Despite his six national waterskiing titles and five records, David Benzel shrugs off his talent and athleticism. He prefers to talk about how he has learned to think like a champion.
Now an executive coach in Groveland, Fla., Benzel attributes his success to his ability to apply entertainer Bette Midler's "fake it till you make it" philosophy. Only when he started to think like a winner did he begin to win water-ski competitions.
"The subconscious mind doesn't judge right or wrong," says Benzel, author of Chump to Champ. "It just records our messages and thoughts. So if you think, 'I'm a loser,' that shapes your subconscious."
For Benzel, effective managers visualize success before they attain it. They begin by picturing the outcome that they want—a vision of achievement. Then they take aim by developing an actionable series of steps or measurable goals that advances them toward the vision.
In order to reach their goal, managers must free themselves of self-doubt so that they believe wholeheartedly that they can produce the outcome they envision. This requires what Benzel calls an ability "to play the movie in your head so that you see—and believe—how it's going to end."
If your vision is too narrow, however, you may set yourself up for a fall. You may focus on the wrong outcomes or overlook what matters most.Benzel says a leader needs three levels of vision that each address different questions:
1. Where are we going as an organization?
2. How will I behave? How can my actions contribute to the organization's success?
3. What can my employees become—and how will they grow based on my example?
The third question is the easiest to overlook, Benzel warns, because managers rarely visualize their employees' success. But by imagining that your staffers reach their full potential and produce superior results, you communicate with more enthusiasm. You may also ask better questions and express more support for their personal and professional growth.