Leadership Obstacles: There’s no one to blame … except yourself

Entrepreneur with binoculars looking to future

Déjà vu all over again?

How often have you heard that phrase banging against your skull … and how often was it telling you …

“I’ve been here before” …

“Didn’t we already solve this problem?” …

“Why does this subject keep coming up all the time?”

Why do these issues keep resurfacing?

Late last year, I embarked on a retrospective of my first 100 newspaper columns from the last four years. You may recall that I emphasized how often so many of those issues continue to be the same challenges year after year.

They’re constantly resurfacing, often in disguise as a different issue altogether … but really, the same ‘ol, same ‘ol.

Have we become dumb and dumberer?

I promised you then that we would attack the litany of reasons that these same issues keep popping up like whack-a-moles. I don’t think we’ve gotten “dumb and dumberer,” so what’s going on? Why are we tackling the same problems over and over again?

What I discovered is that there is a consistent swarm of resilient little creatures that appear like marbles on a bedroom floor … we’re constantly dodging them, looking for ways to step around them, kicking them to the side … but rarely do we take time to permanently organize them so we don’t trip over them again tomorrow.

There are a dozen forces aligned against us …

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In my last column, I tackled one of the biggest reasons these issues keep reappearing  … our inability to make the tough decisions … but there’s much more.

By my count, there are at least a dozen universal forces that have united to defeat our best-laid plans.

I’ve decided to rip off their masks and let them be seen for what they are … mostly, our own creations. But for our comfort or timidity or lack of conviction, they have a life of their own and prevent us from getting done and permanently resolving those things that are most important to us.

The next demon on this list rhymes with “it’s the economy, stupid.”

How do companies become “Great by Choice”?

Great by Choice, explores what differentiates the most successful companies … during chaotic and unpredictable times … from the also-rans.

Why do some companies fail to successfully respond to the obstacles thrown in their way … by a wayward economy, rising energy prices, oppressive regulation, predatory pricing, you name it … while others thrive despite the obstacles?

10X Companies REFUSE to be overrun by external forces

10X companies he studied refused to be overcome by these external forces. They recognized that unexpected roadblocks, even the black swans that Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote about in his popular book of the same name, were simply grist for their mill.

The most successful companies modified their plans but followed them relentlessly, dodging bullets, sidestepping land mines, and confronting immovable objects as just one more tripwire to step over.

It was simply unacceptable to “blame” these outside factors or to even proffer them as a reason for failure or disappointment.

Accepting full responsibility is a mindset

More than anything, for these companies, it is a mindset.

They embrace the notion that obstacles, of one kind or another, are a permanent part of the natural landscape, and don’t let these inevitable forces derail their plans.

They don’t blame these uncontrollable events for every shortcoming and don’t let uncontrollable environmental factors strangle the initiatives over which they do have domain.

When you look through the glass, it’s really a mirror

It’s human nature for us to want to look out the window rather than in the mirror to find the culprit, but that’s the wrong lens.

Yes, the environment will throw spitballs at us all the time. We can’t ignore these forces … but we can create a plan to take overcome them.

[pullquote]Remember … you won’t BECOME a better leader until you start BEING a better leader … implementing NOW the changes necessary to adopt the proven strategies of successful leaders. Start by building on the communication matrix and making sure you’re defending the castle to get done what only you can do. Make sure to take some time so you’re thinking past today. Read our 12 part Leadership series.[/pullquote]

We can dodge some of them, turn others to our advantage … but we must turn them to our purposes because they probably aren’t going away … and we don’t want to either.

Here’s the thing. Heads down. Focus. It’s on you!

In the meantime, focus on what you can control. Don’t blame the economy or any of the uncontrollable forces that conspire against us.

Forget the wet field, the injured player, the referee’s bad call. Have a five-minute pity party if you must … but then, move on.

Persevere. Revise your plan as needed and focus on what you can control. Nothing more. Heads down. Keep going.

Consider the environment but focus on what you can control and you will have grasped the only real thing you can count on.


This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Elaina Hunt

    Thank you for your thought-provoking article. I have often thought of this concept in a personal context, in terms of uselessly blaming external factors as the reason we are not making important changes or taking action. I feel your application of this accountability, ownership and attitude to the business world was spot on and a great mindset refresher!

  2. Cynthia Scarborough

    It has never been more true that remaining agile in the face of adversity and challenge is an essential part of not only surviving but doing so successfully. This is as true for those of us in the nonprofit or social benefit sector as it is for those in the traditional business sector. Love your columns Lary, keep on sharing your practical advice and perspective with us!

  3. Kathleen Dreessen

    Good article. Jim Collins is the best and this captures his points in a nutshell.

  4. Tammie Donohue

    I’m always looking for ways to implement improvement with my small woman-owned business. What I got out of the article was that I am my own advocate. The only one that can push me forward is me; so focus. There are external forces that prevent us from reaching our ultimate success goals, letting them stand in our way is not an option. Thank you to Jim Collins for the insight and thank you Lary!

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