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The Power of Paying Attention in Business

Business Investor discussing business owner hurdles and needs to achieve growth

During the 1980s and 90s, some company leaders held a very business-centric point of view on how to become successful in their respective industry. This sometimes included uncompromising management styles, a focus on profitability at any expense, and an opinion that layoffs were just part of doing good business.

Since that time, a major shift has been taking place in the way business is being conducted. Now companies like Google, Tesla, Zappos and many others are finding new ways to transform these outdated models into something that’s not only good for the business, but great for employees as well.

One of the most popular and effective modern examples comes from a practice that’s being adapted for both the business world and countless other disciplines. Originally considered a spiritual exercise, the tradition of using mindfulness (or paying attention) in business is evolving how companies become successful and showing leaders a new way to enhance relationships with their staff. So let’s take a look at how this simple application works.

Pay Attention to Your Employees

Being a leader means making the decisions that define a company’s trajectory. Yet, even the most successful leaders don’t always have all the answers when it comes to understanding the full scope of experiences customers are having with their business and how to solve the associated challenges.

To offer up an example of a modern-day business mogul who uses attention to make better business decisions, we turn to Marcus Lemonis of CNBC’s The Profit. In the reality show, Mr. Lemonis focuses on three areas he’s identified as having the most value in any organization looking to accomplish great things.

They are:

  • People
  • Product
  • Process

The reason these seemingly simple terms mean so much to his success is largely due to the entrepreneur’s attention on paying attention whenever he’s considering an investment in another business. He already knows how a business should be run, but he also takes the time to ask questions of the owners, the staff and even the customers themselves when he’s searching for ways to refine these areas before becoming a business investor.

He gives them his attention, he responds to their advice and their objections, and only then does he make a final decision on how to improve the business and make money.  As a team of small business investors at Evolution, we also recognize the importance of truly understanding a business owners goals and vision for his or her company to ensure a good fit and that  a plan is created that everyone is aligned with and inspired by.

Pay Attention to Connections

In business, it’s natural for you as a leader to be in a position where you’re always marketing your business and its products or service. You’re a helper. A problem solver. But this way of looking at colleagues, contacts and other businesses can find you getting in your way in terms of really making a connection that matters down the line.

Speaking to Itzik Amiel, a Global Leading Authority on Networking and Relationship Capital, during an episode of The Second Stage, Mr. Amiel shared with us the impact of giving attention to other business owners and entepreneurs can have. Talking about his book The Attention Switch, Mr. Amiel mentioned how paying attention helped him realize its true power in business and beyond, saying:

If you just give—not get—give attention to other people, you can get friendships, you can get business, you can get everything you want in life. But the problem is, most people come around to get attention, and there’s a big scarcity of people who give attention.

If you want to be an amazing connector in business, just shut up and listen. You don’t even need to worry about yourself [and your sales pitch]. Zero. Because if you come with your enthusiasm, with your energy, with your care…then people will go, “Who is this guy? What is he doing?” They’re going to find out more about you. And they’ll want more.

The Benjamin Franklin Effect

Expanding further on attention, Mr. Amiel also discussed the Benjamin Franklin Effect to reiterate his point.

When the United States was still early in its formation, Pennsylvania legislator Benjamin Franklin touched on an attention-related principle in his autobiography, writing about a situation where he’d experienced a great deal of animosity with a legislative rival. Instead of continuing to meet the opponent head-on, he chose an alternative route that changed their relationship forever.

Having heard that he had in his library a certain very scarce and curious book, I wrote a note to him, expressing my desire of perusing that book, and requesting he would do me the favour of lending it to me for a few days. He sent it immediately, and I return’d it in about a week with another note, expressing strongly my sense of the favour. When we next met in the House, he spoke to me (which he had never done before), and with great civility; and he ever after manifested a readiness to serve me on all occasions, so that we became great friends, and our friendship continued to his death.

Calling it an old maxim in his autobiography, Benjamin Franklin’s experience was later proven to be of great psychological worth in building relationships that might otherwise become neglected or soured. Demonstrated as part of cognitive dissonance theory, which states that people change their views and behavior in order to resolve relationship strains, the act also aligned perfectly with the highly notable and respectable book titled How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

In asking for a favor, or by merely paying attention to how tensions can be resolved amicably, we as leaders set ourselves up for learning and growth. And it’s through this same attention to those who are siding with our success—namely employees and business connections—that we can begin to understand the power of attention for ourselves.

Posted by: Jeffrey Kadlic A co-founder and managing partner at Evolution, Jeffrey has spent the past 15 years as an investor and private equity professional with a true passion for working with dynamic small businesses. @kadlic

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