There's a psychology to success. And it's made up at work of careful habits – just like hitting a tennis ball proficiently or improving your skiing – that require practice and thought.
Rob Fazio is a New Jersey-based sports psychologist who has turned his attention to working with business executives, importing athletic success strategies that can help them advance.
If his ideas sound simple, that will delight him, since he aims for simplicity. Indeed, his recent book is titled Simple is the New Smart.
But simple, he stresses, isn't easy. And it can involve more than appears on the surface. He points to an iPad, which a four-year-old can operate; it's a simple device, but behind the interface is complicated technology.
"I worked back from success to see what gets in people's way and developed simple strategies to offset that," he said in an interview.
Here are five prime areas to consider:
Doubts can be valuable, alerting you to potentially wrong-headed courses of action. But doubts can also paralyze you. So you need to keep your doubts in check, analyzing them to assess legitimacy. "As human beings, we are not 100-per-cent right. So maybe your doubts aren't right. That's why you want to analyze them," he said in the interview. Scan to determine what doubts you harbour. Explore where the doubts are coming from and verify whether they are correct. To move ahead, identify what the doubts are preventing. Then, if it makes sense, doubt your doubts, reframing your thinking to move past them.
Being stubborn can at times be highly effective – sticking to a plan, holding firm if somebody is pushing you around. But it also can be disastrous. You need to be sure that stubbornness is appropriate to the situation, not just arising because you are a stubborn person. It's essential to learn that releasing control can help you gain control. Temporarily step aside from a position and ask yourself whether this is worth fighting for. What will be the impact if you do or don't hold your ground? Consider, as well, how to separate points of view from people – how much of your feeling is related to the people advocating the point of view you are rejecting? Then return to your original point of view, and see whether it's worth advocating. "The hardest thing is to understand that you can come back to your point of view if you want," he said.
The blind side
What do others know about you that you are ignoring? He works in New York City with the financial community, where people are overly direct. That is fine in some contexts but not in others. "Be aware how you come across," he warns. Ask yourself what people say about you in jest that may be pointing out a problem area. For example, people will often tell him they can't get a word in edgewise in conversations. Ask yourself what you would like to do at work that you don't get asked to – and what might be the blind spot holding you back? Seek advice from colleagues on your blind side, keeping mind they are allies, out to help you. "This is not easy or comfortable to do, but it's critical," he said, warning that sometimes we ask for feedback but signal we really don't want anything negative.
Create a constellation of competence around you – people you don't necessarily hang out with and may not even be comfortable to be around but who give sound advice. Find them by asking others who they get their advice from. Look beyond your organization at people you can approach for advice, seeking a brief meeting and building from that. Build these relationships over time. "This is a process, not an event," he said.
What motivates you may not motivate others. He outlines four core "motivational currencies" – performance (getting things accomplished), people (relationships), power, and purpose. "Make sure you are thinking about what drives you, but also with others make sure you are tapping into their motivational currency rather than your own," he said. This is particularly important when we are emotionally fatigued and take shortcuts, reverting to what will please us, not the other person.
He urges you not to grab at all these ideas, even if highly appealing. Take one, and improve in that area before moving on to the next. Keep it simple, since simple is the new smart.