Today was one of those days where everywhere I turned someone was making excuses for something they’d done that hadn’t worked out the way they’d expected. I seriously was half expecting by three o’clock for someone to tell me the dog had eaten their homework. I’m not sure if there was something in the air or the drinking water today, but nobody I ran across owned anything they’d done wrong.
There is one person in your life that you simply cannot lie to and that’s yourself. You can certainly try and I’ve seen people who can convince themselves of that up is down and black is white, but I’m 100% certain that they know it’s a lie – they just lack the courage to accept the truth.
When something in your business or day to day life get’s screwed up and it’s your fault, there’s really no point in shying away from it. The only way to start fixing the problem is to acknowledge it, accept your role in how it got to be the way it is and move forward towards rectifying the situation.
Now, don’t get me wrong, we all know those people who are constantly accepting blame for things that had nothing to do with them.
“I know the pizza delivery guy couldn’t find the house, that the store lost our order and there was a city-wide blackout that caused traffic chaos, but that late pizza is on me… I should have called earlier, given them better directions and not had so many power chargers plugged in so that the electricity grid wasn’t overloaded… It’s on me.”
Those people need to take a long walk off a short pier. Don’t be them.
On the other hand, completely abdicating any and all responsibility for your results that are in your control isn’t going to help you either.
“Look, it wasn’t my fault…” is a dead giveaway that you know that you played a part in why something didn’t go to plan.
Part of being good at running your business is giving yourself some permission to fail from time to time. As you know, I’m not one of these muppets that run around and give you carte blanche to do stupid things and fail miserably. Those fools deserve failure and embracing it is their way of making themselves feel stupid about not being successful.
With that said, if you’re having a 100% success rate at everything you try, you’re not trying hard enough or taking enough risks. Ten years ago when I was running the managed services technology business, my boss who was a construction guy and knew nothing about technology told me something that I carry with me to this day, “You need to work out your acceptable failure rate when bidding work – that is the sweet spot where you know that your price is right, your solution is sound and you’re targeting the right market. Then you need to try and incrementally improve that.”
In that business, we needed to lose 60% of the time. If we had a sales guy closing 70% of his deals, we looked at his pricing and tightened his governance because we were almost certainly leaving money on the table. When we had someone closing 20% we tried to figure out if that person was any good at selling or if maybe they were targeting the wrong potential opportunities.
Once we saw someone closing about 40% of their deals, we then started working with them to try and get it to 42% and then 44%… The idea being that we would review the 60% we were losing and figure out what we were doing wrong in our sweet spot and improve that person or improve our offer.
Our margins went up, our revenue went up, our customer satisfaction went up… Everything went up when we focused on finding our level and then ratcheting up from there.
Why? Because we owned our failure. We wanted to turn 6 out of 10 deals we lost into only 5 out of 10 because that we knew, those losses were on us, we could have done better.
But it all started for taking responsibility for putting ourselves in a position to succeed and when we didn’t, owning the outcome and working hard to make it better next time.