Everyone’s a critic these days.

I don’t know if it’s the impact of the X-factor or being able to put your opinion to the world in 140 characters or less. Maybe it’s down to TripAdvisor or Google Reviews.

No matter how much experience and skills someone brings to the job, there is always someone with none of that experience ready to offer their opinion often in damning terms.

Gareth Southgate summed it up after England’s victory over Germany on Tuesday: “You know that if you change the shape and pick certain personnel instead of others and it goes wrong, you’re dead”.

So right, Gareth.

Rightly or wrongly, the buck will stop with you just as all the business owners reading this email know that anything that goes wrong in their business will end up being their fault or their problem. Even if it was completely out of their control.

As Gareth and all successful owner-managers know, all you can do is control the controllable. The rest is down to good or bad fortune. Sometimes you do all the right things, and it doesn’t go well. Sometimes you get it all wrong, but it all goes well.

The latter can be worse of course. A good outcome to a poor performance can fool you into thinking that you did everything right when you didn’t. As a result, you continue to do the wrong thing and inevitably your luck will run out.

Golfers know this too. In fact, there is a name for those two different types of shots:

An Arthur Scargill – “great strike but poor result”

An OJ Simpson – “I don’t know how I got away with that!”

The other thing we all know is that when things go well, success has many parents. Everyone jumping on the bandwagon to point out their contribution to the success. Sometimes demanding their cut of the profits, if its business-related.

But failure is an orphan.

Nothing to do with me. It was someone else’s fault.

And so, as owner-managers, you sit in that spot waiting. You know that spot. The one where the buck stops. It will be here in a minute. And it probably won’t be pleasant.

But you will sort it out. You usually do. If you were as evasive as the employees who could have sorted the problem out but didn’t, you won’t be in that spot forever. Because your business won’t be around.

But once you sort it out, you have a choice.

You have a choice to force your organisation to learn from that failure or to just accept it as one of those things.

Forcing your organisation to learn is easier than it sounds though. Because it was “someone else’s fault” wasn’t it? So first you have to get people to accept that they could have done things differently. That they could have had an influence. That’s when people get defensive.

Some people don’t need much nudging. They are the ones who internally attribute. The ones who believe they can make a difference. If you point out that with hindsight, they could have done something better, they’ll take it on board. They’re the ones who will progress. The ones you want to hang onto.

But not everyone is like that. And of course, they are the ones who by an amazing coincidence seem to be associated with things that go wrong with alarming regularity.

And that’s where the conspiracy of silence creeps in.

You know the one. You send out an email asking a few questions. No reply. For days, weeks, months if you let it go on that long.

I bet they’d have replied if you’d asked which bank account to pay their bonus into.

Or the meeting where you ask the questions, and no-one replies. Everyone looks everywhere but you.

It’s not comfortable, but it has to be done.

Or you just give up on those staff. Get some new ones. Keep your personnel department busy.

Sometimes there is no choice other than that. But only 10% of the people you take on are incapable no matter how good your management skills, your systems or your training. And 10% of the staff you take on will be great no matter how rubbish your management skills, systems and training are.

They’re the ones of course that lead you to think that your management skills, systems and training are good. Which means you don’t recognise that you need to improve.

Because 80% of your team will do a good job if managed well with good systems and good training. And a bad job if managed badly with bad systems and little or no training.

The rest is down to luck. Do everything right and get that little bit of fortune and you never know where you might end up, as Gareth Southgate knows only too well.

Have a good weekend.

Contact me today!

Malcolm Palmer


Managing Partner

01474 853856

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