“Knowing what to avoid when it comes to leading is just as important as knowing what to do,” says Steven Feinberg, consultant and author of the new book, The Advantage Makers. He says most business mistakes are based on one of these five “Laws of Defeat” that business leaders should avoid:
1. Opportunity knocking—do not disturb. “Opportunity myopia” happens when narrow thinking rules behavior. Leaders get so focused on established goals, they often miss opportunities.
Example: Sears passed on an opportunity to purchase The Home Depot because of its own financial problems, without seeing the overall value of the proposal.
2. Perceptual bias: We think we are thinking, but are we? Leaders often confuse perception with reality; they don’t see what they don’t want to see.
Stepping back and removing yourself to see a true picture of your decision-making is difficult. But it’s essential to making accurate judgments.
3. Competing against yourself—at cross purposes. “Businesses shoot themselves in the foot by competing against themselves, and they are rarely aware of it,” says Feinberg.
Example: pushing for growth while pushing for cost savings; promoting innovation but punishing mistakes; giving mandates to employees but failing to give them adequate decision-making authority to carry them out.
4. Stuck in your persistence: Making sticky problems stickier. The adage: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” isn’t always good business.
“We can get stuck in our own persistence, whether repeated interpersonal conflicts or pushing projects we believe in, even though they are not working after multiple attempts,” says Feinberg.
5. Reactive tendency: Playing to avoid losing. “When a leader is outcome-oriented, the emphasis is on achieving the outcome; you play to win rather than complaining or blaming circumstances,” says Feinberg.