Is Your Mindset Limiting Your Effectiveness at Work?

Rob Giffin Rob Giffin | Apr 19, 2013

As business continuity professionals, it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the myriad roadblocks that exist on the road to building resiliency – lack of funding, lack of people, lack of management support, etc.  In some organizations, it seems like everyone just wants the business continuity person to go away!

At Avalution, we’re always studying these challenges and working to find ways to prevent and overcome them.  Many of those techniques are documented elsewhere in this blog.  However, one foundational consideration is missing – an appropriate mindset in approaching the challenges facing you and your organization.  Specifically, there are three areas where business continuity planners are often defeated before they even get started:  expectations, excuses, and confidence.

Do you expect your organization’s executives to follow you because of your amazing work history?  Stellar certifications?  Academic credentials?  If so, prepare to be disappointed!  In all likelihood, none of that matters to your leadership group (those are the things that get you in the door).  I’ve never met a group of senior executives that blindly followed subject matter experts simply because they are the experts.  In fact, the ONLY things that I’ve ever seen motivate executives are:

  • Clear financial benefit
  • Improved ability to achieve the organization’s mission
  • Sound, logical arguments connecting intangible benefits to the organization or its stakeholders (in other words, solving a nagging problem that helps them move the organization forward)

So, if you expect the organization to change because you think it should, you’re already setting yourself up for disappointment and failure.  However, if you expect nothing more from your executives than logical thought and understand their need to balance risk and reward, cost, and benefit, then you can meet them where they are at.

Work often doesn’t turn out the way we expect it to.  We fall short – we don’t complete all of our ambitious plans.  When that happens, it’s natural to try and understand the underlying causes and work to overcome them.  As I said earlier, our blog is full of articles that examine the causes of business continuity program challenges and potential solutions to overcome them.  However, spending too much time thinking about why your efforts fell short often leads to the development of excuses to justify your value.  In your head, it may sound something like this:

“I did my best to complete the BIA, but process owners just wouldn’t get back to me.”

“I’ve written great plans, but no one ever uses them. They refuse to understand the purpose of a plan or bring them to exercises.”

“We had four steering committee meetings, but our executives don’t care enough to attend.”

The theme in each of these statements is that I did my job, and if everyone else would do their job, we would be really successful.  Unfortunately, whether you think this or speak it, you’re making excuses and blaming others for problems you could have prevented or overcome if you saw them as your problem to solve.

Psychology circles call this locus of control; the degree to which individuals believe they can control events that affect them.

As a small business owner, I feel constantly pushed towards an internal locus of control. I’m constantly reminded of the responsibility I have to our clients and employees.  Even with a great business partner, I have an inescapable sense that the buck stops with me and that the success of our firm is directly related to my action or in-action.

But, I could just as easily be overwhelmed by external factors and blame them for organizational failures – the rough economy, increasing competition, etc.  While these external factors certainly influence the success or failure of our organization, I believe that my actions in response to these external factors are far more important in determining the outcome.

The same is true for challenges facing business continuity programs.  Process owners are not being responsive on BIAs?  Don’t blame the process owners for being lazy or overwhelmed. Maybe you’re using the wrong approach or haven’t created an appropriate level of awareness regarding the value of participating in the BIA.  Unfortunately, if you just blame the process owners, you may never even consider what your role is in the problem and what your role could be in the solution.

The key here is to believe that the problems with your continuity program are your problems that you are capable of solving.  That’s what no excuses is all about.

Even if you check your expectations and make no excuses, there is one last mental barrier that is robbing us of the power to be successful – a lack of confidence.  So much has been written about the need for confidence to create change in an organization that I won’t try and recreate or summarize it here.  But business continuity professionals need to remember that if you don’t believe in what you’re doing, or if you feel you are unable to fix, change, or improve, then it’s likely you will be unable to meet your objectives and your program sponsor’s expectations.  In many cases, the only thing holding you back is the confidence to step out of your comfort zone and try a new approach (and to keep trying until you’re successful).

Overcoming Expectations, Excuses, and Lack of Confidence
I don’t have the silver bullet to banish these mindsets from your work, but my hope is that naming them will help us all recognize when they are robbing us of our potential by causing us to achieve less than we’re capable of.  Each of us are vulnerable to these mental challenges in varying degrees – if you know you’re highly susceptible, maybe you need to make a habit of reflecting on the challenges you face and very specifically ask yourself some key questions:

  • What can I do to improve the situation?
  • What do I need to be capable of improving the situation?
  • How can I obtain what I need to be capable of improving the situation?

If you find yourself constantly returning to other people, remember, they will change if you find the right way to engage with them – it always comes back to your actions, not theirs.


Robert Giffin
Avalution Consulting: Business Continuity Consulting