Are you suffering from Ostrich Syndrome?

Are you suffering from Ostrich Syndrome?


There are certain things that go with the territory when you are an employee. Someone eating your yogurt out of the communal fridge, a slightly passive aggressive boss, and being held accountable. And whilst all three could seem rather painful at times, being held accountable was actually a great way to get stuff done and be better at what you do.

We are big fans of accountability in the Business Shed (our online business growth club) and we know that when you run a small business, often without a partner or senior team around you, it can be in short supply. Some people are good at holding themselves accountable, but most mere mortals find that the liberating autonomy that running your own business brings can sometimes lead to a severe case of Ostrich Syndrome. Hard question, meet head. Head, meet sand. So why is accountability just so important for small business owners?

A longer-term outlook

Finding that accountability when you run your own business becomes critical. It helps shift business owners from the short-term, working ‘in business’ thinking to a longer- term,  working ‘on business’ perspective. The most common challenge Shed members have is the lack of time to dedicate to working on their business strategy and projects that are not in the here-and-now, do-it-or-a-client-may-scream time scale. So for them, turning up to the Shed every month forces them to focus away from the to-do list and onto the to-plan list. Being held accountable to planning your business’ future is a key step to sustainable growth.

The challenger viewpoint

When you only have your stapler and the postman to talk to, there is not a lot of challenge happening. Building a business by yourself can  mean you lack the critical challenger viewpoint. Those tricky, often a little uncomfortable questions that you probably know should be asked, but you don’t say out loud. Questions like ‘why are you doing it like that?’ and ‘Why are you spending so much time doing this, when that is more important to generating income?’ And even when we do ask ourselves these questions, our own unconscious bias can stop us reaching the actual answer and provides us with justification instead.

Uncover the blind spots

Small business owners submerge themselves in their business; they get down and dirty with the nitty gritty, they know every nook and cranny. But even then, they can have blind spots, and these spots can be anywhere. Blind spots about persevering with selling  a product type whose income stream evaporated months ago. Blind spots about how a supplier is short changing them on quality. Blind spots about how alarmingly mediocre their social media content is. And the annoying thing is about blind spots, not to state the blindingly obvious, is that you can’t see them. Which is where accountability comes in. An outside support can shine a light on these spots, illuminate where things are not quite right or going awry, or just help the business owner see more clearly what is happening.

Accountability breeds motivation (or just gets stuff done)

It almost goes without saying that if you are being held accountable, you will be more motivated. Ideally, this scrutiny happens regularly, so that you know when the gaze of accountability will fall upon you and your business and you will do the important things that need doing in good time (or do them the day before whilst perspiring in a slight panic). Either way, stuff gets done because you are accountable. And as more stuff gets done, momentum picks up. And as momentum increases, so does your motivation to keep going. A virtuous circle of forward movement that helps your business grow.

Accountability works. What now?

If you feel in need of support and focus, there are things you can do. If you want to hold yourself accountable, try to write down the killer questions that you know you shy away from and commit to giving time to them – put slots in the calendar regularly to look at them, ask those ‘why’ questions, write down the outcomes that you want and measure what happens. Create client, supplier or team surveys with the intent to uncover some of those blind spots. Scope a 12 month vision for your business, and once a quarter take it out and measure where you are against it. Re-set actions to get you back on track if needed.

We advise against asking your partner / best friend / cat to hold you accountable. They will either be too nice to deliver the accountability that will really help or tell it how it is and one of you will thrown out of the cat flap with no dinner. Alternatively, find a business support service – a coach or business group – that will create regular, useful accountability.

So, there is a cure for Ostrich Syndrome. Don’t suffer in silence anymore. Find what sort of accountability works for you. And it goes without saying that ostriches are more than welcome in the Shed. We give all of our members friendly accountability as standard. We’ll transform you into a meerkat before you know it.


If you are interested in The Busines Shed, we have monthly virtual meetings where you are more than welcome to visit. Please email for more information or to reserve a seat.