Own It – Your Business Responsibility as a Reflection of You – Part One

This is the first part in a five-part series called Own It: Creating a Culture of Responsibility and Why It Matters. Quite the mouthful, right? That’s why we are just going to simply use the name Own It and move on to what’s really important—facing your decisions and how they play a role in your business. The good, the bad, and especially the ugly.

I talk often about stock language and how you’re essentially lying without even realizing it. However, there are a few good lines that lead to something deeper, which I want us to explore.

Let’s begin with the classic leadership premise, “The business is a reflection of you.” This well-worn phrase is often used and just as often under-appreciated. It is an orientation for business development that asks for a profound level of self-responsibility. It means that whatever you don’t like about your business, you look at your contribution before you try to change it.

This is much easier said than done and requires a level of fortitude, self-awareness, and courage that is difficult to develop. It means that you are the cause of your problems and are not a victim of anything.

How so? Consider this:

  • Your outcomes are the result of your actions.
  • Your actions are a result of your intentions.
  • Your intentions are a result of your beliefs, assumptions, and values.
  • Your beliefs, assumptions, and values are largely unconscious.
  • You are responsible for how your unconscious drives you.

Do you see the problem here? To the degree your beliefs and assumptions are unconscious to you, is the degree to which you will create undesirable outcomes. True responsibility means seeing how your choices constantly affect your outcomes.

Strictly speaking nothing ever just “happens” to you. Even if a piano falls on your head while you were walking down the sidewalk, you are responsible for the choices that led you to be there at that time. And, of course, to not have been aware of your surroundings.

This is a level of responsibility few are willing to take, but it is the level of responsibility required for great leadership. Anything less than total responsibility creates a victim-dynamic in your organization where your frustrations will be outer-directed and you will wonder why you can’t find good people, why your customers are under-satisfied, and why your sales aren’t what you want them to be. As a leader, everything “below” you is a result of a series of choices you have made or will make. Awareness is about discovering how you made these choices so you can improve how you do things.

One important way the business is a reflection of you is in hiring. “Birds of a feather flock together” is another piece of stock language that is often cited. You hire people who tend to either be just like you, or quite the opposite, depending on the attribute. For example, if you are someone who is very spontaneous and easily distracted, you may hire someone with the same qualities because you get along with them. It may be a bad fit for the job, but you like them without realizing why. It feels like a cultural fit because you two are (ready for another one?) “cut from the same cloth.” The result can be that you replicate your own weakness in the business and create more of the same lack of follow-through with which you already struggle.

On the other hand, you may not like how distractible you are and semi-consciously hire someone who is not like you at all. You hire someone pragmatic, grounded, and organized. You like the way you feel around this person. They ground you, somehow, and they follow-through. They help you focus. What often happens in this very common arrangement—i.e. when a classic entrepreneur hires a consummate manager—is the manager is constantly frustrated how often their boss changes their mind. Because there was not a conscious agreement from the start about the nature of the working relationship, there is a constant tension between the spontaneity of the boss and the pragmatism of the employee. The employee is “used” in a way to support their boss to manage himself. Not good. This creates conflict, friction, and resentment and is a very common arrangement in many small businesses.

Next week, we will further discuss how this influences the manager-employee relationship. Stay tuned.

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