great leaders never blame

Controlling the Controllables: Great Leaders Never Cast Blame

by May 11, 2021Growth, Leadership

Placing blame on a non-controllable factor is not productive. Instead, strong leaders focus on things they can change.

Are you yelling at the rain as a leader? It’s easy to imagine that on some days, especially if you operate in the tourism or agriculture business, you might begin to see the weather as your enemy. But if you find yourself actually yelling at the rain, blaming the weather, or some other uncontrollable factor for a downturn in your business, then you’re missing a key point.

While the weather might be negatively impacting your business, it’s doing the same thing to your competitors. In other words, if your business is suffering, it’s not the rain’s fault. It’s your job as a leader to dig deeper and identify the real constraint inside your business.

It’s not the weather’s fault.

This is a bad habit that some CEOs fall into–they begin to blame external factors for the poor performance of their business. Aside from the weather, other common targets of fury are the economy, the job market, and whatever administration is in the White House. It doesn’t matter which party is in control–someone will blame them for doing things wrong.

The catch, just like with the weather, is that whatever the administration is doing is also impacting your competitors as well. Meaning that it isn’t really creating a disadvantage to your business. The rain falls on everyone.

The other problem with blaming the weather and the politicians is that there isn’t anything you can do directly to change things. Sure, you might be able to lobby or put some pressure on a local elected official. But that’s going to result only in limited change. And forget about trying to change the weather.
One of my favorite books is a classic by the famed Dale Carnegie called Stop Worrying and Start Living. The main takeaway from Dale’s book is that if you can’t do anything about a particular problem, and you can live with the worst-case scenario, then it’s best to stop worrying about it and just move on and spend your time and energy elsewhere.

Finding your kink.

As I wrote in my book, Great CEOs Are Lazy, one of the most impactful activities any leader can do with their time is to spend it identifying that “kink” in their hose–the real point of constraint that’s holding up the growth of their business.

Maybe it’s a business model problem, such as the lack of recurring revenue or a non-defensible market position. Or it could even be a systems problem that makes onboarding new employees difficult and inefficient.

But when I talk to CEOs, only about half of them really understand what their constraint is. They’re more worried about the economy or regulatory environment–which, as we have defined, are not factors that can control.

Even the war for top talent is something that every business is dealing with–including your competitors.

The power of change.

One way to help understand if you are dealing with an “environmental” constraint–one that is impacting your entire market–versus your true point of constraint is to answer the question: Can you change it?

If you can’t change it, then it’s best to embrace Dale Carnegie and stop worrying about it. That doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it or take action to adapt to those environmental conditions. It’s just that you must stop blaming it as the primary reason for the slowing growth of your business.

As you dig deeper into your business, you’ll eventually find that one thing that’s broken that you can control–and that you can fix. When you can unkink your hose this way, you might find yourself in a totally different place inside your business. And dare I say, maybe even singing in the rain.