My husband and I regularly play gin; and, when I sat down to play with him last week, I realized that his win rate had eclipsed mine in recent months.  Since I don’t like losing (who does?), I tried to get him to reveal his strategy before we began this match.  He resisted at first, but agreed to share his approach when I told him that our gin games were numbered if I could not reverse my losing streak.   His secret, he revealed, was simple: focus.

“Once I have my hand organized, I only pick up cards that double my prospects,” he said.  If you know gin, you’ll know that means a card has toM C E playing cards .jpg contribute to a 2-, 3-, or 4-of-a-kind set and create the possibility for a run of the same card suit.

“If they only match or create the potential for a run, I don’t alter my plan to include them.”

This career sales woman was convinced by her 32 year coach of football and wrestling teams, whose historical won/loss ratio exceeds 70 %.  I shifted my card selection strategy, declining all but the double opportunity prospects, and saw my  won/loss ratio improve from 1:9 to 50:50 in the weeks that followed.

This lesson in gin bears repeating because it has application to other aspects of life and business.  To be successful, we need to know what the ideal end game looks like and what we currently have in our hands.  We then need to focus relentlessly on those opportunities that will get us there.

The same principle could have spared me (and I hope you) frustration from repeating some mistakes I’ve made in business:

  1. Making a hiring decision that backfired because the individual’s values didn’t align with the existing team’s.
  2. Pursuing a prospect through a lengthy RFP process only to realize upon rejection that a more careful review of the requirements could have saved the team dozens of hours.
  3. Investing time in a favor for a “friend” that jeopardized a client project.

By taking the initiative to plan and diligently focus we can increase our win rates. For example:

  1. By clarifying our mission, vision, and values, we can better assess the fit of job candidates and they us.
  2. By developing buyer personas and lead criteria, we can focus our time on the right prospects that will close faster and stay satisfied longer.
  3. By mapping out our 30, 60, and 90 day goals, we can say “no” to activities that don’t support our goals and stay on track with those that do.

Awareness is 80 percent of the battle.  If you’re not sure of the difference between a good play and a great one, take the time to assess what’s worked in the past and map out a plan to replicate that success.  The more specific you can be, the easier it will be to envision your future and get there.