Momentum Podcast: 46

Responsibility Over Blame

by Alex Charfen

Episode Description

I simplify everything I can when it comes to communicating with entrepreneurs. When it comes to people like us, we want information fast, concise and in a way that can be remembered. 

One simple equation I share with all my private clients is Responsibility/Blame or responsibility over blame. This simple equation, applied correctly, will help you create momentum and propel yourself forward in ways you can't see otherwise. Applied incorrectly, it can create constraint.

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Full Audio Transcript

I'm Alex Charfen, and this is The Momentum Podcast, made for empire builders, game changers, trailblazers, shot takers, record breakers, world makers, and creators of all kinds. Those among us who can't turn it off, and don't know why anyone would want to. We challenge complacency, destroy apathy, and we are obsessed with creating momentum so we can roll over bureaucracy and make our greatest contribution.

Sure, we'll pay attention to their rules, but only so that we can bend them, break them, and then rewrite them around our own will. We don't accept our destiny, we define it. We don't understand defeat because the only way you lose is if you stop, and we don't know how. While the rest of the world strives for average and clings desperately to the status quo, we are the minority, the few who are willing to hallucinate there could be a better future, and instead of just daydreaming of what could be, we endure the vulnerability and exposure it takes to make it real. We are the evolutionary hunters. Clearly the most important people in the world because entrepreneurs are the only source of consistent positive human evolution, and we always will be.

Welcome to episode 46. This is just awesome. I have had so much fun doing this podcast, and it's been so exciting to record these. Today I'm going to share a short equation. Responsibility over blame. You know, in my life one of the things I've tried to do is simplify my content, my communication, the rules that I live by to the simplest and most robust statement, but in the shortest amount of time. How can I communicate to one of my clients in the fastest way possible what's important? I'm going to share that with you on this episode.

First, it was just so exciting. I just went up to Russell Brunson's event for an inner circle meeting, a mastermind that we're in. When I introduced myself as having the Momentum podcast, everybody clapped. It's just so cool, because Russell told me that his team listens to it, his executive team, his entire team in the office, they all heard the episode on staying hydrated and water was the biggest bio-hack, and he said it just changed the behavior of the office. They all carry water bottles now, they're going to the bathroom all the time. He's even talked about it on a couple of his podcasts.

It's just really exciting and I want to thank you and everyone who has listened to this and for sharing it and subscribing and downloading and leaving reviews on iTunes. It has been amazing. If I'm ever having a bad day, I just flip over to iTunes and read a few of the reviews of this podcast. They're awesome, and it reminds me why I'm doing what I'm doing. Let me get to the topic of this episode, responsibility over blame. This is one of those simple equations that if you write it out and you write responsibility, draw a line under it, and then write blame underneath it, if you are willing to live above that line and take responsibility for what happens around you, it will change everything in your life.

Now, there are times where something happens in our lives that I don't think we should take responsibility for. You know, there are things that are beyond our control. My wife lost her father, Mike Mayo, at 58 years old. He found out that he had a fast acting form of lung cancer that was almost hyperactive, hyperreactive. From the day that he first felt symptoms and went to the hospital to ... Really, he thought he was dehydrated. He didn't know there was anything seriously wrong, to the day he passed away was 72 days. I don't know how Cadey and I can take responsibility for that having happen. That is one of those things you can reconcile, you can understand, but we shouldn't try and take responsibility for things like that, that happen to us.

What I'm talking about when I say responsibility over blame, what are those things that happen where we feel like we should blame or we want to blame, but we can radically change our lives by taking responsibility? I'll share one of these times that I've gone through in my life where I wanted to blame so badly. I've employed over 1,000 people, and I'm not talking contractors. I have had W2 employees over 1,000 people that have worked with us at least one day. Some of them didn't finish out the day.

I have crazy polarizing companies where I look for unique people. I look for hidden talent. I look for people who are a little obsessive, maybe a lot obsessive. I look for people who are a lot like me. I want people who, it keeps them up at night if they get something wrong, and they're not going to let a broken system sit there. They're going to obsess over fixing it, and they're going to create momentum and they will track and look at progress. Those are the people I want.

I have had some really challenging hires, but I'm going to tell you about my worst hire ever. To give you perspective, I've had more than one drinker, people who actually drank heavily on the job and it affected their performance. We've had to call cabs for people that we let go before. To give you perspective, we've had people that were hired on and left in the same day. They literally couldn't take the pressure or the atmosphere, the environment that we have there, or that we had in our company.

I've had team members where, I know that sometimes, let's just say they're altered. They've probably done something on their lunch break, not necessarily alcohol, but I think we've had more than one team member that would sometimes smoke some weed every once in a while. It's funny, because any of them hearing this I want you to know, you didn't think I know, but I know. I knew back then, but as long as it didn't affect work performance, we're in Austin and I didn't want to become the company that drug tested everybody. If people were performing, we just let them perform. We actually had an insurance policy that required us to drug test on the way in, but we've had some really challenging people, but this is the worst hire we ever had.

We were hiring a department head, a director, for a department that had been vacant for a long time. I'm not going to fill in the vacancy position, because I don't want to give away who this is. If I say hire a director, we've done that dozens of times so it's hard to narrow it down. This was a position that had been open for a long time, and a guy came in and he was very good at selling himself. He was very good at talking about himself. He seemed to understand a lot about the position that we wanted him in, and you know, he got through the interview process.

Almost immediately it was like the craziest experience ever because, he came into our company and within the first few days he bought a new car. Then he wanted everybody to go out and see his new car with him, which was really bizarre. We handed out copies of Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover and encouraged our team members to become ... I hate the word employees. For all of you who ever have worked with me, I met team members, crap. We used to give everybody Total Money Makeover and we've helped dozens of people get out of debt. Cadey and I have personally coached team members through this, so it was weird that he bought the car.

Then we also had this experience where, within a week of him being with our company we had one of our team members tell us that they had gone out on a weekend, and that this person had taken that new car and driven it like, 100 miles an hour down a freeway. We went and confronted him with it, and I don't know if I confronted him or somebody else did, but I just remember that he had this explanation that he got a little out of control and he realizes now how crazy it was. It was congruent, or what felt congruent, and we kept him in the position because we'd had such a hard time filling the position that we kept him there, and it just did not get better.

We had a team member who came to us and said that they were, like, borderline suicidal from having to deal with this manager. I was like, "What the heck is going on?" This was one of those things where it's like, coming at you all at once. This was in just a number of days. I don't remember, it was not that long that all of this happened. The straw that finally broke the camel's back is, we had recruited and hired someone in this department, and within I think one or two days of that person being with our company, this person fired the new team member without any confirmation from anyone in the ... Like, me, my wife, anyone who was in the executive suite. This was a director, not somebody who was on the executive team at the time. We finally had to go and get him out of the company.

Just to give you an idea of how crazy terrible of a hire this was, we terminated the contract within 90 days, so we told the unemployment office that we weren't responsible for paying unemployment. Then this person went through the entire process. They did the first interview, the second interview, the appeal, which is just like, nobody goes all the way because usually it's pretty black and white. There were times where we tried to say we shouldn't pay unemployment and they made us anyway. Whenever that happened, we had a huge payroll, so we had to make sure that if somebody got terminated within 90 days or if we terminated with cause, that we didn't have to end up paying for unemployment, because that raises your rates and it was a huge number for us. He went all the way through the process, and then he sued us in federal court. He sued us, and this showed just how much of a mistake this was. He sued us and the State of Texas and Fred Perry, who was at the time the governor. Sorry, Rick Perry, I said Fred Perry. I do not follow politics and current events, but I should have looked this one up so I didn't say Fred Perry. I meant Rick Perry. He sued all three parties, and we actually had to hire an attorney to go to the day of the lawsuit because, what this person did, they hand wrote the lawsuit. When we were sent a copy, it was hand written.

Clearly, this was one of those things where I just wanted to blame this person. Like, "How could I take responsibility for somebody being this out of control and nuts?" It was an uncomfortable situation, but I always try and ask myself, "Where's my responsibility here?" Clearly, and this is for anyone who runs a company. In an employment situation, it doesn't matter what happens, you have responsibility, period. If somebody interviews with your company and they're upset, that's your responsibility. Even if they're unreasonable, there's something there that is telling you, either you're attracting the wrong person, you're bringing in the wrong person, you're writing your ads in a way that are getting the wrong person there. It's something to consider every time that you feel like blaming.

When I reviewed this situation, man it was just clear as day. One, I didn't get three comparable references. When you're hiring someone, here's my suggestion. You get three references from people like you. I was a CEO hiring someone to act as a director, and I got one reference from somebody that this person had worked with at a director level, and then I got two coworkers. I got one boss, two coworkers.

The challenge with that is that, if you're not getting three comparable references, you don't really know what this person's going to be like in the position, and clearly, we didn't. We got one decent reference too, and I just was so desperate to hire someone in this position, that we got one decent reference and then two coworker references that were glowing. Here's the challenge. Anyone can give a coworker to give them a reference. The one reference from a CEO wasn't even that great, it was somewhat challenging. I just again, I over ...

Here's the second place where I made a mistake there, and I'm taking responsibility. We changed our entire interview process, where now three comparable references are required. If somebody can't produce them, then it has to be extraordinary for us to even consider them. Then here's the big one. No, sorry, I'll show you the big one in a second. The second one is, we didn't complete our interview process. We didn't have every executive interview this person. We had a couple of them, but someone wasn't in, someone was busy, we couldn't get schedules to align, and so we hired him anyway, and we should not have done that. We skipped steps in the process, so that sent me to re-solidify our entire interview process.

Then, here's the big one. I didn't listen to Cadey. Cadey interviewed him, and she really didn't like him and just said that there was stuff about him that rubbed her the wrong way and she didn't like how he answered questions. That she just felt this level of incongruency there, and that we should check more references. I was again, such a hurry to fill the position and so overwhelmed by it that we did it anyway.

When I finally took responsibility for that, it was devastating. I had to go back and rebuild the entire way that I hire. I had to go back and rebuild our entire interview process and, this is what we teach people, so it's improved the way we teach like crazy. I make sure that I listen to Cadey, because when I think about the people who were affected, you know, as a CEO you make decisions that affect people's lives.

I think of the person we hired, we should have never hired him. I say there's no broken people, like, this person isn't broken in our company, they're just not right for our company. They can go somewhere else. In this case, gosh it was really hard to say that, but maybe he could have gotten another opportunity where it worked out. I think of our team members that had to put up with him, had to deal with him, the stress was palpable. I think of the team member that was affected mentally, like was feeling so constrained, so challenged that he was feeling suicidal. Then the person that got fired after an incredibly short, unfair period of time. That will cause you to change things.

In your life, where is it right now that you feel like blaming someone that you feel ... Blaming, let's be honest, it feels good. You can get it off your chest. Early, when I very first started employing people and started with a team and started getting leverage, if somebody on the team got fired I used to talk about it with the team, but not in a way that any CEO ever should. I learned my lessons. I used to say bad things about the person afterwards, or I used to say challenging things. When someone leaves your team, you should just tell everyone why and that should be the end of the discussion. When I was younger, I realized just how devastating it was to go past that. I know that it's our responsibility as entrepreneurs to assess the situation and figure out where we can improve.

If you're looking for momentum, if you want to understand how to move forward the fastest, there's two ways to do it. You can do everything it takes to create forward momentum, or you can change some of your behaviors in the present to create momentum just through a new behavior. Shifting from blame to responsibility will do that for you almost instantaneously.

Thanks for being here with me. I appreciate you listening. The Momentum Podcast, like I said earlier, is one of the coolest things I've ever done. I'm having a ball with this dialog between the two of us. Do me a favor, answer back. Go to iTunes, subscribe, and leave me a review. Let me know how we're doing, what you think of the podcast. If you haven't yet, download a copy of my book. I have had several people send me some pretty incredible text messages recently, and I want you to know it's available at It's called The Entrepreneurial Personality Type, and if you relate to this podcast, that book will tell you more about yourself than anyone ever has. Thanks, and I appreciate you being here.

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