THE OCTOBER HOLIDAY IN CHINA is here and we will all have a chance to take a breather from what has been a challenging year for many. The coming week will be a good opportunity to take stock of our achievements so far in 2013, reflect on issues which we could have handled better, and to get ready to fling ourselves into this final quarter of the year with renewed vigor.
A topic which seems to be cropping up with ever increasing regularity in my leadership and management training is that of victim vs designer/responsible behaviour. This is hardly a new topic and has already been addressed by the management ‘uber-guru’ Stephen Covey. Much like a vintage Rolls Royce or the Rolling Stones playing live, some things just never lose their sell-by date. Stephen Covey’s advice on taking charge of issues within your ‘sphere of influence’ will never grow old.
So I ask you now, how much time have you wasted this year worrying about matters over which you have no control and how often have you used this lack of control as an excuse for inactivity? If your answer to those two questions is ‘none’ and ‘never’ then I must congratulate you, both on your perfect performance and your ability to delude yourself. I am yet to meet anyone, from CEO down to factory floor level, who does not on occasion fall back on the ‘I didn’t know, nobody told me, I couldn’t do anything about it’ list of excuses. I do of course include myself in that list.
The global economy may be showing signs of recovery, but it still has a bad cough and would be highly susceptible to a relapse if the weather turned. Decisions have been made from on high in our respective HQs that have led to downsizing, cost cutting and mergers, among other things. A ‘victim’ will lose sleep agonising over the effect these moves will have on them. They will wallow in their powerlessness and focus their attention on picking out targets for blame. The further away from them that these targets are, the more blameless a victim becomes.
The ‘go-getter’, ‘the designer‘, the responsible character‘ will act differently. They are quick to separate the issues which they cannot influence from those that they can. They do not waste energy on the former, but rather concentrate their energies on the latter. If they face a move towards downsizing, then they plan how to best prepare their team for it and motivate them through it. If there are cost cutting measures afoot, then they analyse to what extent they can influence which areas are cut and how can they best work within their new reduced budget. If a merger is on the cards, then the buzz word for them is ‘integration’.
My hometown football team, Sheffield United, are in trouble. The light at the end of the tunnel is that we have just been taken over by a Saudi Prince, a man worth so much money that he would have to lose hundreds of millions of dollars before he could be classed as simply wealthy. His arrival should signal new star signings and improved performance. Theoretically, the existing staff should also be looking to show him that they are worth keeping.
But not everyone seems to think this way. Our manager, David Weir, when asked the reason for United losing six straight games and our not scoring in more than eight hours of football, replied “We are playing well. We are just not getting the luck.” Thus, in my eyes, Mr David Weir has just become the poster boy for victim behaviour. I would like to think that our new Saudi savior will view him in a similar light and that one of his first decisions will be to offer Mr Weir a ‘permanent holiday’.
We have three months until the end of the year. Don’t finish the year like David Weir (which I suspect will be unemployment). Stop worrying about matters that are out of your hands and instead, focus every ounce of energy you have on the things that you can effect. Be responsible, be a designer… be a success!