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Articles > Positioning Systems Newsletter #54 Are you a cynic? 2-28-06

I hate to admit this, but the areas I know the least about are the areas I never work on. I don’t like working on them, in addition I’m afraid to discover what’s going wrong because it will only give me more work. What can I do about this?

The first thing you must recognize is that this kind of behavior is being a cynic. What is a cynic? Not someone who doesn’t care, rather someone who cares too much. A cynic is someone who avoids the pain by making it appear that thingsdon’t matter to him. Most business owners fall into this category.There’s so much going on around them, and if the business is dependent upon them, they are completely frustrated. They don’twant to find more "problems" or frustrations in their business, they already have enough.

One of the greatest challenges in working with clients and prospects is getting them to believe they and their business can accomplish what Michael Gerber outlines in the E-Myth Revisited. It’s ironic that most business owners can do the technical work of their business literally blindfolded, but when it comes to working "on" their business they fall all over themselves and fail to reap the rewards of what a simple change of thinking will provide them.

Let’s stop fooling ourselves. Either we don’t believe the principles will work (Despite the fact that thousands of business in corporate America apply these principles everyday with enormous success), or we believe it’s okay to have lower standards for our business and ourselves. The greatest challenge for any small business owner today is their cynicism.

Let me remind you again of what a cynic is. Not someone who doesn’t care, but rather someone who cares too much. Rather than appear to care they avoid the pain by appearing to not let things matter to them. Some business owners don’t know they need systems and thus don’t know how or why to quantify. Some have ways to quantify but simply avoid their numbers. They don’t want to see how they are doing because it hurts too much. Perhaps the latter is the more harden cynic, but truly both business owners are cynics. Rather than determine how they can improve they avoid finding the answer. The work of improving or changing is too painful.

Yet any business that’s made any progress invests in itself and its people. A former sales manager I worked with had a saying he used, "When you’re green you grow, when you are ripe you rot!" Cynicism is the worst disease a business can have, because it causes decay. It sends a signal to your people that you don’t believe in yourself or the growth of your business. When business owners tell me their employees don’t care, it’s generally a good indication that the leader has developed a good degree of cynicism. The business is a reflection of the owner, and while certainly some employees can have bad attitudes, it is the owner’s responsibility to deal with these individuals, save them or eliminate them before they damage the people around them. The owner influences the attitude the employees reflect.

You say you’re not cynical? Cynicism is something we all experience from time to time. It can be expressed as a facial expression, a roll of the eyes, body language, an offhand sarcastic remark. Cynicism is an attitude that perpetuates discontent. A cynic focuses on what’s not working rather than how to make things better. Cynicism can be contagious and can quickly undermine an otherwise stable or healthy environment. And it always has a negative impact, however slight.

It’s important to recognize cynics in yourself and others and learn to curb it. People are often surprised to learn that common behaviors are expressions of cynicism. For example, it’s cynical if you automatically jump to the conclusion that a new way of doing something won’t work before trying it or giving it careful consideration. Habitually making sarcastic comments, or even jokes, about management or about "those guys in accounting" is another example. In reality males are the worst at this, since cynical and disparaging remarks are almost a rite of passage growing up with other boys.

It is true we can only hold one thought at a time. What thought do you hold in your business? Is it a positive optimistic vision of what the business will become? Does it believe in people and that any frustration can be solved through implementation of systems? As the business owner you need to be especially mindful about the ways you express frustrations or doubts and how you react to new ideas and proposals. Negative responses that are instinctive or automatic are likely to be signs of cynicism. Negative responses aren’t inherently cynical. Sometimes, after consideration and thought, a negative reaction can be entirely appropriate and constructive.

The point here is, be alert for cynicism in yourself and others. Take immediate steps to convert it into more constructive attitudes. This represents a change in thinking. It is the most important step you as a business owner need to make and why we devote so much attention to it in the first module on Leadership. Do the E-Myth Principles really work? As William Shakespeare is quoted, "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." Are you a cynic? What do you believe about your business, yourself and your future? Have you created a path and invested in the future of that outcome?

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Positioning Systems helps business owners and entrepreneurs transform their business.  We provide the tools and coaching to help you take control of your business -- rather then having your business control you.