100% TPR

At the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, New York, all cadets learn many valuable lessons about life. One in particular seems extra important in this day and age. When something goes wrong – anything at all – a cadet is expected to state to a superior officer, “It was my mistake, Sir, and I take full and total responsibility. I made the mistake because . . .” It matters not that someone or something else may have caused things to go awry. Cadets are taught from the very beginning to own the results of whatever may be happening around them. I call this 100% Total Personal Responsibility – 100% TPR.

Think about how much finger pointing occurs in our daily lives. The excuse factory is operating 24/7 and works at full capacity to produce victim after victim. Few people are willing to stand up and proclaim 100% TPR. Thus, it’s refreshing to see that young men and women, who are choosing a career in the Army, are doing so with a mindset of personal responsibility. They truly own their lives. Entrepreneurs should take notice of this concept to understand how to become effective leaders.

Think about a variety of every day scenarios where we witness the blame game being played. A basketball team with a losing score believes that the officiating has been too one-sided. “It’s hard to win an “eight-on-five” game,” some of the players exclaim. There’s no doubt that blown calls are a fact of life in sports. Players that have 100% TPR aren’t going to point the finger at the referees though. Instead, they will stand up tall and say, “It’s my responsibility that we lost because I didn’t execute on offense like I should, and I allowed my opponent to get past me to the basket too many times.”

A small business is competing for a contract and loses. The vice president of sales is visibly angry and says, “The playing field wasn’t level. We should have won, but our competitor had an unfair advantage by making promises they won’t be able to keep!” Conversely, the entrepreneur with 100% TPR says, “We lost because we didn’t do a sufficient job of differentiating our product from the competition. I take full responsibility for that.”

The whole point is that as adults, we NEVER blame someone or something for our failures. We ALWAYS take 100% Total Personal Responsibility for everything that happens. You may be thinking that there must be circumstances that are out of our control where we shouldn’t be held responsible. For example, what about the guy who steps off the curb after checking for traffic and a crazy drunk driver mows him down at 90 miles per hour? How can that guy be at 100% TPR? Here’s the thing. That guy made the choice to be in that place at that time. That’s not to say that the choice was right or wrong – just that’s the choice he made. Perhaps he could have looked further down the street to see the drunk driver barreling toward the intersection and waited until the car passed. And don’t misunderstand – this isn’t to say that the drunk driver wasn’t responsible – he was absolutely the one at fault. But when we are at 100% TPR, we aren’t worrying about anyone else because we have 100% ownership of our lives.

Eliminating any and all thoughts of victimization is critical to living a life of 100% ownership. It liberates and empowers us, allowing for constant self-improvement and growth. When we blame others, we interrupt this improvement and growth process. In my business and in my life, I want to evaluate the risks and rewards and proceed based upon the information I have gathered. The choices that I make may be right or they may be wrong, but they are my choices and I own them, regardless of the outcome.

We can practice the concept of 100% TPR by stopping ourselves when we are in situations where blame might normally be the default thinking. Instead, we say, “I take 100% Total Personal Responsibility for what has happened. It happened because . . .” This affords critical analysis to determine the root cause for a failure and gives us the opportunity to learn how we can make different choices in the future. And remember, taking 100% TPR isn’t enough unless the second part of the idea is explored – “It happened because . . .” We must know what we could and should have done differently.

Success can come through failure if we are willing to take 100% Total Personal Responsibility. It can also allow us to model great leadership for the benefit of others.

You can also listen to a weekly audio podcast of my blog. What you hear will be different than what you read in this blog. Subscribe on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can also click on this link – Click here to listen to Audio Episode 92 – Death, Taxes and . . .

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

The Really Big Bus

“Tom’s personal preferences on his footballs are something that he can talk about in much better detail and information than I could possibly provide,” Belichick said, “I can tell you that in my entire coaching career, I have never talked to any player (or) staff member, about football air pressure.” This is a quote from a press conference held by New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick during which he spoke about Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and the infamous “Deflategate” case. What just happened here?

This was a classic case of someone being “thrown under the bus.” In this instance it was very public and left some massive tire marks. In an entrepreneurial environment this is pure poison. Throwing someone under the bus destroys team spirit and leads to major internal trust issues.

As children, we had a tendency to point fingers at others rather than accept responsibility for ourselves. The blame game was in full swing and a fairly normal aspect of childhood. We should have seen its destructive nature then and refrained from carrying it into adulthood. How often have you heard something like this? “Our revenues are down because the salespeople didn’t move enough of our product.” Or, “The contract was late being delivered to the client because my administrative assistant was sick.” And how about, “I’m sorry we delivered poor customer service – I’m going to fire John Doe whom you spoke to on the phone.”

Wow! These are some heavy duty statements and perfect examples of what it looks like to be thrown under the bus. They are also perfect examples of scapegoating, finger-pointing, excuse-making and general lack of accountability. At all costs the speaker wants to distance himself from what went wrong. It’s pretty obvious that this is not enlightened leadership. How simple it would be to change a few words and ultimately the whole message. Consider these alternatives. “We’re pulling the whole team together to identify a new strategy to increase revenues.” No one is being blamed here and a positive step has been identified. “I’m very sorry the contract was late. Please let us know if there is anything that needs to be changed.” The client doesn’t really care why the contract was late. Thus, a heartfelt apology is all that needs to be said. “I’m sorry our customer service wasn’t satisfactory. What else can we do to make this right?” Again, a straightforward apology and no one is blamed.

Teams become strong when each member knows everyone has his or her back. What if clearly someone screwed up and makes the whole team look bad? Shouldn’t that person be held accountable? This is a fair question and the answer is yes to accountability. But as leaders, we should never publicly do so – to a customer or in front of the whole team. Individual issues should be dealt with individually. We accomplish nothing when we embarrass a member of a team in front of others. Not only does that team member resent such treatment, but the other members become afraid of making mistakes for fear of being called out in similar fashion. Rather than move forward with positive energy, the team then becomes tentative and apprehensive.

A respected leader will always take one for the team. He or she understands that an individual failure is a team failure. The failure could have happened because the team member didn’t have the training or the resources to succeed. It could have happened because systems and processes within the organization were broken. Perhaps there was a lack of communication or understanding. And it’s possible that the organization failed because it placed a bet on a team member that really wasn’t qualified for the job. Rarely is failure isolated to a specific individual. Recognizing this, the strong leader will resist the temptation to single out an individual and instead accept responsibility on behalf of the entire enterprise.

Being thrown under the bus is humiliating and painful. People want to work within companies that create a climate of trust and avoid blaming individuals for problems when they arise.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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Beam Me Up Scotty

Did you know that Michael Jordan was cut by his high school basketball team because it was determined that he lacked skill? Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times in his stellar career. Winston Churchill flunked sixth grade. Elvis Presley was once told that his career was going nowhere and he should drive a truck. Authors Stephen King, John Grisham, Theodore Seuss Giesel and cartoonist Charles Schultz were all rejected more than 85 times before being published.

What do all of these famous people have in common? They all are or were extremely self-confident. Successful entrepreneurs need a healthy dose of self-confidence. Without it the chances to achieve our goals and objectives drop precipitously. We also must guard against misunderstanding confidence for arrogance. Arrogance is actually overcompensation for a lack of confidence.

So how do we go about building self-confidence? Allow me to share my experience with you. Early in my career I struggled in this department. I graduated from college at 21 years of age and immediately began working for the company I’ve been with ever since. I thought I was pretty confident when I was in school but in the real world I discovered a lot of self-doubt. It didn’t help that I was told that I was just a punk kid who didn’t know anything. This statement was reinforced for a number of years – and I let it get inside my head. Eventually I came to realize that with a few years of experience under my belt and some creative successes along the way, I really did know what I was doing.

Here are some ideas. Repetition is extremely important. Identify one or more things that you feel less confident about and do them over and over again. Perhaps it’s public speaking or maybe it’s interacting with lots of other people in a large group setting. Set standards for what you believe to be “good” or “great.” Try and consistently perform to those standards and when you do, congratulate yourself. Own your mistakes and setbacks. Resist the temptation to blame others or play the victim. When we focus on how we can improve and do things differently the next time, we build confidence for our next encounter in a similar situation. When we celebrate the success of others – including our competitors – it’s a demonstration of confidence. When we criticize others – including our competitors – it’s not. When we’re not afraid to be wrong, that’s evidence of self-confidence. Being defensive and making excuses is not. Being positive and humble are definitely traits of self-confident people.

Self-confidence can ebb and flow. Our goal is to be more consistent with our confidence. But just because we have moments of doubt or fear, doesn’t mean we’re losing our mojo. When we can take a deep breath and understand from where the doubt or fear is coming, that’s a way we can regain our confidence.

Self-confidence enables us to eliminate thoughts of lack and limitation and know the truth about ourselves. In so doing, we can shoot for the stars and realize our true potential. Beam me up Scotty.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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Own It

When things go wrong there’s a pretty strong chance that human nature will cause a very specific reaction. And what do you suppose that reaction will often be? Yes, someone will be blamed. “It’s his fault” is simply another way of playing the victim card. As entrepreneurs we should resist allowing ourselves to be drawn into the blame mentality.

As children we often would blame our siblings for our own transgressions. Fortunately (though unfortunately at the time) my parents didn’t buy into my efforts to shift responsibility away from myself. A withering look from my mother was all it took for the blame to shift right back where it belonged. Perhaps it was this grounding effect that taught me to be accountable for my actions – right or wrong.

We damage our credibility as leaders when we blame others. When I’m speaking with someone from another company about something that went wrong, I lose respect for that person if he or she doesn’t take responsibility in the “organizational we” sense. Let me explain. I’ve gotten calls before about a glitch in our customer service. It would have been very easy to say something like, “Mary Manager failed to do her job and I’ll see that she is disciplined.” Instead, I want everyone in our organization to know that I have their backs. When I get those calls I say, “I’m sorry your customer experience was unsatisfactory. Clearly we should have done better. We’ll see that the matter is rectified as soon as possible.” If Mary Manager really caused the problem we’ll make sure to privately counsel with her and make sure she has the proper tools and perspective to avoid a repeat of the mistake. But internally and externally we won’t point our finger at her.

As entrepreneurs and leaders, we need to own our mistakes and be comfortable doing so. Recently I failed to properly communicate in a situation that caused some heartburn for a client. Upon realizing my error, I quickly sent an e-mail falling on my sword and taking full responsibility for my inadequate communications. Then I called him and apologized personally. I have a philosophy that mistakes are experiments in the laboratory of life. If we are properly prepared we usually don’t make them. But when we do, we admit and amend. Quickly acknowledging a mistake; apologizing for it, and taking the necessary steps to remedy it actually builds customer loyalty. It also builds loyalty with team members.

Refusing to play the blame game demonstrates real leadership and engenders respect. We can model this for others when we accept responsibility for our own deficiencies and do so in a gracious manner.

This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.

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