Be the performer not the victim
A few years ago, for my husband’s Christmas gift, I decided to comb through all his memos to staff and management documents he wrote over the past 40 years he’s been in business and write his book: What Matters: A Pocket Guide For Results in Business.
By doing the activity myself I learned first-hand a great deal about his approach to management, building a business from scratch, and being an entrepreneur leading several businesses. Moreover, it gave me a deeper appreciation into the mind of someone who takes the responsibility to provide jobs and pay employees.
What struck me throughout my research was his conclusion that most employees and managers did not get what really mattered and that he had to spend most of his time managing personalities which would ultimately undercut the company performing at quantum leaps.
While clandestinely interviewing him one day, he said this: “I had intended to retire at 55, still keeping busy, but expecting that the companies would be able to run successfully on their own, sending me income. While I am very proud of my results, given the limited capital and human resources, I believe I could’ve accomplished more. I do not know whether I underestimated the task or if I had too high a standard. I am now 67, still at it, and if I’ve learned anything it’s that most people do not get what matters.”
In writing chapter 4 of his book I learned that good results come through having the right people in the right positions while monitoring their performance to ensure they are on the right track.
Oftentimes, there were three types of people in business:
(1) The person who does not know what to do, can’t get it done, but always has an opinion;
(2) The person who knows what needs to be done but can’t do it and has an opinion as to why it is not their fault; and
(3) The person who knows what is to be done and gets it done.
Person number 3 is the one that makes things happen, given the same resources or less to deliver. The others are still talking about it with no shortage of discussions, blame, or reasons. They fail to make a difference or consider how their presence can add value.
A dear friend of mine, the CEO of one of the top 50 global luxury brands, calls it “the reality of the victim versus the actor”. Rather than take ownership and responsibility, some choose to be the victim, whine, complain, and blame someone else about why the task could not get done. Every day we all have the choice to become instead the actor and performer at work and in our personal lives.
Do you feel like the elephant in the room?
Armed with these insights and experiences, it’s interesting to watch my son’s generation prepare for the future. I call his generation ‘manipulative narcissists’; they’re intelligent, accomplished in high school and university, have individuality and unique style, and can tell you the lifestyle they want to live, how much money they want to earn, and how they will work smarter, not harder. Oh, and their mental health balance is essential. Therefore, they believe mental days off from work should be a part of their contract.
When I hear them talk among themselves, I say in my head, “That’s so cute,” knowing that theorizing about life and experiencing it are two very different things, especially when they land their first job.
Then they buck up a boss like my husband, Richard Lake, and, very quickly, the actual working world hits them hard. They must learn about responsibility, deadlines, and reporting to a Type A, sometimes left-brain boss and other established corporate chains of command. There’s no complaining, whining, or venting; you choose to be either a victim or a performer in the workplace.
But who teaches these people, especially our children, these workplace value systems? Are they supposed to learn them at university or in the workplace? Many people today feel like they are always the elephant in the room because they may initially take work criticism very personally.
Perhaps we need to reset the generation coming forward. Our children today must be taught about workplace standards, protocols, discipline, and adding value during high school. I’ve repeated that if your presence doesn’t add value, then your absence won’t make a difference.
Consequently, as our children embark on their lives, giving themselves time for meaningful periods of self-discovery, they should understand that a significant part of their growth requires taking criticism when they don’t get something right the first, second, or even the third time.
If they are criticised by their boss openly or privately, before becoming anxious or discouraged, they should ask: Were the criticisms justified? Were the comments truthful and coming from a place of sincerity and mentoring? Did they capture the gravamen of the situation, or did I consciously use the moment as obfuscation to shift my responsibility elsewhere? Were the company’s value systems considered in the critical analysis? Am I a part of the solution or a part of the problem?
Ultimately, a good team working together is better than any individual, no matter how bright they are. Furthermore, taking things personally is not an option if you are competitive and want to win, as you will fail to see the bigger picture and play in it.
Like a sports team, if members are holding back the team from winning, they must first be coached and then, if necessary, replaced to help improve the team’s winning performance.
Like sports, the company also has a scorecard; our results are measurable, and we are held accountable for those results.
Often, we discount success to people having links and connections, but though that may be the door to opportunity, it is not the key to staying in the room.
Ergo, put in the work, measure your performance, see yourself as the competition, and aim for continuous value-added improvement. Become the performer in your life, not the victim.