03 Nov

Bullying or wearing blinkers?

If you were in New Zealand in the 80s then you may recall the “unfortunate experiment” which cast a very dark shadow over the National Women’s Hospital at that time. Last week I attended an incredibly inspirational talk by Dr Ron Jones, author of Doctors in Denial: The forgotten women of the unfortunate experiment, which spoke about the doctors and women involved. It is a painful reminder of what happens when people in power allow their egos to get in the way of sound judgement and good decision making. This “experiment” caused thousands of women to lose their lives from cancer that could have been cured. Dr Jones was one of the very few whistle blowers in this story and it is his mission in life, aside from a tribute to the women who passed away in this experiment, to educate New Zealanders about the truth of this outrageous and very preventable disaster.
Dr Jones’ story highlighted a number of characters who played significant roles in this experiment and at some point it sounded more like a horror fairytale than a true event. As Dr Jones spoke I realised that the characters he referred to in this story are also ones that we are all very familiar with and may engage with in our work and personal lives on an ongoing basis. Two main characters really stood out for me.
1) The “EGO character” – Dr Jones spoke of two main individuals in his story who were driving this experiment from the beginning. He called them bullies. Bullies with big egos are probably the most dangerous and destructive character trait I can think of. It doesn’t matter how wrong these people are, they will always dig their heels in and never admit failure. For these people self-preservation will always trump the will to be honest and prevent others from suffering.
2) The “BLINKERS character” – The blinker wearers in Dr Jones’ story, were highly qualified, world renowned and respected individuals at the peak of their careers. They did absolutely nothing, except turn a blind eye to what was going on. By not getting involved they allowed the bullies to take over.
So what can we learn from this horrific story? What can we do to prevent this type of behaviour from sneaking into our lives?
One thing that I have learned over the years, is that it is not about trying to control other people’s behaviours. It’s all about being aware of our own behaviours and controlling how we portray ourselves in the world. Learning from these stereotypical character traits will not just help us become better human beings, but by having a strong self-awareness it will positively influence our immediate environment and the people around us. Lead by example and keep the following in mind.
1) No one is perfect, we all make mistakes. Learn to be humble.
2) Never let your ego get in the way and cause you to develop tunnel vision.
3) It’s okay to be wrong and to admit your failure.
4) Use your voice and stand up against bullies when others cannot.
5) Leaders are responsible and accountable for their teams.
To be safe, how can we double-check that we are not turning into bullies or blinkers? We can learn to develop “self-checking-in” systems. Just like jumping on a scale to check on our weight, we can jump on the self-awareness scale and actively check behaviours and habits by asking ourselves questions, or if need be, ask a trusted colleague or friend to provide some honest feedback.
1) Did I listen to the other party?
2) The decisions that I am making, do they align to my business values?
3) Am I respectful in my approach?
4) Do I display ethical behaviour?
5) Will the decision that I am making benefit my business or just my personal needs and desires?
 These lessons are not new and we hear these statements all the time, but how often do you really apply these lessons? Perhaps today is a good time to start.
17 Oct

Be accountable

Moliere said that, It is not only what we do, but also what we do not do, for which we are accountable. This really resonated with me as I’ve been reflecting for the past couple of days on accountability, and how it can positively or negatively influence your business.

What does that it actually mean to be accountable and what does being accountable look like in today’s business world?

People’s definitions of what accountability is will vary, depending on who they are and where their focuses lie. I have a fairly “old-fashioned” view of personal accountability. When I look at doing business with someone I look at how accountable they are to themselves, their potential and existing customers, and their own businesses. It’s not necessarily the big things that I always look at, but its the small things that matter sometimes.

Accountability rule #1:  Commit to what you say you will do –  So many people are so busy being busy, that one of the first things to fall off the accountability wagon is the ability to follow through on tasks. Remember that your business, which includes you, is constantly on stage and in the public arena for all to see. Your actions or lack of actions show your customers and potential customers how you operate. In order to send the right message such as “Im dependable and not a flake” and to build the right reputation, focus on being accountable for the small things in your business. Answer your emails, follow up on enquiries, return phone calls and arrive at meetings on time. Honestly, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do that! This doesn’t just show that you are accountable and dependable but it also shows respect and how serious you are about your business.

Accountability rule #2: Accept the consequences for your actions –  When you make an excuse for not completing a task you need to accept the consequences, big or small. Making excuses doesn’t miraculously remove the consequence, your accountability, or the inconvenience for the other party. Therefore if you cannot deliver on a project, don’t just arrive with an excuse and think you are off the hook. Be accountable and be the first person to offer a solution.

In the business world, your customer doesn’t really care about your issues. They don’t want to hear your excuses. They just want their product or service delivered to them at the right time at the right price and in the right condition.

Accountability rule #3: Never pass blame  – This can be a tricky one, especially when someone else has really stuffed up. But passing blame and shining the spot light on someone else’s imperfections makes you look like an amateur. This is where you should bite your tongue and move on. Rise above the situation and focus on solutions instead of excuses, sob stories and drama. Perhaps there is a need to build some safety nets in your business?

Accountability rule #4: Be honest – So the paw-paw has hit the fan, or you are unable to deliver on a project. Drop the ego and be honest about what’s going on. Getting into the habit of making excuses, dodging irate customer calls and passing blame doesn’t serve you and definitely doesn’t boost your reputation with your customers.

Most people in business have the best of intentions when starting out, so don’t let a lack of accountability, responsibility or ownership ruin your chances of building a strong and successful business. Be accountable.

06 Oct

Good Conflict vs. Bad Conflict

I once worked with someone that enjoyed conflict. He enjoyed vigorous discussion and debate and got genuinely energised from conflict situations. He always said that it was boring for everyone to agree on business issues all of the time. He would say that it “dampened his creative juices”. Thinking back now I’m glad he enjoyed conflict, as we used to bump heads quite often.
You may be thinking “who in their right mind would actively seek out conflict?“ Most people try and avoid conflict like the plague and their aim is to keep the peace at all costs. What set him apart from those conflict-avoiders and probably his greatest strength in a conflict situation, was his mindset.
He was never too precious about his own opinions to the extent that he held onto them at all costs, causing him to be blinded to alternative views. He never placed his own views above other people’s. What he did place first, was the business and what was best for the business.
The minute your views become more important than the business, when you become caught up in your own opinion, is the minute you lose your impartiality.
Having the right mindset towards conflict changes the business stage. You become more welcoming towards listening to alternative viewpoints and new ideas. Your business doesn’t become over-shadowed by your ego. You don’t have to try and justify yourself all the time to save face.
Recalling some of the conflict situations with my ex-colleague, the one thing that stood out for me was how I felt after a discussion with him. I never felt annoyed or angry. I felt heard. I felt like I wasn’t just being humoured or ignored. I felt I had added value.
Yes, there is such a thing as good conflict. Take a leaf out of my ex-colleague’s book. Make your business and it’s goals the most important entity in the room and put your ego second. Be bold enough to accept somebody else’s ideas as better than yours and celebrate that the only thing that comes from good conflict is stronger, better and more successful businesses.
 Need some assistance? Contact me nicole@tikumu.co.nz for professional business coaching.