It’s really easy – and highly tempting - to blame poor performance on other people or circumstances– but are you yourself the problem? Are you really fit to lead?

For instance, do you ever find yourself repeating behaviours such as; recruiting the wrong people; having key people leave unexpectedly; getting yourself overloaded?

We all have patterns that keep coming back – good or bad. It’s worth investing some time in self analysis – taking that long hard look in the mirror – to check out whether we’re really as good as we’d like to believe – or even need to be to take our businesses forward in these challenging times.

So I spoke to Productivity Specialist Hilary Briggs of R2P Ltd and asked her for her top tips…

When strengths become weaknesses

“One pattern I’ve recognized is my optimistic streak.” says Hilary.

"In many situations it’s a great strength; I have had superb results overcoming major challenges ranging from a recovery after a factory fire through to managing tight cashflow situations. However, at other times it’s been a weakness as it’s meant I’ve missed things. For instance; overly focusing on the opportunities, I got involved far too hastily with one company five years ago and ended up having to put it into liquidation.”

In other words, our greatest strengths overextended become our biggest weaknesses. Hilary has seen clients who are complete perfectionists, yet find it hard to get employees who can match their standards; others who are very focused on short term results, but find longer term strategy more difficult; or others who are really creative with new ideas, yet find it tough to make hard choices in the day-to-day business.

The solution is to find people you can work with in some way that will counterbalance your qualities.

For instance, on a personal level Hilary now checks out ideas with other contacts who, to her optimistic way of thinking, are “negative”; they will see things she may overlook or dismiss. This process brings out its own challenges, such as keeping an open mind whilst hearing things one doesn’t want to, and being able to communicate with people with different values. But it will make you a better leader.

So ask yourself - what are my strengths? What weaknesses do they create? What am I doing to mitigate those?

Why business owners sometimes can’t see the obvious

“We like to surround ourselves with people like us, which fuels a natural tendency to recruit in our own image when it comes to business. It makes life easy. We can anticipate more accurately how people will react; we feel comfortable. However, as we view the world through our own sets of values and beliefs, it means we are more vulnerable to missing things which might be very obvious to others with a different background or experience.” explains Hilary.

It takes effort to get out of one’s comfort zone, get new perspectives and find people who aren’t in our normal circles. Networking is one way to do this, but even with that one can end up in a group with similar mindsets (e.g. entrepreneurs) – and miss people from very different backgrounds.

So Hilary suggests you ask yourself…
What hobbies could you take up that could expand your network? How could you benefit from better use of your contacts through family, friends or existing activities? Some people like to keep work and private life completely separate – however I’m suggesting using them more as an intelligence source. Be interested in their perspectives on the world; what are they noticing, what impact might that have on you and your business? How would they deal with your challenges? What alternative approaches could you generate?

Don’t manage your staff – manage yourself

People issues seem to be the bane of many business leaders’ lives. Issues with Senior Management team performance or particular “problem” people are not unusual. Rather than get stuck in complaining how bad everything is, Hilary recommends taking full responsibility and assuming that you caused the issue yourself.

“For instance, the reality might be that you recruited the wrong person, got the wrong role profile, or are mismanaging them. There is always an action to take oneself – this helps to avoid the victim mentality, as there is always something one can do.” says Hilary.

As one works through the steps and systematically eliminates them, it may in the end come down to the person being the problem, but by then, you’ll have given them a chance and been seen to be fair, which will make any tough decisions much easier. The only snag is the time this might take. Depending on the impact and consequences of the issues on the table, the steps and depth of each step can be tailored to the time available – from hours to months.

In Summary

Hilary’s advice is that whenever you find yourself blaming others/the economy/the government, it’s time to take a long hard look in the mirror and assess your contribution to the situation. Your journey of self analysis will undoubtedly have generated new opportunities and solutions en route – and ensure that you’re a stronger, fitter leader as well.

Author's Bio: 

About Hilary Briggs:
Hilary Briggs is Managing Director of productivity specialists R2P Ltd. During her earlier career, Hilary was Logistics Director for Rover Group Large Cars; European Product Marketing Director for Dishwashing, Whirlpool Corporation and Managing Director of Laird Group plc’s German-based Car Body Sealing Division, with a turnover of £200m and over 4,000 employees worldwide. For more information about Hilary Briggs see

About Chantal Cooke:
Chantal is an award winning journalist and broadcaster, and co-founder of PASSION for the PLANET – the Uk’s only ethically focused radio station. You can read more articles, and listen and 100s of podcasts at