I was sleeping in my hotel room in Wasserlos Germany. Right around two in the morning a voice came rushing into my brain, “A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” First I thought, “Thank God. I do not have to build a baseball diamond!” Then I thought it was pretty strange to have this thought come rushing in at 2 am in Wasserlos Germany. Fortunately for you, we will be discussing what the voice said and not my issue of hearing voices in the middle of the night. The latter I will leave for serious couch time with my therapist.
If I were a metallurgist I would probably agree with the chain link statement. But if I think of this statement as fact when it comes to a team of people or a collection of business units, this rationale falls apart. My experience has taught me that this rationale becomes a crutch for the stronger players to expect less from themselves.
Now I know if you are receiving this email article, you are probably one of the stronger players (otherwise you would be unemployed) and cannot imagine that you are rationalizing your actions or the lack thereof. Wrong . . .!
Quite often I am in conversations with people, and they are explaining to me that if their CEO or President or VP of Marketing or Operations or CFO or any one of their peers was not such an idiot, they could be much further along or more successful. They have lots of empirical data that shows them that these unqualified or inane individuals create a considerable drain on the organization, and in fact, impede their own chances to succeed. It is a natural human trait to transfer blame or rationalize why you are not as successful as you should or could be.
In every instance once we wipe away the tears about the unjust management, the greedy money grubby wall street types, or a screwed up culture that just won’t allow you to succeed and put the Kleenex away, we discover that there are always (and yes I mean always) ways in which you could have done more to further the solution.
In fact most people I work with become overwhelmed with embarrassment that they themselves have dummied their own thinking down to the level of those of whom they are most critical. These executives, managers or leaders have become the smartest person in the 5th grade. They have rationalized that they are OK because everyone else is worse than they are. Where is the integrity in that thinking?? Can you imagine if Einstein had said, “Well if no one else is interested in space and time . . .?” Or if Pasteur had said,
“Every body gets sick drinking milk, so who cares?” What if Columbus would have rationalized his beliefs based on other philosophers or world leaders that could not find their butts with a map? What if you really listened to your calculus teacher when he said you would not add up to anything in life unless you were able to solve that five page logarithm?
Life is very challenging and ever changing. You experience this phenomenon every single day. Unless you keep yourself to the standard you know you are capable of, these challenges become overwhelming; at some point in time you surrender to the onslaught of resistance.
So the question is: Is the weakest link the problem or is it your tendency to abdicate your role and your strength? Does the project, profit, global communications, growth, profitability, customer relations, budget, strategy, culture, product development or acquisition fall apart because of one weak link, or is it from each link calibrating itself to the weakest point and never reaching its full potential?
I challenge each of you to look at any failed venture and do serious review of your involvement including a gap analysis between what was needed to have been done and what you did do. Make sure you do this in the safety of your closed door office so no one sees you pull out the Kleenex as you discover how low you have calibrated your expectations and actions based on the capabilities of others.
How do you keep yourself from falling into this trap? Well, in reality you can’t.
What you can do, is make yourself aware when you are rushing down the path of blame and STOP. Look into the mirror every morning, and before you step into your office of glass, be sure to drop your stones of blame. Life and business is challenging enough without making yourself your own worst enemy. So gather yourself, focus on the tasks at hand, grab yourself a whole big heap of humility and drive, and go out there and do everything YOU can. A whole lot of people at your business and at home are depending on it.