by Phil Latz
Hi, welcome to the fourth blog in my personal growth series that I hope will help you become more successful in your business.
As a business owner myself for many years, I understand the challenges that you face.
Today I’ll be sharing with you about taking personal responsibility.
So far, my first three blogs in this series have been pretty light and easy. But this one will be different.
If you take offence easily then you might want to stop reading now because what I’m about to share might come across as being harsh.
But the world of business can be brutal. There’s no safety net. It’s survival of the fittest. As Jim Collins says in his classic business book Good to Great, the people that survive in dire circumstances such as a prisoner of war camps are those who confront the brutal facts. The same could be said about the businesses that survive.
If you have a tendency to sugarcoat the facts or worse still, avoid them entirely, then there’s a strong chance that they will come back to bite you. You need to take personal responsibility for your actions and the consequences that flow from them.
I’m going to give you three illustrations to more deeply explain what I mean.
The first illustration is deep, literally, because I want to share with you about a memorable visit I made to an underground bunker.
Hidden beneath central London, the Cabinet War Rooms were the headquarters from which Prime Minister Winston Churchill and his most senior cabinet ministers and military leaders led the British forces and the nation of Great Britain during World War Two.
The latest technology of that era was installed in the Cabinet War Rooms including a top-secret direct phone line to President Roosevelt in the USA.
In the heart of the bunker was the Map Room, where the most detailed maps were on hand and the latest battle situations were plotted to the highest possible degree of accuracy.
Most importantly, Churchill insisted upon hearing the unvarnished truth from all of his advisors.
All of this was done so that he could make the best-informed decisions.
And he had to make many, often knowing that his decisions would directly result in lives being lost.
But when he made these decisions, he took responsibility for the consequences.
For all his many well-documented flaws and failings, there is broad consensus amongst historians that this willingness to proactively take responsibility for leading his nation through its darkest hour, was instrumental in them prevailing in that war.
Are you prepared to confront the brutal facts in your business? Sugarcoating is not good for you!
My second illustration starts with ActionCOACH founder Brad Sugars who asks, “Is your behaviour above or below the point of power?
To live above the point, the key words to describe your behaviour are Ownership, Accountable and Responsible, OAR for short.
But to live below the point is BED – blame, excuses, denial.
Your life above the point is that of a victor. Your life below is that of a victim.
I can hear some people saying, ‘That’s ok for you to say! You’ve lived a life of privilege. You haven’t had the same disadvantage and struggles that I’ve had!’
All of that may well be true, but what are you going to do about it?
Are you going to continue living the life of the victim? Or are you going to live the life of a victor?
We cannot control certain bad external forces that happen to us or to our business, but even though it may be difficult, we can control our response to these external forces.
Viktor Frankl discovered this truth living in the extreme circumstances as a Jewish inmate of Nazi concentration camps during World War Two.
Here are two of his most famous revelations from that experience.
‘Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.’
‘Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’
Fortunately, we do not need to live through such horrific experiences to benefit from these revelations of Viktor Frankl.
When something goes wrong in your business, especially when it’s caused by an external force that’s beyond your control, how do you choose to respond?
My third illustration comes from personal experience. I’ve seen that Brad Sugar’s illustration about victor versus victim… ownership, accountable, responsible versus blame, excuses denial… is true.
During my decades owning a small media business, I’ve had the opportunity to interview many business owners and leaders from the smallest, struggling one man shows through to those with multi-billion dollar turnovers.
I’ve found a consistent, common theme. Those who are continually struggling almost always externalise the reasons. ‘It’s the weather, it’s the government, it’s the economy, it’s the unfair competition…’ the list is long.
They blame others and make excuses.
At the end they might add something like, ‘And if anyone else tells you anything different, they’re lying!’
That’s classic denial.
People like this find it extremely hard to accept that one of their competitors might actually be doing well, despite facing all of the same tough circumstances that the victim is facing.
On the other hand, a victor might acknowledge some tough circumstances, but always steers the conversation back to the new ideas they’re trying and their strategies to succeed.
They’re like a beach ball that you try to keep underwater. No matter how far you push it down, it keeps bobbing up to the surface.
I hope you now understand that you only have to keep living and you’re sure to face difficult times and challenges at some stage in your life and your business.
It’s not those challenges themselves, but it’s how you respond to those challenges that will determine how successful you will be.
The first step on that road to success is taking personal responsibility for your current situation.
Only then will you truly realise that you can also take responsibility for the future steps you need to take to improve that situation.
In the next blog in this series, I’m going to grasp another thorny nettle that’s often lamented by business owners. How to achieve a healthy work/life balance so that you can spend more time with your family.
I believe that with passion, consistent effort and wise advice you can succeed in your business.
I wish you all the best and I’ll see you next time.