By Chuck Violand

October 27, 2014

Trying to hide our own shortcomings by complaining about business partners or family members is easy. When someone asks us to do something we’re uncomfortable doing, we can just shift the blame to them.

But hiding behind our complaints isn’t limited to business partners and family members. It also extends to our complaints about poor performing frontline employees.

When we find ourselves complaining about employees we should ask ourselves who made the decision to hire them in the first place? What role did we play in that? And if we discover they’re poor performers after we hire them, who’s making the decision to keep them? Perhaps there’s an underlying reason.

Could we subconsciously tolerate, maybe even want, poor performing employees so we don’t have to develop ourselves as business owners or hold ourselves accountable to do the things we know we’re supposed to be doing? Does surrounding ourselves with marginal performers secretly allow us to continue being the smartest person in the room? Or perhaps it just gives us abundant reasons to continue complaining.

Our people generally rise to the level of performance we set for them. If they’re not meeting our expectations, maybe we should look a little closer at our real intentions rather than complaining about their shortcomings.

We sometimes do the same thing with customers. We tolerate unprofitable or slow-paying customers for a reason. Could it be because we’re living out the beliefs about money we learned growing up and blaming them for it? Or maybe we’re holding onto these customers because we’re afraid we won’t be able to replace them. So we complain. But is complaining really just our way of avoiding having to do something we’re uncomfortable doing, like finding profitable customers who pay their bills on time?

As ridiculous as it might sound on the surface, and as unlikely as it might be for us to admit, it’s not uncommon to hide behind the poor financial performance of our companies. In many ways, we’re living out through our businesses the money lessons we learned earlier in life—both good and bad. Sighting Dr. Shechtman again, this supports his philosophy that businesses don’t have financial problems. Business owners have financial issues they work out through their businesses. So, by extension, does continuing to live with marginal profitability, lousy cash flow, or unhealthy debt loads, in spite of all our complaining, really let us live out our underlying beliefs about money?

We might have to scratch below the surface to recognize that not solving a nagging issue with profitability or cash flow is actually how we’re living out those beliefs that were learned years ago. But complaining about them is more comfortable than changing our beliefs, and then acting on them to change the business outcome. We need to admit it and make changes, or at least stop our complaining.

As I’ve written many times in the past, owning a business is not a required course in life. It’s an elective. If we own our own businesses, we’re the ones who chose that course, and it’s reflecting what we believe about ourselves, sometimes in spite of all our complaining. At the end of the day, we’re the ones who can change…or continue to complain. I guess that choice is ours as well.