As a proud Welshman, I was hooked to the television on Saturday morning to watch the Welsh rugby team play France in the semi final of the Rugby World Cup. The Welsh were favourites after a series of strong performances in earlier games and it seemed that it was almost a matter of time until I was watching them in the final for the first time.
But with less than 20 minutes gone, their captain was controversially sent off and reduced to 14 men for over an hour, the effort was too much and they lost by a single point. Unsurprisingly, the post match analysis and the media focus was all on the sending off, the rights and the wrongs, the ins and the outs. In the words of the Coach Warren Gatland,
“the destiny of having the opportunity was taken away from us”
In business I have seen so many people who feel the same way. Passed over for a promotion, working for someone who they don’t respect, not paid the amount they think they are worth, on the project that is going to the wall because it is being led by “that idiot”.
And that is the thing, it is always someone else’s fault. And often the one at fault is the guy in charge.
I’m not going to say that the world is without injustice. Sometimes bad things happen. But my point is that obsessing on these things just isn’t healthy. It doesn’t make you a better person, it doesn’t improve your performance it ultimately will not bring you success.
There are certain factors that you can control in your life, in your work, and there are others that you can’t. Focussing on and trying to control the things that are out of reach of your influence is a sure-fire way for a life of resentment and frustration.
The Welsh players can’t go back and change the decision that was made. But they can prepare for the third place play off and show the world why they are the team that everyone would wish to be in the final. And then they can go on to the Six Nations on a high and with a chance to show the world once again their abilities. They need to accept that they didn’t lose because a player was sent off, they lost because they scored less points than the other team.
Likewise, you can’t go back and get that promotion, change your manager, increase your own pay or run that project. But you can focus on the next opportunity, the next chance to shine and you can prepare yourself to make the most of it.
Disappointment is natural, we all want to do well. But most of the time it is your fault when things go wrong. Accept that, work out what you’d differently and focus on improvement. It takes a bigger person to do and sure it will hurt at times, but I guarantee it will be ten times more effective than focusing on past failures and looking for someone to blame.
Looking elsewhere for the reasons is way too easy as you say. for many though its hard to make that step forward. Especially when it means getting away from that project, that manager etc etc. Often it can mean moving on, new job, new territory and for some thats just too big a step. Especially in a climate like this. But if you dont move, dont take a step then you can be sure nothing will change. If you do take that step, there are no guarantees that anything will change for you but there is a chance.
The same works the other way around though. I hear many people in management and leadership roles talk about how their team are not performing etc etc. If they want to know the reason for that, they should look in the mirror. No excuses.
I agree about management and leadership Gareth, there is often a lack of personal responsibility. That said, I think everyone in a team has a responsibility too.
Really good post Neil. So true. Blaming others has become the way of the world in all walks of life and I’ve been guilty of doing it myself in the past. I was lucky enough to be at the SA v Wales game early on. Another plucky Welsh defeat in a game they probably should have won. All too often, it’s an opportunity you missed weeks or months before that costs you in the final analysis of a fateful moment, not the moment itself. Another reason why you need to constantly look ahead and be the best you can be.
You lucky man you! But you’re right, missed opportunities and all that, but you can’t dwell on them and as you rightly say, you need to look ahead.
This is a great article and if only more people could practice this, I’m sure we would all get along better and achieve more. 15 years ago I was lucky to work for a very inspirational man from the US who adopted some excellent business practice. An incident had occurred between me and a colleague in another department which prevented a key business decision being made. When analyzing what had gone wrong I summarised the fault to my boss as being “6 of mine and half-a-dozen of theirs” thinking that we could share the blame. Mike turned to me and said “I’m not interested in their half-a-dozen I’m interested in your 6.” His message here was not to blame the other person. What he meant was given the circumstances, the other person and the challenges I was faced with, how did I respond and handle it. He turned the focus on to me and my actions. The reason the business decision didn’t go in my favour was because I didn’t handle the meeting as well as I could have or should have done. We reflected on what I could have done better / differently next time and I learned massively from this experience. I try to make this a rule in life and business now, and as my Grandfather used to say…”don’t blame your tools” whether these are actual tools, resources or people.
-Neville Beardsmore (Chapelfields Associates Ltd)
Thanks for commenting, this is a great tale and one that really brings home the point!