I talk about change all the time, I think it is probably because it is the challenge more than anything else that keeps me awake at night.
I’m not a control freak by any means, however I am certainly not one to sit around and wait for the world to happen to me.
When tough times and tough situations are presented to me I have long been one to fire back, “What can we control?”
Perhaps the question seems high level or two generic, but I ask it anyhow, and here is why.
The gravity of most people immediately directs them towards the external environment, aka the things that are relatively out of our control. Rarely is this a conscious decision, but almost an instinct to immediately deflect blame from any situation because the admission that there are things that we can do to improve a situation is a bit like confessing something was done wrong.
While I will be the first to admit that there are things outside the control of every business, this behavior is inherently dangerous to an organization’s well-being, and I’m going to explain why. But first let’s set the stage with a short story.
Suppose you are out for a ride on a sunny day. As you drive down the road with the windows open, the music blaring and you are regularly exchanging glances with your mobile device to check your email, text and social activities. It is a nice ride, however clouds are rolling in and it begins to rain. At this point you roll up your windows and turn the music down a bit, but otherwise carry on with your extracurriculars. As the rain comes down the road conditions aren’t as good and as you stare at your phone you look up only to realize you are about to rear-end someone. You slam on the brakes but it is too late and you crash into the bumper.
As you get out of the car you curse the rain and you apologize to the other driver by saying “Sorry, these slippery conditions messed up my brakes.”
Perhaps the driver believed you, and maybe the cop believed you and as you tell the story to your spouse and your boss and anyone else that listens you have convinced them that the rain is the root of all rear-end accidents.
But deep down you know that isn’t the case. Sure the road was wet, but you were half focused on the road reading emails and had you been focused on your task of driving this probably wouldn’t have happened.
Now listen, I’m not a billboard for don’t text and drive, although I do think it is scary to see how many people do it.
The moral of the story is that the weather was the single variable that was outside of your control, while the music and the mobile device activity was 100% within your control. The accident and all of its unintended consequences could have been controlled if you were only paying attention to the road.
So I promised an explanation for why we must look within our control prior to outside for answers. And if the anecdote above didn’t serve the cause well enough, I will repeat more directly.
There is almost nothing that you can individually do to change the circumstances going on outside of your organization. Those are like fixed rates of change that you have to be cognizant of. However, EVERYTHING that is happening within your organization is within your control. From the payroll to the product.
If you have your “Organizational House” in order, then you can look further and try to deal with external controls like politics and competition. However, if your own house isn’t in order than the energy spent acknowledging items outside of your control will literally and figuratively suck the life out of your company.
Simple enough perhaps, but too often ignored.
If you have a sibling or two you may remember a time or times at the dinner table when Mom used to say, don’t worry about what your sibling is doing, worry about yourself? Although the timing may not have been ideal for life lessons, the advice was sage and if you didn’t listen then, start listening now.