In Beliefs, Change, Leaders

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” – Theodore Roosevelt

There is no end to the list of things that business owners have to deal with. Customers, products, employees, competitors, vendors, the government, the weather, technology, etc. – the list goes on and on. And certainly those are very real issues that can present very real and complex problems.

But not everyone reacts to those problems the same way. When I visit with some leaders, the entire conversation revolves around all the things that are happening that they have no control over. Our competitors are too cheap & we can’t compete, we can’t find or keep good people, our customers have unrealistic expectations, and on and on. Maybe their competitors are cheap, and maybe they’ve lost good people, and maybe customers’ expectations have changed – but feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t solve any of those things.

If I could change one thing about leaders that would have the biggest impact on their businesses, it would be to eliminate this feeling of “learned helplessness” that so many people suffer from. Our world today – maybe this has always been true – is full of leaders whose response to challenges is to throw up their hands and say it’s not their fault.

That’s not how the best leaders think. The best leaders own those issues. The best leaders look at those competitors, at those people, and those customers and focus on what their business needs to do to change the situation. A good friend of mine is fond of saying “Some people make things happen, some people have things happen to them, and some people wonder what happened.” If you’re in either of the last two groups, don’t kid yourself – you’re not doing your job as the leader.

So start by fixing your attitude about problems. When you’re confronted with challenges, don’t immediately focus on how bad it is, how it’s not your fault, how you can’t fix it. That attitude is contagious, and if you as the leader think that way, then you’ll be leading an organization where everybody thinks that way. And those kinds of organizations don’t last.

Think about the most significant challenges your business is facing today. Then look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Am I part of the problem?” Give an honest answer – then get to work.

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