By nature I’m a skeptic, in part because of my Irish gene pool. My family could tell you what was wrong with everything and at times in my life I could find a problem with anything and everything.The problem with applying this approach to my own life is that it becomes a very comfortable spot to be since it doesn’t require action, and on my worst days allows me a certain sense of superiority. It’s also a poor way to go through life. Taken to the extreme it becomes a downward spiral to the bottom without a way out.
Over the years I’ve noticed a common denominator in most successful people. They are always looking for solutions and not just the problem. They don’t get “stuck” in the problem. Successful people accept the situation and facts as they are and then find a way to work with them to a positive result. Everyone can see the hole in the boat, but it’s the guy that plugs it that’s important. I’ve also come to realize that whatever my challenges are nothing is going to improve until I’m willing to accept the truth and then find a way to handle the challenge.
I recently attended a presentation on a book called the OZ principle. I had very little enthusiasm for sitting through the next reincarnation of success principles but it came with the lunch and I was prepared to make it through no matter what. What a surprise and gift I received because I made it through. I think the principle can be a major benefit whether you are on a job search or trying to fill a critical position.
The essential idea it lays out is that we can make a choice to be a victim or accept the facts as they are and then start moving toward the result you want to achieve. Above the line is success and below is failure. Victim or Victor-the choice is yours. If what you are doing isn’t working then start doing something else.
We talk with candidates every day who can tell you why they haven’t been able to find a job. Often much of what they say is true but it changes nothing. The only thing it does is reinforce their role as a victim. Sadly, there is usually some element of truth in their story, but it doesn’t help them solve their problem. Until they are prepared to accept the facts as they are and start making the changes they need to make nothing is going to help them. I’m always reminded of the story about leading a horse to water but not being able to make them drink. Few listen but those that do often turn their plight around.
The same challenge exists for businesses as well. If what you are doing isn’t working then you need to take a hard look at your operation before you start pointing the finger somewhere else. Some time ago I was asked to help fill a critical position for a good size operation. At our first consultation I asked what had been done to fill the spot and boy, what a story. According to the prospect there was nothing that could be done. They had “tried everything; looked everywhere; talked to everyone; and still couldn’t find anyone to hire.” I had an instant flashback to one of my grandfather’s favorite sayings, “why is everybody out of step but my Johnny.”
The most common reason for his dilemma is an unwillingness to pay a salary that was commensurate with the expectations. Make the pay right and someone will take the job. But that was a small part of the problem in this instance as our dialogue eventually revealed. The more we investigated the more adamant our responses were. It sounded like a dead end until we began to discuss why the position was open and why the last person left and the one before him and the one before him, etc. It soon became clear that it wasn’t a performance problem but an expectation problem and I was talking to the person with the problem.
Slowly but surely a relentless demand for perfection with a zero tolerance quotient became clear and of course the attendant frustration of someone who was extremely competent in his field and demanded everyone else be at his level. Flat out unrealistic in any world. Once that fact was begrudgingly accepted the client was able to move forward by stepping out of his role as the report person for the position and turning it over to his GM. All we really did is get him to step out of the victim role into reality as painful as it was.
More often than not the answers to life’s conundrums are within. By the way, his peace of mind improved and so did the quality of his business. I’ve always been personally challenged by those whose grasp of the obvious wasn’t so obvious. Right or wrong, I simply don’t have the patience to work with people who don’t have a good set of values and a certain amount of internal motivation.
The ultimate message in this story is that if what we are doing isn’t working then we better look to ourselves for the answer. As long as we stay in the problem and remain a victim nothing changes. It’s only when we see the problem, take ownership of it, come up with a solution, and then do it that we can bring about change. In this instance it was necessary for the top man to admit he was a part of the problem, and then accept the solution at hand, and then act on it for him to get what he wanted. It takes guts, objectivity and maturity to do this but it is an essential step in the ladder of success. It is already making a difference in my business.