Responsibility for Others: Management 101

I was reading a murder mystery last night (what else is new?).  In closing, the Captain of the detectives was lamenting about how he would explain to his bosses about one of his subordinates.  The subordinate was guilty of helping the serial killer with a murder and with getting away with murder.  This Captain was concerned that he could not explain his subordinate’s activities and could not explain how he missed this monumental change in his subordinate.

In other words, this captain was being held accountable for his staff’s activities.  Not only was he being held responsible for those activities, but he was answerable to not being aware of staff changes in demeanor.  This murder mystery is set in England (of course!).  It could not have been set in America, and here is why…

I have sat in dozens of management meetings and listened to dozens of managers talk about their results.  What is consistent across all of those meetings and all of those managers is this idea that “I am not responsible for my staff’s activities.” Or another concept “I am not aware of what my staff did or is doing, look, they messed it up…”.

Upper management, in every single place that I have ever worked, is not at all aware of what their own managers do.  I’m not sure that I understand the philosophy that allows this kind of behavior.  They supervise people that they do not understand and know and can go for months and even years not knowing what kind of behavior is perpetrated onto the line staff.   Sometimes it is because of secrets, sometimes it is blatant,  transparency is not a concept that lives well in America.  Americans keep secrets, lots and lots of them.

As a manager, and a supervisor, it is your responsibility to KNOW what your staff is doing.  Are managers fooled, tricked and manipulated?  Yes, yes of course.  Yet, that is the job, to follow up, to find out, to make it work appropriately.  It is your job as a manager to dig out the secrets, to become aware of the secrets, to bring light to the secrets.

Honestly, that’s why when the pervert/perpetrator Olympics coach was being sued, the school and the organizations that he works for are sued also.  Whether Americans want to understand the concept or not, if you manage someone, you are responsible for that someone.  If you are in charge of an institution, that institution is your responsibility.

We have a culture of excuses and we work hard to make those excuses believable.  There are a few diamonds out there, who stand up and take responsibility, good, bad or indifferent, they will own the responsibility.  More often than not, excuses win the day.  Excuses become the work product, because the work product is difficult to accomplish or difficult to measure.  Either way, Americans have a preference for a story rather than the results, excepting, of course, for the Americans who are actually paying for the results.

Which one are you?  Are you responsible for your staff when the performance is fantastic, and not, when not?  Or, do you take responsibility for your staff, your institution, the things you get paid for, as they are?

The difference between mediocrity, which is common, and the uncommon, which is excellence, is this concept of responsibility for others.  By taking care of people, you unwittingly take care of yourself.



I’ve often denigrated avoidance as if it is a bad thing.  I thought that people who avoided truth, or reality were sissys or crybabies, who don’t deserve truth.

And now I want to avoid.  I don’t want to know if you have relapsed on cocaine.  I don’t want to know that you are back to shooting heroin.  I don’t want to know that you are “off the wagon” and “drinking like a fish”.

It hurts.

I am past the point of believing that I can make you change.  I am past the point of believing that “things” will be better.

“Don’t tell because it hurts”  No Doubt, Tragic Kingdom, 1995

Does the sun come back?

Does the sun come back?


Making Things Work; Making Life Work

I know so many people and can think of so many incidents where people do whatever they can to STOP the process.  When I say process, I mean movement forward towards a good or towards a completion of a goal.

It doesn’t matter what the process is, it can be good, bad or indifferent, it just doesn’t matter.  These people are interested in just stopping the process.  They have a reason, an elaborate justification to keep you or your cause from moving forward.  Perhaps they do not want to see you succeed.  Perhaps their life has stopped and they do not know how to navigate a forward motion, be it their own or someone else’s.  They have lived in stagnation for so long they can not understand forward motion.

You will have met these individuals; they often work in government jobs as bureaucrats.  It is uncanny how they can smell your need and then trounce it into the ground, killing it for all time.

Unbeknownst to most people is an understanding of human behavior.  We are creatures of habit.  We rarely do anything today that we have not done yesterday.  This is important to note, because when we stop the workability of other’s lives, we also stop the workability of our own lives.  Destroying another person’s effort often comes with a price tag of destroying one’s own effort.  This is a factor not known to most.

Why do we stop forward motion?  Why do we question and halt the effort of others?  Why can we not facilitate the lives of others in the same way that we would wish others would facilitate our own?  Why do some people take pleasure in halting and crippling the efforts and success of others?  Further, who has the time to focus on another, in order to destroy their efforts?

More than likely, it a minor thing that piles up into a life.  It’s that nugget of resentment that you harbor for that person that makes you want to clog up the workability of the process.  It is a remembered upset or a frustrating exchange and now you want that person to suffer for your memory.  Or, perhaps, you are just jealous, you wish you were that successful and you cannot stand seeing someone else being successful.  Clogging the workability of the process stops all of us from being successful and it is very sad that everyone does not understand this fact.


Don’t Give In, Don’t Give Up

There is a substantial difference between the life you live when you give up and the life you live when you do not give up.  I’m not speaking here about stubbornness or a blinders-on determination to get your way.  No, I am speaking of this idea of continuing to work on your goal until it can be resolved.  Notice the use of the word ‘resolve’, sometimes, we make goals that simply don’t work for us and we will have to walk away from them.

Sometimes I will be trying hard to talk with a “customer service” representative to resolve an issue, request a credit or ask for a reduction in my bills.  Each and every time that I have this goal, I am put on hold for interminable amounts of time, the call gets accidentally disconnected and I have to start over, sometimes a half dozen times.  I am greatly tempted to just give up.  I am greatly tempted to get very angry and just live with the cost of the mistakes of others.  This is not a good life strategy.  

Several years ago, I lost a job and had to take work that was an hours drive away and paid substantially less.  I worked very hard at improving myself.  I dedicated myself to learning this job.  In the mean time, I worked very hard at finding a new job.  I was on Linked-In, I had a great resume’, I applied for jobs every week.  I went to several interviews and was turned down.  One morning in July, on my drive in to work, my resolve broke and I cried and cried.  I was endlessly tired from the long days.  I didn’t fit into my work world and I was deeply unhappy at work.  It didn’t help that every penny of what I made was just getting the bills paid.

Suddenly a song came on the radio: ‘Hold Onto Your Dreams’.  That song, at that moment, was all I needed.  I held on and soon I was transferred close to home with an incredible raise.  That struggle didn’t end there, it took me three more years to land where I needed to be, but every time I got discouraged I remembered that moment in the car and that song.

I think that my life would be incredibly different if I couldn’t hang on and keep trying even when things seem very bad.  That extra effort is what brings me to the win almost every time. 

The second benefit is that it really helps to keep me from faulty thinking.  Or, at least it helps to keep my faulty thinking from controlling my decisions.

I was single for a very long time.  There were times when I thought that I must be flawed and that’s why I could not find an enduring relationship.  In this area of my life I knew that I couldn’t give up.  I did everything that I could to understand myself so that I could be a good partner.  Eventually it worked.  Eventually I found my life partner and it only happened because I was willing to keep on taking chances and to keep on trying.

Imagine me getting discouraged and giving up, single, broke and downhearted.  It doesn’t seem possible now.

Mother's Day Johanna Sr & Jaxsun 2010

Mother’s Day Johanna Sr & Jaxsun 2010

Cadence Birthday - 2010

Cadence Birthday – 2010

Rhea & Jax June 28 2010

David & Jaxsun

David & Jaxsun

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