“It’s Not My Job”

Not my job

“It’s not my job” is one of my least favorite expressions. Everyone knows you’re not supposed to say it out loud, even if you think it. So why have I heard it twice in the last couple days?

I chalked the first one up to frustration. I was asking a coworker to do something that I understood to be her responsibility. She pushed back, asking, “Since when is it my job to….” That’s a good question, because I understood that it had always been her job. So I asked our departmental supervisor whose responsibility it was and the answer was sort of, “It depends.” Which is fine when it works out, but sometimes (as in this case), it wasn’t working out. There was ambiguity and there was friction.

I hate workplace friction, especially when it’s unnecessary.

So we talked it out, I typed up some guidelines so that in the future we’d know who was supposed to do what and we wouldn’t need to wonder.

This morning, though, “It’s not my job” was worse. A patient is bleeding. Not a gusher, but still. A colleague notices the patient is bleeding and goes to get the nurse. That patient’s nurse (Betty) isn’t at the nurses’ station, so my colleague tells the other nurse (Joan) that is standing there, “Mrs. So-and-So is bleeding.” And Joan, a genuinely warm human being, says, “That’s not my job. It’s Betty’s patient.”

Colleague: “Well, Betty’s not here, I didn’t see her on the floor, and there’s a patient bleeding.”
Joan: “Well how bad is it? Maybe we can wait for Betty to come back.”
Colleague: “All I know is that she is bleeding now.”

This makes me crazy, of course, and rightfully so, I think. But beyond being aggravated, aghast, outraged, I started to ask myself, “Why would she say that?”

When she was a first year nursing student, would she have ever imagined saying “It’s not my job” when hearing about a patient bleeding? Doubt it.

If she had been asked in an interview, “If there was a patient bleeding and her nurse wasn’t available, what would you do?” Would she have said, “I’d tell her, ‘It’s not my job!” Doubt it.

If her mom was bleeding and her mom’s nurse wasn’t available, would she have told her mom, “It’s not my job!” Not a chance.

So what’s happening here? I started asking “why?”

Tomorrow I’ll share what I found out.

Quality is Free (But It Isn’t Easy)

In Quality is Free, Philip Crosby wrote “Make a commitment to a standard, communicate it, recognize performance, and then recycle.”

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

You have choices to make:

Will you make a commitment? Or will you just pretend to?

Will you set a high standard? Or will you settle?

Will you have the courage to communicate it? Or will you put it on a shelf and hope no one holds you accountable?

Will you have the confidence to recognize performance? Or will you disengage, let success go unheralded and/or allow your direct reports to remain unaccountable?

Quality is free, but it isn’t easy. Will you do the work?

Entrepreneurship: Are You Willing to Work This Hard?

“Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won’t so you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t.” —Warren Tracy

It’s Saturday night. Your significant other is sitting on the couch next to you watching Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck. You are supposed to be watching, too. And you are, sort of. roman-holiday

But you’re an entrepreneur, so you’re also reading Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup. And thinking about your lean canvas. And working on the presentation you’re doing Monday for a potential investor. Everyone likes Prezi, right?

If that’s you, you’re not alone. I’m doing the work, too—enjoying the present and betting on a brighter future.

“Success isn’t measured by money or power or social rank. Success is measured by your discipline and inner peace.” —Mike Ditka

Patience (Because the Good Stuff Takes Time)

I’m terrible about patience. I hate waiting.

Hate. Hate. Hate it.

  • I hate waiting for the new season of Hannibal.
  • I hate waiting for my vacation to start.
  • I even hate waiting for the microwave to cough up my popcorn. I count the seconds between pops, weighing the risk of unpopped kernels against the stench of burnt popcorn.

You know what I hate waiting for even more? Good stuff to happen in my business.

  • I hate waiting for my new salesperson to start.
  • I hate waiting for that category-smashing brochure to be printed.
  • I hate waiting for that new prospect to give us his first order.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Waiting’s always with me, and I think I know why. Because I want the good stuff, and the good stuff takes time. If I settled for less, if I didn’t want the best, I could have what I want immediately, or at least a lot sooner. But my desires, my ambitions keep me waiting for better. So even though I hate waiting, we have made an uneasy alliance. When I am impatient for the next great thing to happen, I remember why I am waiting.

What are you waiting for? What should you be waiting for? Is there something specific you could do today to shorten the waiting until you get what you want?

Hey, Entrepreneur—What’s Stopping You? [Strategies for Dealing with Fear]

I was just listening to Dan Miller’s excellent podcast, and he mentioned that during a recent webinar for prospective entrepreneurs, the most frequently cited reason for not starting a business was fear. Sometimes fear of failure, often fear of success.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I wish I had an easy answer for that one. I don’t. The truth is, starting a business is scary as hell. It can feel exhilarating and terrifying. It can get you jumping out of bed with a million ideas to make things better, and it can keep you awake at night when you’re not sure how you’re going to pay your people or your bills.

There is a cold aloneness that can sometimes creep in, make it seem like starting a business isn’t worth the risk. The good news is, there are ways to deal with it. Here are four ways I have dealt with fear that worked for me:

1. Start small. Notice I didn’t say, “Stay small.” But when you’re starting a new business, the last thing you want to do is get in over your head before you have a chance to prove your idea is going to be successful. Successful might mean more money, or it might mean more time—you get to decide. But whatever it is, test your business idea before you throw yourself in the deep end.

I have a friend who started a food company. He and his wife invested more than a quarter of a million dollars on production equipment (ovens, packaging machines, etc.). He leased space for production and offices. He bought expensive advertisements. The business didn’t make it, and he ended up with crippling financial stress as they cashed in their retirements to avoid bankruptcy.

I have a friend who wanted to go into the cake/pie/dessert baking business. She asked my advice about leasing space. I told her to sublease space from someone who already had the equipment and test her idea out—she would know within three months if she should move forward. Within a month, she was sure she didn’t want to be in the dessert business. The work was long and tiring. What was fun at home was misery as a business. She saved herself a world of heartache by testing on a small scale.

2. Hustle. All successful entrepreneurs I know hustle. Working hard takes the edge off fear—it’s hard to sit in fear when you’re on the go. It’s hard to think about two things at once, and if you’re thinking about what action you can take to make your business better, you don’t have much time to give in to the fear.

When I started my first business, I worked hard. Crazy hard. 12-16 hours a day, seven days a week kind of hard. Was I scared? Absolutely. I had negligible start up capital, no marketing or sales experience, but I did have two employees and an office. I was afraid a lot at first, so I worked to fight the fear. Eventually the fear subsided, and the days became more normal (it’s all relative for entrepreneurs, as you know. “Normal” meant getting down to 10 hour days, 6 days a week, plus a few hours on Sunday). Still, I doubt that I would have made it if I hadn’t hustled. I would have let the fear take control, and it just might have buried my business.

3. Find a teammate. Sometimes a teammate is a business partner. Be careful with that. It can sound so appealing. Spread the risk, spread the work. But if you don’t pick the right partner, it can be a disaster. I know this from personal experience, but I can’t talk too much about it for legal reasons.

I can tell you this, though—if you are the one burning the midnight oil while your partner is goofing off, you will resent her. If you are the one sacrificing for the sake of the business while your partner is having “business meetings” at the local steak house, you’re going to have a hard time. You think you know someone well? You’d better, because you might be stuck with them for a very long time.

Sometimes a teammate is a spouse or significant other. That’s awesome when it works, but make sure you have complementary personalities. If your stress stresses out your significant other, you’re both in trouble. On the other hand, if your SO is level headed and can encourage you to work through the fear, you’re in luck.

4. Work with a business coach/consultant. If you’re like me, you’d probably try any of the other suggestions on this list before considering working with a business coach/consultant. I get it. I was just like you. I didn’t have money to hire anyone else to help me—I already had two employees to help with the tactical work of my business. I was busying trying to make enough money to pay them, and minimizing expenses seemed like my only option.

Eventually, though, I realized that I was going to go crazy or lose the business or both if I didn’t get some help. Not answering-the-phones type help. Not data entry help. I needed someone to tell me what to and how to do it. I needed someone to guide me as I worked my way through the challenges I was experiencing. I needed someone to show me solutions where I could only see problems; someone to give me perspective and hold me accountable to do what was most important.

Honestly, that’s why I do the business consulting I do now. I know what it’s like to go it alone, what it’s like to be afraid, to have a million questions and a million concerns and not have anyone to talk to. It sucks. It can suck the life out of you. No one should have to go it alone.

I also know the profound disappointment of hiring a consultant who doesn’t understand what it’s like to start a new business and try to grow it from the ground up. So many consultants I know have never started a business, never had to worry about payroll. They have no idea what it’s like to be on the hook for everything and everybody. If you’re going to hire a coach or consultant, make sure they have done what you are trying to do.

Those are four of my favorite ways to move forward in the face of fear: start small, hustle, find a teammate, and work with a business coach/consultant. All four strategies have all made an enormous difference in my life and have allowed me to go from fearful to successful.

How do you deal with fear? Shoot me an email and let me know.