My husband Rob and I are very passionate about business owners having a business that is working hard for them, rather than them working very hard for it. When we hear business owners say things like…
…we know that we those business owners have a problem.
From nearly 18 years experience of business coaching and mentoring business owners, we know the above reactions are symptoms of a much deeper problem.
That problem is the result of either 1 or 2 or 3 of the following behaviours which our experience tells us all leaders display at some point in their business.
The most ineffective trait displayed by leaders is avoiding hard truths. Have you ever argued with the black and white data that is in front of you? What about avoiding taking action on tough decisions? Have you ever buried your head in the sand, hoping the problem would go away?
While it is easy to be critical of other leaders who we believe simply ‘can’t face the facts’…
…the truth is most of us engage in denial at one time or another or another, usually without even realizing we’re doing it. In fact, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, famous for defining the stages of grief, identified that as human beings, when we are faced with difficult situations, our most common defense mechanism is to do deny anything is happening.
For example, I’ve worked with many business owners who “know” there is someone on their team who, for a very long time, has been and continues to be low-performing. However, it’s easier for them to complain week after week in their coaching session about this person, rather than actually put in place a plan to manage their performance up to and including transitioning them out of the business if performance does not improve. The outcome of their denial is they don’t make the tough decisions and take the tough action.
Recently I was talking to a business owner who had lost a big client. Couched in ‘positive thinking’, their denial initially showed up as the idea that this client was “a big pain in the neck anyway” and they were glad to see the back of them. The hard fact they’d lost 5 clients in the last quarter was definitely not taken into consideration. An an observer, I could see the client was in denial about the business’ ability to retain clients with the current people and processes they had in place.
Yes, denial is alive and well in most businesses, resulting in slow or poor decisions, ineffective communication and a swath of other ineffective results for the business. Remember denial is not a river in Egypt!!
The 2nd most ineffective behaviour for leaders to display is justification. There’s always a reason or an excuse for why something did or did not happen. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, justification is defined as “a good reason or explanation for something”.
For example, I was working with one of our married clients. I walked into an argument they were having about their 8-year old son who was left, waiting to get picked up after school, in the rain, because neither of them had gone and collected him at the appropriate time.
Of course, both believed the other who was in wrong and could each justify why they were right. The husband thought that he was busy with work problems and so it was understandable to have forgotten. The wife however, having a client meeting that afternoon, which she’d told her husband about that morning and asked her husband to collect their son was proof that her husband is indeed inconsiderate. Both were determined that they had done nothing wrong. They each believed they were the better person and that the other had a behavioural flaw which needed changing.
Any opportunity for empathy or compromise was thrown out the window because “I did nothing wrong” and “he should learn to be more considerate” or “she needs to be more aware of the challenges I’m facing with the tradespeople in the workshop.”
Personally, I don’t like tardiness in others, and I don’t like being kept waiting for a client meeting. However, I acknowledge that I too have a challenge with being “on time”. In fact, I’ve become very aware of how many times I’ve justified by lateness because “I was stuck in traffic” OR “my previous client meeting went over”.
The thing that I am learning about justification is that:
Justification, like denial is alive and well is most of us. Justification of our behaviour means we let ourselves off the hook for addressing our own poor patterns of behaviour and habits. It also stops us from addressing challenges our business or relationships are facing.
When I am justifying myself I am disempowering myself to the behaviour, habit or challenge I am facing. I am not dealing with it AT ALL. Ziad K. Abdelnour says “you can make excuses and you can make money, but you cannot make both”.
Last but not least, the 3rd most ineffective behavior for leaders to display is blame. Blaming is to say – or think – that someone did something wrong or is responsible for something happening. Like denial and justification, blaming is alive and well in most of us. On a daily basis I hear business owners blaming their staff for not doing what they are supposed to do and/or only doing the work when they (the owner) are there. I hear business owners blaming the economy for their down-turn in their sales, or inability to find good staff. I hear business owners blaming their partner for not understanding their workload or being inconsiderate of their needs.
The thing I have learned about blame is that when I am blaming another person or blaming a situation, my focus is on the problem, my focus is not on finding the solution to the problem. I am disempowering myself to the other person or situation. Robert Kiyosaki, the author of Rich Dad Poor Dad says “Stop blaming me, thinking I’m the problem. If you think I’m the problem, then you have to change me. If you realize that you’re the problem, then you can change yourself, learn something and grow wiser. Most people want everyone else in the world to change themselves. Let me tell you, it’s easier to change yourself than everyone else.”
Do you recognise some (or all) of these ineffective behaviours are also in your “tool box”? If so, firstly it’s important to know you’re not alone. Secondly, I encourage you to read next week’s blog where I’ll cover the three most effective behaviours you need to show.
If you want to work on removing these ineffective tools from your toolbox, then Rob and I are here to help. For more than 18 years now, we’ve been working directly with business owners – and their leadership teams – to successfully remove denial, justification and blame from their toolkits. The results are quite literally life-changing. If you’d like to know how life-changing it could be for you and your business, reach out for a confidential conversation. We’re here to work with you to create the business and lifestyle you’ve always wanted for you and your family
What does it take to actually remove yourself from the day-to-day grind of business? Learn from our panel of Business Owners who've Been There, Done That.