Mentoring has been a huge part of my ongoing education in business.

During the course of the last week, I learned two great lessons.

The first was from Tamara Cox – a partner at ReedSmith. “Take ownership of your failures!” she told me. I’d had a few setbacks in the days prior to the session, so the words struck home keenly.

Not long after, I was having a coffee with Paul Sesay, the founder of the national Diversity Awards who sits on our Board at Generation Success. “Own your situation. Don’t let it own you,” he said. They must have gone to the same school of business advice!.

Regardless, I have been trying to road-test these theories ever since. Are they just examples of generic motivational language, or do they really work in practical situations.

At my team meeting today, I decided to give Paul’s advice a team context. One of our biggest events – Breaking Barriers – was just around the corner, and I figured if it was to be a success, we would have to own our situation and not let it own us.

I knew our team meeting would be very long and would focus a lot on the issues that we had to overcome in organising the event. Namely:

  • Lack of time (21 days and counting to be precise)
  • Lack of money (or “zero” money if we are splitting hairs)
  • Lack of resources (basically none apart from the six people in the room – only three of whom work full time)

Despite this, we still have to deliver a successful conference (including speakers, catering and networking) to over 300 people.

“It can’t be done!” I hear you cry. But it WILL be done. It MUST be done! (You see? OWN your situation!)

So, I started the meeting by congratulating the team on the last project which had been delivered successfully. I told them we would normally celebrate but that we had to postpone it as we were now at battle stations for the next three weeks. Carrot, meet the stick!

But to keep the positive vibes going, I asked everyone in the room to say one thing they thought worked in the last successful project, and what they enjoyed about being part of the Generation Success team.

Ice broken, and the team now primed and glowing with positivity, we skipped the more general company updates and went straight into the planning for Breaking Barriers.

I started by reminding everyone why we were here. I talked about our company vision and our values and encouraged everyone to share examples how we lived them every day. Luckily everyone seemed to have a genuine passion for what we were trying to achieve. A good start!

Next we focussed on the issues we faced in making the event happen. What were the barriers to Breaking Barriers? The clue is in the title. It is our job to see barriers not as insurmountable, but as challenges and stepping stones to future success.

“What about the audience,” I said to Elza, our project lead. “What are the issues there?”

Her answer: “We don’t have any audience issues!”

The next issue? Same answer. And the next.

By the fourth time we did this everyone burst out laughing. Because suddenly there weren’t any issues any more. Only action points. As a team we had taken ownership and focused on things that were within our control.

Don’t get me wrong, there is still a lot to do. The meeting resulted in a LOT of action points. But they all felt achievable. From experience, if an action is driven by optimism and desire – and has specific timescales and measurable results – it can lead to magical things.

Situation – consider yourself owned! We now have 21 days to make the Breaking Barriers event a success.

Let’s see if we can deliver!