Maybe It’s Your Fault?

Most of us want to know how we can get the people in our lives more engaged — to care a little more, work a little harder, complain a little bit less. I’ve been on both sides of the equation and chance are, you have too. I’ve been the one ripping my hair out at the restaurant asking for the thousandth time, “why can’t you restock your station at the end of your shift?”, or “I’ve told you not to take a cigarette break during the rush”, or any other number of scenarios most of us have faced as bosses or coworkers. I’ve also been on the employee side — I think we all have. And I think we’ve all definitely experienced this in our relationships with significant others.

I don’t know about you, but I never went out and got a job knowing or hoping that I wouldn’t care about it, or want to work that hard with the hopes of becoming a habitual complainer. Certainly, none of us get into relationships hoping we’ll turn into that person either. In fact, we are wired to want to connect, contribute and to want to do good work. We all (almost all) have the best of intentions of joining an organization in hopes of not just wasting time and collecting a pay check, but rather using it as an opportunity to contribute to something beyond ourselves, while also doing the exact same thing for ourselves — growing in our careers. So what happens between day one for an employee (or partner), where that new face goes from brimming with excitement, to a miserable pain in the ass by day thirty, sixty or ninety?

We all like to blame it on the other side — the other person. We’d rather say they are incompetent or they are lazy, or that my partner isn’t showing up in this relationship — all of these scenarios might very well might be true. But, what about looking in the mirror… doing the difficult thing… asking ourselves the hard questions?

First of all, if you hire someone who is incompetent, the blame is entirely on you — you either didn’t train them properly or you hired the wrong person. It’s not their fault that youre not very good at either hiring, training or both. If you know someone is competent, but just comes across lazy — are they lazy, or have I failed at giving them something to get inspired about? And if my spouse is just going through the motions — am I just floating along with them? Is it really the employee or the partner that’s the problem all of the time, or is it… just maybe… Me? At least some of the time? What part can I own?

Unfortunately, this doesn’t just apply to how we view relationships with each other and in our organizations, but it spans across just about every domain of our lives.

Sales are down — it’s got to be the weather… or it’s the construction across the street…the new competition… purveyors raised their prices, so now we have to raise the prices on the menu and we’ve scared away our customer base…

The fact is, sales might be down — there might be weather issues, construction, competition and there very well might be difficulties with purveyors — there are probably all of these challenges. This is all part of business and entrepreneurship — the good ones adjust. They don’t let any of the above issues get in the way of their success, they succeed in spite of it.

This takes getting really honest with yourself, though. It’s acknowledging that maybe us, the leaders, maybe we’re part of the problem. Maybe it’s not the employees, the competition or any other variables that are always changing. Maybe I need to take responsibility for my employees, even in failure. Maybe my partner is going through the motions everyday, but certainly I can do more, can’t I?

AND MAYBE… just maybe, if I have the best damn product in town, it won’t matter so much if we’re subjected to bad weather, construction or anything else that can stand in the way of a business and its success. We can blame the people in our organizations that are on the front lines. We can blame our partners. We can blame outside forces for business failures— no one is going to stop us. Hell, it might even feel pretty good short term — it’s a way to hide from having to deal with the real problem.

Just ask yourself one basic question and answer it truthfully,

“Is it me? Could it maybe be me?

Often, we are the biggest barriers to our own success.

It’s an ego thing. It’s hard to swallow one’s pride and admit that in some way we are a part of the problem — even if that’s only one, two or ten percent of it. But, once we accept our piece of it, which starts with putting one’s ego aside, we’re able to see both our business and the people in our lives a lot more clearly. Regardless, it’s not like finding someone or something else to blame fixes the problem — it doesn’t fix the relationship, it doesn’t fix the business. The only way you fix either is by deciding to do something about it.

Looking in the mirror is a damn good place to start.

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