Denial is Killing Your Business NOT the Economy!

Published in the Business Newsday - April 12th 2012

Denial is rampant in small businesses today. Often I wonder if perhaps I am insane or making too big a deal about some of the things that I witness daily in organizations. A good client, friend and interestingly enough one of my suppliers recently shared a phrase with me that got me thinking.

I was sharing how frustrated I was with some business owners and their inability to ‘see’ what I was showing them regarding profit leaks in their businesses. I was going on and on about trying to find a way to communicate more effectively, persuasively etc. I then ended my rant by saying that I thought that these business owners KNEW what I was talking about and although they wouldn’t admit it to me – deep in their hearts they were well aware.

“Do you really THINK so Giselle?” she asked, forehead deeply furrowed. And then she said it “I think they are just blissfully ignorant.” I laughed – “I like that. Blissfully ignorant hmmmm…”

As I drove away from out breakfast meeting I thought long and hard about blissful ignorance and concluded that the only thing blissful ignorance will yield for ANY business is ignorant bliss – NOT PROFITS!

How many of us need to snap out of our coma and stop pretending that we are making money, that our employees are productive, that the complaining employee is necessary to retain because she works well even though she doesn’t say the most appropriate things at times and is responsible for low morale in her department?

Today is your wake up call. STOP PRETENDING THAT BUSINESS IS GOOD!

As small business owners we have an extraordinary capacity for deluding ourselves until we are utterly and completely broke and broken! And the economy is our excuse of choice – one of our top favorites.

But is it perhaps that we are relying on the way we used to do business and what got us to where we are today instead of facing reality and devising new strategies to take us into the future that we envision? Have we even contemplated that we need to develop a new strategic direction? Or are we really operating in ignorant bliss, spending money that we don’t have – supporting a lifestyle that we can no longer afford to live and hoping that SOME MIRACLE will save us?

Are we really paying attention to what is going on in and around our businesses or are we going through the motions, automatically listening and closing our thinking off to anything that would burst our fantasy bliss bubble?

When you defend what you THINK you know this is what happens:

“I know there is not a problem.” You defend the adequacy of the present and deny that a problem exists.

“I know how to solve the problem.” You defend what you already know and stop investigating further.

“I know the right way to solve the problem.” You restructure what you already know, and you call it a NEW solution when, in fact, it is the SAME information in a new order.

These are the consequences of your needing to be right and believing in your own propaganda.

DING DING DING! Reality Check: Your issues are not going to magically disappear without confrontation of these issues in complete honesty and with direct effort from you and those on your team.

What will work best for you and help you turn things around is letting your ‘issues’ see the light of day and get worked on directly instead of being swept under the rug in a form of denial.

Here are ten questions you need to sit and honestly answer if you agree to stop the B.S. and face up to the fact that you need an urgent transformation in your business:

  1. What is your point of view on leadership? How does it match the current realities you face?
  2. What leadership strengths of the past are now weaknesses?
  3. What critical leadership competencies are critical to your transformation?
  4. Where are your potential blind spots in terms of leadership competencies?
  5. What changes are you willing to make in leadership to be successful in your business transformation?
  6. Do you have superior listening strength?
  7. What is your tolerance for ambiguity?
  8. Have you specifically looked at the level of narcissism in your business?
  9. Do you and your team have solid self awareness? How do you know?
  10. Are you up to the challenge of transforming your business?

The last question is the most important. Transcending previous ignorance will take commitment and guts. Don’t just say this is what you want. Question what you want. This is the reason why we have to treat business growth and development as we would any scientific experiment. Record your progress. Continue doing the things that bring you profitable results, and stop doing those things that prove detrimental to your business, health and life.

You have to decide what plan of action you and your team can comfortably commit to. This is where the self awareness insight will be useful. Knowing your strengths will allow the team to collaborate more effectively. Knowing who you are will facilitate your leading from a position of authenticity.

Marlene Chism, speaker and author of Stop Workplace Drama, defines authentic leadership as “One who influences others because of who they are more than what their title is. Leaders walk their talk, and lead by example.”

In the words of William Penn, “No man is fit to command another who cannot command himself.”

Chism believes that committing oneself to authentic leadership also involves a lifelong commitment to spiritual and personal growth. “You can only be as honest as your level of awareness.” Awareness is the ability to know that any drama around you is a mirror of the growth that is required of you—instead of the reflection of the flaws of others.

So starting from today, you need to stop blaming the Government, your employees, the economy or any other circumstances that you might be in denial about. Instead take a vow of responsibility – to yourself first and then to those you lead. Let the buck stop with you and let transformation start with you. Trust me life outside the bubble of blissful ignorance is far more rewarding because that which you hope will go away by itself – won’t. Your business needs your attention. Now go attend to it!

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