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Friday, February 18, 2011

Success Is Your Own Darn Fault

When I was younger (which is scary that I am at the age to actually be able to say that), I was the first to tell you why it was everybody's else fault that things didn't work out for whatever.  Whether it was my career, my life, etc. if something wasn't going the way I hoped it would . . . someone or something else was to blame.  Now if something did go well . . . I was to blame for that.  I had the proverbial "bad attitude".  Thankfully I had a great boss who said to me one day, "You know.  I noticed you have a tendency to point the finger a lot at others for being the problem.  In fact, check out my hand when I actually point."  I looked at his hand that had his finger pointing.  He asked, "Where are my other 3 fingers pointing?"  Right back at him.  Lesson learned . . . whenever you point the finger, three are pointing right back at you.  Really taking that to heart and truly working on it always has made dramatic positive differences for me in how I approach things, my relationships, my decisions, so forth and so on.

As a manager, some think that is a great position to have a good supply of people to blame for things not turning out right.  The greatest lesson I have learned about being a manager is that my success has everything to do with what my people do.  If I "make them successful.  I will be successful."  In fact, I can always tell a good manager by those who never talk about themselves.  They talk about the successes of their people.  They may talk about goals that were not achieved, but they always speak in terms of what they didn't do to make others successful.  Whether it be not providing clear vision, goals, direction.  Or how they didn't hold people accountable in a timely manner or effectively.  The last part is always interesting because people often think "holding others accountable" is negative and would be contrary to "success".  Holding others and yourself accountable have everything to do with being successful.

So how do you determine if you are not making success your own darn fault?  I look for these three things in myself or with others:
  1. The conversation is about things I, or we, have no control over.  I have no control over "the economy".  It is what it is.  Yes, economic conditions can (and probably will) have an impact on most businesses; but unless you've decided to shuts the doors entirely because "the economy is bad" you still have to continue operations.  You have to make some decisions.  
  2. There is no personal accountability.  The person that is unwillingly to hold themselves accountable will be the one constantly blaming others, lying, and will speak a lot to what they have done.  In fact, even if the person is doing well now, those qualities will be a huge problem when things dip.  Always head this off at the pass.  The person will often be a "Jekyll and Hide".  If things are going great . . . they are your best friend in the world and a blast to be around.  If it's bad . . . watch out. 
  3. The attitude is primarily negative about change.  There is one constant in life . . . change.  And as the saying goes, "You can either look at the cup half full or half empty."  The person who avoids change will always view the cup as "half empty" and either dismiss any positive notion of the change, tell you only why it will fail, and blame change for any problems.  Change is scary sometimes especially if you do not fully understand.  Ask questions! 
So you're probably asking now, how do I make "success my own darn fault"?  It's actually pretty simple:
  1. Determine what you actually HAVE control over.  If business traffic is down, look at your advertising, talk to your customers, go get new business, etc.  
  2. Get the facts and avoid assumptions at all costs.  I love hearing "nobody has any money" or "nobody is buying".  Then you look at the sales and they are in the millions.  Really?  That's a lot "no money" coming in.  What the reality is that you may be over speculating on growth.  Economic impacts may cause you to commit the "ultimate business sin" . . . plan down.  If your industry is trending down, it's important to be realistic so you can make the best decisions.
  3. Determine the root cause for issues or problems.  Yes, life and things seem to move pretty fast these days; but if you try to address problems at blazing fast speeds I guarantee you will miss the best possible solution every time.  My best sales person is not selling as much.  When I speak to him about this he tells me it's because of "the economy".  So I tell him that I've noticed him coming in late quite a bit and taking more sick days than normal.  He's surprised I've noticed that and explains that there have been some "issues at home".  I understand and offer either taking some time off or using work as an outlet to "put home in the trash can for a while when at work."  The attitude and outside issues are the root cause for performance.
  4. Set realistic goals and plans to follow-up routinely.  Goals should be "SMART" (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timebound).  Setting those goals and not following up on the progress daily or weekly is worthless.  
  5. Be open to change.  The person and business that is willing to change and adapt is often the one one "that wins the game" more times than not.  Avoiding change or dismissing it always puts your competition at an advantage.  Borders just recently filed bankruptcy.  Borders financial issues can really be attributed to dumping a ton of money into mall-based stores and giving Amazon their online business years ago.  They totally dismissed the signs that shopping behaviors changed and tried to force success in a dying sector of their business.  And they totally dismissed that people would buy books online and put nothing into developing their web business.  
Granted, you may do all of those things and it still may not work out.  The difference is that you will know why, and the true "go getter" will not let it happen again.  They will learn from their mistakes and do it better the next time.  And there will be a next time.  Life and business are rollercoaster rides.  You have your ups and downs all the time.  When you take the approach above, those downs often become more like dips rather than plunges.

As I was writing this, Harriet Lewis was kind enough to send me an message with a great quote I will leave you with:

“The only thing standing between you and your goal is the BS story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it.” — Jordan Belfort
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