Pointing fingers

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There always seems to be something or someone else to blame when things are not going well. Some other person or condition is causing the situation we are in. On the road, it is another driver, at school it is the teacher or the test, at home it is the husband or the wife or the children. And in the business? It is the workers, or the administrator, or the tax collector, or the importer, the exporter, the forwarder, the government, the policy, the regulations, the internet, etc. Really? Is it normally somebody or something else or could it be that we ourselves are part of the problem? Let us look at this issue a bit closer. Also in Ethiopia, it is always the fault of something or somebody else. We say: “The glass fell down.” instead of “I dropped the glass.” Things happen to us instead of us recognising that we play an active part in the situation. Many business people blame their problems on other persons or external circumstances. They are not to blame themselves, they think. They think of themselves working so hard, shouting their instructions so loud, sweating so much. They find it difficult to accept that they may be making a mistake, that they are part of the problem themselves, that they are responsible.
Having responsibility is an intriguing concept. It literally means “having the ability to response”. Response to other people, to circumstances, to anything that comes our way. That ability to response is a skill that can be developed. Yes, the way we react is determined for a great deal by our culture and the way we have been brought up, the role models provided by our parents, teachers, bosses, leaders. But that does not mean that is the only way or necessarily the best way to response. Just because somebody else reacts in a certain way, doesn’t mean we must repeat that behaviour, certainly not when it doesn’t seem to be effective, when it doesn’t change the situation for the better.
In other words, we are in a position to choose the way we response and if we base our responses on certain values and on principles, the chance is higher that our responses will have better results.
Responsibilities in running a business are many. The ability of the business owner or manager to response to the internal and external environment of the business will in the end turn the business into a poor, mediocre or successful business. There are choices to be made. How to respond for instance to developments in the market, policy changes, suggestions from workers, demands from clients? This is where you have the opportunity to set the standards and lead the company where you want it to go.
This requires a proactive approach. It also requires insight in the risks that we take and the hazards we may face in moving our business forward. Having such insight will allow us to put measures in place, which will be activated when a hazard strikes. By doing so, the chance for the risk to turn into disaster will be reduced. As we see more and more extreme weather phenomena hitting countries around the world, we also see the proactive measures that are taken to prevent a hurricane for example to turn into a disaster. Hurricane Irma of just over a week ago, is a good example. Indeed, it destroyed much property in its wake but taking shelter and timely evacuations prevented it to become the bigger disaster it otherwise could have become.
So, the question is then whether we are sufficiently aware of the risks we face and of the measures we can take to prevent disaster coming our way. In doing business, we need to make sure we put all preventive measures in place that are available. Not doing so, will most likely bring us into trouble, when a certain hazard strikes. Fire and accidents on the work floor are common. Measures to reduce risk include but are not limited to protective working gear and clothing, safety instructions, training in how to safely use equipment, training in first aid, first aid materials, fire extinguishers and insurance (fire, accident & theft insurance are commonly available). Failing to take any of these measures will expose individual workers, management and the company at serious risk, much of which can be prevented. This does not only apply to management of a company or organization but also to personal and family life. Accidents at home are the cause for countless injuries, loss of life and damage of assets and property and all the costs that come along.
It is not so long ago that wearing a seat belt and having a third-party vehicle insurance were not compulsory in Ethiopia. Luckily the Government introduced such measures now by law. We still see however irresponsible behaviour by drivers and their passengers. Driving while answering the telephone or texting messages is common; driving and drinking as well. More often than not we see only the driver buckled up and not their passengers, including children. It is obvious that the traffic police do not have the capacity to enforce these basic rules effectively. But does the responsibility lie with the police or with the driver, who is supposed to be aware of the risks and protect passengers instead?
In conclusion, pointing fingers is a common response when things go wrong. It does not help however. What helps is being aware of our responsibility and take the right and timely measures to prevent disaster to come our way as much as we can, at home, in traffic and at the work place. Sounds like an open door? Just look around and see for yourself where things can go wrong. Perhaps we conclude that we should point the finger at ourselves instead.

Ton Haverkort
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