How to Win Well, When Winning Feels Impossible

Last week I was doing a Winning Well workshop with the United Nations, when one of the participants, “Pete,” looked at me sincerely and said, “I hear you, and all these tools sound good, and I’m going to use them.  But what do you when Winning is impossible?”

I waited for more. 

“Our mission is world peace.”

Okay, Pete has a point. 

And I’m writing this from an airplane on my way to speak to 900 healthcare workers who’s mission is to create “26 million exceptional patient experiences a year. “That’s a tall order.

If I was facing a terrifying diagnosis, or I was watching my sister die, or my baby was born four months early, it would take a hell of a lot to convince me I was having an “exceptional” patient experience.

How to Win Well When Winning Feels Impossible

“Impossible” missions can crush the soul. You dig the wells, build a school, buy back the guns, and stabilize the village, only to find the next day a revolution causes you to evacuate. 

Or despite an army of dedicated doctors and nurses all executing flawlessly together, the baby still dies.

I’m sure you have your stories too.

How do you get back up the next day and try again?

My advice to Pete and anyone else doing work that really matters is simply this.

Focus on the “well,” and the “wins” will follow.  The Win with a capital W might be impossible, but the lower case wins add up and change the world.

Be confident your work makes a difference and stand up for what matters.

Stay humble, knowing that the mission is bigger than you and your frustrations.

Identify, reinforce and celebrate the specific behaviors that lead to breakthrough results.  Discouraging times often call for a confidence burst. 

Invest in the relationships with your team. Reach out to others who can help. Recognize the impact you’re making at a human level.

If you’re working on achieving the impossible, thank you. 

Focus on the well and the wins will follow.