

A Transformative Experience

A few months back, I had a transformative experience that changed my approach to driving business growth. I had just undergone ankle surgery (finally repairing an old running injury) and needed to spend time at home, off my feet. This provided the perfect setting for deep strategic thinking, and I worked on some exciting new business goals for Okuma America Corporation.

In the early stages of this process, I foresaw the barriers to our ultimate success. At the time, I felt I could justify this as a realistic point of view, but it was negative thinking, and getting me nowhere fast. This became a mighty struggle, wrestling with all the “can’t dos” that swirled around in my mind.

But then I had a moment where I told myself, I simply must let go and stop focusing on what might stand in our way. I experienced an immediate release of the pent-up apprehension that had been building through this process, and suddenly the weight of negativity was lifted.

From “Can’t Do” to “What If”

When I finally let go and focused instead on the potential, the way forward became clearer. A switch had flipped, and soon I was entertaining a flurry of ideas around what could be done to pave the way toward our goals. My thoughts turned to the possibilities, and “can’t dos” became “what ifs.” Which leads me to one of the most important professional lessons I’ve ever learned (that I wish I’d learned much earlier!): Don’t waste time defining barriers. Define the possibilities instead.

Three Critical Actions

Next, it was time to come up with a plan of action. In my experience there are three critical actions that facilitate the process of moving forward:

  • Focus on controlling what you can control.
    In the early stages of driving growth for the organization, it can be tempting to think ahead to the ultimate goal. But I think it’s more productive to concentrate on the simpler things that you currently have complete control over. Make those happen first, then take the next steps.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of positive intent.
    Create an environment of positive intent. Forget about all the things you “can’t” do and place all your energy and focus on what you “can” do. Announce to your team where you’re headed, and begin to outline steps that will get you there. Say it out loud, and watch potential skepticism start to transform into forward-thinking action.
  • Make sure everyone in the organization understands their role in the process.
    When sparking movement toward a common goal, individuals can sometimes feel they don’t really have opportunities to contribute to the greater good. There can be a sentiment of “that’s someone else’s job to do.” This is where it’s important to break down goals into a specific and inclusive vision for various subgroups (in our case this includes standard company divisions such as sales, operations, service, human resources, marketing, etc.). Each group can be tasked with customizing their own path for contributing to goals and devising an appropriate action plan.
The Universe of the Possible

It's amazing what happens when we allow negative thoughts to become dominant: our minds become very small. I believe that when you let negative feelings take over, you’re really not thinking at all. When you’re able to push this aside, it’s amazing the creative solutions you’ll come up with to solve problems.

It’s interesting too, that when you focus on the possibilities, the universe of “what’s possible” starts expanding. Your world opens up to unlimited potential. That’s a rewarding path to follow.

About Jim King
Jim King
is President and COO, Okuma America Corporation.
Follow Jim on LinkedIn.

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