Over the last few days I have been reading a lot of posts about small business engagement and even though they are seemingly coming from different angles, they are all looking for someone else to either accept blame for the way things are or the way things should be.
We now intentionally interrupt the jackass act that is Vladville to discuss a serious topic in a slightly lighthearted way. I hope you are not offended as its not written with intent to insult or offend.
Are you happy with yourself, professionally? Really, truly? All the time? Of course not, everyone faces a challenge in their professional life every now and then. I’m a workaholic. Mostly because I’m very impulsive and tend to plan my personal agendas poorly. This leads to weeks of 20+ hour days, 7 day weeks, working nonstop. So I tend to take a lot of breaks, come to work late, etc.
Now, that sounds very ugly put in writing like that. I think it would make me feel beet if I just blamed it on my staff, clients and suppliers. While I’m certainly and clearly the one to blame, it gives people ease in dealing with their shortcomings.
Try it: What if all your issues are caused by someone else?
Sales not doing well? I’m sure it’s the sales guys fault who would likely complain about the quality of leads that marketing obtains. They would likely blame software shipment times for inability to put together a very competitive message and its clear that software developers are the smartest people in the company so there is nothing pretty at the end of that blame trail. But man, it sure would be easy to deal with if it were someone else’s fault, right?
I have a buddy who in the entire time I’ve known him professionally hasn’t moved his business forward an inch. He travels more than most people I know, takes more vacations and fun trips a year than I have in a decade, is everywhere with everyone – but he’s always coming home to fire someone. He wonders why he is not making any headway while he blames his staff, his clients, his suppliers and virtually everyone else but himself. There is only so much bad hiring process can account for, and there is only so much fault that can be passed around before that long stare in the mirror comes down to “How am I leading this business and its people?”
It really all comes down to leadership. We all do entirely too little of it.
People are not dogs and they should not be lead in such a way. Staff should not be given a treat (bonus) every time they do good and yanked by a chain or thrown out in the rain (demotions, firing, cuts) every time they do bad. Yes we are forced to look at black and white and manage by the numbers at times – both by the government and by our organizational structure – but when you lead people it can’t all be that way.
Business owners responsibility is to lead. But leadership responsibility does not stop with the owners and management. I had written countless posts about work ethic, delivery, professionalism and standards. All of those extend from the top to the bottom. Everyone leads. Everyone has to lead. Lead people, lead with ideas, lead with solutions or lead with results. Leadership goes far beyond the battleground general. Fail at that and you’ll be the next one gone.
This week’s high (or low) topic of conversation has been about the lack of women in the IT field. Women are notoriously easy to pick on because it’s a comfortable topic that sells a rather ugly concept relatively well. But try substituting another minority in place of women and see how comfortable people get about taking a side in the debate. How about: How come there are so few black people in IT? Say that one out loud and see people start to backtrack. Sorry, I meant African Americans. Well, you know, minorities in general. Backtrack, backtrack, until you fall into a place of not trying to blame anyone and actually just lead. The best response on this topic, of few women in IT leadership, came from an actual IT leader and entrepreneur: Leah Culver. Her response? “I could keep writing about the lack of women in tech, but starting a new company sounds like a lot more fun.”
Similar topic came from Jason Beal on mspmentor.net site. It questions the responsibility of the company owner – rainmaker – continuing in building the business. What’s wrong with that question? In a nutshell it reinforces the same argument that leadership is a responsibility few people have.
Look at your star employees.
What’s the single best quality they have? I bet it’s the fact that when they take something, you can trust them to see it through.
That, in a big part has been the success behind OWN. For over a decade we’ve successfully gotten people to let us take care of their IT. We were not fired every time we had an issue. We have not raised prices either. But every day we go to work to add new features, new solutions and we’re constantly pushing forward. Yes, its bumpy at times but from the top down the mission at OWN is clear to every employee, every management layer and every product: we need to do more. How do we make this better?
Leadership is not a corporate superpower. Its not a seminar. It’s not a personality profile score. It’s a responsibility! Everyone has a part in it.
So quit your bitching, stop whining and face the fact that if you’re willing to lead, you get to pick the outcome.
Think of it this way: if you are not leading anywhere, you’re not going anywhere. And in the end, its all your fault for where you’ve ended up if you’ve just followed them there. Where would you like to go?