Being accountable for one’s actions is indisputably a good thing. But what about your boss’ inability to properly communicate, or a flat tire? Are you responsible for the ramifications of your own bad luck?
Local readers may think my headline is in response to the painfully prolonged winter Chicago is experiencing, well into meteorological spring. Actually, this piece comes from two books I happened to read in succession that have two different answers to the accountability question.
In Success Under Stress (which I reviewed a few weeks back), Sharon Melnick argues that holding yourself accountable for things that are out of your control is just going to stress you out and make you less productive:
Every challenge can be divided into two categories—the 50 percent of factors we can control and the 50 percent we can’t. Factors we can’t control include macrolevel forces, such as market trends, technology developments, senior leadership decisions, reorganizations, traffic… Additionally, there are a myriad of microlevel forces we can’t control, such as someone else’s tone of voice or what they write in an e-mail.
Things that are out of your control attract your attention like a magnet attracts metal. However, by focusing on factors outside of your control, you’re setting yourself up for stress.
In Where Winners Live, a new book by Dave Porter and Linda Galliano, the authors argue that if you “adopt a mindset of 100 percent accountability,” then “chances are good that it will work out in your favor.” They compare the days of Vince (who is 100 percent accountable) to that of Katherine (who only accepts accountability for 85 percent):
Occasionally, Katherine reasons, circumstances beyond her control cause her bad results. Take the weather, traffic, the occasional flat tire, or a restless night that left her without enough energy for her day…
Back to Vince. It rains on his way to work as often as it does during Katherine’s commute. But he leaves his house so early in the morning that he has plenty of leeway to deal with weather-delayed slow traffic and still arrives at work on time. He experiences few flat tires and car troubles because he knows a few minutes of preventive maintenance now will save him from losing up to an hour later… He plows through the days when he feels sluggish or has the sniffles, because he knows each day will end at 6pm and he needs to finish his work by then.
You’re either an entrepreneur or you’re not. Right?
Well, according to Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck: What it Takes to be an Entrepreneur and Build a Great Business, success in business creation is not dependent on just one “it” factor. Authors Tony Tjan, Dick Harrington, and Tsun-yan Hsieh argue that, within each successful entrepreneur is a combination of the four driving attributes identified in their book’s title.
Furthermore, they argue that knowing which of these four traits drives you could be the key to unlocking your true potential. The book itself won’t be available until August, though you can pre-order it at their site. But as something of a personalized preview, the authors offer the Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test, or EAT, as a sort of entry point to their book. Continue reading »
No one likes to think their successes are the result of pure chance. Most cite their hard work and diligence first, giving the roll of the dice last billing in the achievement department. Why give all that credit to something beyond our control?
In their new book, Get Lucky: How to Put Planned Serendipity to Work for You and Your Business, Thor Muller and Lane Becker argue that luck is not only within your control, it’s something you must harness as your own personal ally. We’re not talking about “dumb luck” here, but rather something the two successful entrepreneurs call “planned serendipity,” or the ability to take chance experiences and distill them into eight skills: motion, preparation, divergence, commitment, activation, connection, permeability, and attraction.
In this portion of the book, Muller and Becker show readers how to practice the skill of divergence, making difficult decisions in order to take advantage of challenging, serendipitous environments. They use the separate paths of two major book retailers to illustrate their point. Read on to find out how Barnes & Noble was able to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing marketplace, and how Borders’ response to the same problem left customers cold.
We all like to think we’d jump at a brilliant idea if it smacked us in the head, but few of us or our companies ever do. This, more than anything, is why people like to say that ideas are cheap. In truth, great ideas are priceless, but we only know which ideas are great with the benefit of hindsight. Without a mindset to try out divergent paths, uncertainty and inertia conspire to keep us ignorant. Continue reading »