09Mar

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.

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