analysis

Don’t only listen to the voices of gloom

It will only force businesses to miss whatever growth opportunities are out there

12:34 May 7, 2018

“Economists are paid to worry,” stated Nathan Sheets. The former official at the US Treasury and Federal Reserve was commenting on why economists are worried, despite economic stability around the world.

It’s irritating to read what seems like misplaced fretting when we should be building confidence to fuel more growth — but it makes sense. After all, rather than focusing on the positives, economists and financial policymakers tend to worry a lot about what could go wrong.

For the first time since the onset of the Global Financial Crisis more than a decade ago, nearly every major region is enjoying solid growth and prosperity. This should be welcome news and reason for optimism, yet policymakers sound blue. The IMF’s Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, said just last month: “The current global picture is bright, but we can see darker clouds looming.”

Her comment came in stark contrast to the encouraging evidence from the world’s financial markets, yet governments and business leaders were no doubt listening closely to her words. This made me wonder, why do we give so much credence to people who cause worry and concern?

In addition to the policymakers that we turn to to shape our views, many sources of information are laden with concern and apprehension. Worrying headlines consistently make their way onto boardroom agendas and into management meetings and coffee discussions. But those words don’t only come from reputable sources; colleagues, friends, associates and even casual acquaintances find it easy to express their concerns about what can go wrong.

The question is: are you giving too much attention to the worries of others?

It irks me to witness the priority given to the bearers of worry, often at the expense of their more optimistic counterparts. Of course, good times will not last forever, but if we give more attention to the good times, then perhaps we’ll all be relieved of the need to fret — at least for a while — and will instead be able to spend those valuable hours planning for growth.

Economic policymakers should be discussing how to make good times last rather than forecasting coming economic woes. I wonder what would’ve happened when they met recently in Washington DC if they’d focused on how they could give markets confidence to sustain growth instead of being worrywarts.

Instead of giving priority to worries, at a minimum, balance them with confidence building. For every worrying scenario you entertain, plan for a sunny day.

What you give your attention to and where you look is where your teams will go. If you’re captivated by worrying news and choose to concentrate on it, then it’s a safe prediction that your teams will do the same. Businesses that defy the odds and succeed do the opposite: they dismiss the urge to worry and concentrate on what can go right.

You can’t be distracted — you have to concentrate on what you want to achieve. It is easy to stay focused when everyone thinks you have a good idea, but people won’t always be supportive or see the future the way you do.

People will worry on your behalf and will question you. Still, you must stay focused. Instead of obsessing about why things can’t happen or what could go wrong, reposition the discussion to identify what it’ll take to succeed.

I’m always surprised when I observe leaders limit themselves by market conditions, and, even worse, market predictions. This doesn’t seem to make sense for the simple reason that someone will always outgrow everyone else. Why isn’t that person you?

It’s illogical to allow someone else’s words to limit what you can achieve when all they’re doing is worrying about a future that doesn’t exist yet. It’s your choice: listen to worrywarts or create the future you want.

When the sun is shining go out and enjoy it. Make the most of the sunny days, rather than ducking back indoors and preparing for a rainy day.

— Tommy Weir is a CEO coach and author of “Leadership Dubai Style”. Contact him at tsw@tommyweir.com