Employee Mentality (Part 1 – Shirking Blame)

When employees decide to become entrepreneurs they tend to take their Employee thought processes with them. Sometimes these ways of thinking can become long-lasting core part of the Entrepreneur and follow them for many years.

Successful people have their own systems for judging people, they make a point of having “instant reject criteria” to save time in determining who they want to work with and who they don’t. These mentalities definitely form part of these instant reject criteria and if you find yourself falling prey to these they can be highly detrimental to your own mental and business health

Shirking Blame

This is by far the most common failure I see in start-ups and would be Entrepreneurs. The inability to take blame is endemic among the founders who want to start their own business. It most typically presents as the response to criticism of the failure to deliver a service or product. When questioned by the customer or investor the entrepreneur generally replies with: “It was out of my control, the supplier failed to deliver the stock” or even “It’s not my fault… <insert excuse here>”

As a business owner or start up founder ALL that happens within your organization is your win or your loss, you cannot cherry-pick as you see fit. The buck stops at you and although you can attempt to separate the cause and effect this is ultimately unimportant. The cause may have been beyond your control at that point in time but the effect is your responsibility. This may initially sound harsh but let me explain.

Firstly taking blame does not necessarily mean that you need to also feel guilt, it should be welcomed as the previously overlooked opportunity to improve.

Secondly taking blame allows you to look at a situation with DEPTH. It provides you with the psychological imperative to say “Why did this happen” and “What can I do now to prevent this from happening again”

Sadly the problem is not merely settled with a semantic fix. Many long term “business” owners I have met will readily say “I take the blame” when confronted with a failure to deliver but without any psychological intent behind it. They will then return to their office, kick the employee who goes home, kicks his wife, who kicks the child and who in turn kicks the cat who… ad inifitum. They merely carry the mistake as if it were a hot potato to the nearest employee or person responsible.

The taking of the blame needs to happen within your core and without guilt. It should be an opportunity to examine your actions, the actions of others and the situation that has developed.

Doing this properly provides you with the ability to see DEPTH within a problem, to examine not just the cause and effect but analyze a long chain of causes. Let me provide a recent example: Recently I was very busy with a variety of projects and being short-staffed I had contacted some external contractors that I had used in the past to assist with work at Client A. The type of work required at Client A was more of industrial type drilling, cutting and mounting of conduit for networking cable. One of the contractors arrived at the office with one of his own workers who I hadn’t previously used for work, they left together with our primary team of technicians to start work at Client A. En-route I instructed my team to quickly visit Client B (A corporate client) to attend to the reticulation of a network point for a boardroom.

A little while later it emerged that one of the technicians had put his foot through the Boardroom ceiling while climbing through the roof. I discovered that our primary Team had arrived on site and the external contractor started doing the work, the apprentice of the external contractor had climbed into the ceiling and he caused the ultimate damage. In my book this is a low level disaster, the client uses the boardroom for their clients and maintains a high image of professionalism and now they have a hole in the ceiling.

Here are the various scenarios and modes of thought:

Reaction A: I inform the client that it was some inexperienced contractor that I used who damaged the ceiling and that I would get a Quotation for the repair and sort out the problem. Contact the technician who put his foot through the ceiling and crap him out for his accident.

Reaction B: Inform the client that there was an accident on site by one of the technicians, apologize and indicate that I will get the damage repaired. Contact the site manager and reprimand him as he allowed the inexperienced technician to work on a delicate site.

Which would you select? If you said B then you’d be wrong. What I did was contact the client, take blame, apologize, explain that there was an accident and promise urgent repair regardless of the cost. The site manager is reprimanded for allowing the inexperienced technician to climb into the roof at a high profile client and then I proceeded to blame myself for the entire situation, the inexperienced technician was ultimately allowed to work by myself as I had the first option to reject him when he arrived at the office. Although a strong case can be made that the Team Manager had the ultimate control the initial variable was me allowing a trusted external contractor to bring an untrusted element to a professional site. By taking the blame this allowed me to examine the whole process of external contractors for future work.

If you have managed to successfully adopt the act of taking blame in your business life as laid out above you will also find yourself naturally adopting this within your personal life. This will allow you to worry less about situations beyond your control and focus your efforts on problem solving. Harnessing the above will do something else really neat for you, it will harden you in the face of strife. On a rare occasion a true force majeure situation occurs, something that could be called a tragedy, and when this occurs you will have developed the skills to react properly, you will not place inappropriate blame or guilt on parties to alleviate your own.

As counter-intuitive as it may sound taking blame builds resilience and improves your ability to instinctively analyze a situation and find the correct non-emotionally induced solution.

Written by Marko Jakovljevic