Responsibility and Blame

Blame, the word itself evokes less than pleasant childhood memories.   And blame can still send many adults running for cover.  Perhaps the only thing worse than blame, is the awful feeling of not accepting blame when it belongs square on your shoulders.

We used to call people like this (the kind that would throw you under the bus or train) a “rat” or a “fink.”  I remember when I was about 14 years old, my buddies and I were hanging out when one my friends said, “Hey, Jimmy Martin told me how to unhitch a train car, let’s go to the train yard and see if it works.”  Great idea for a group of dimwitted boys, so with that, Jeff, Terry, Paul and I, who were pretty much inseparable, headed up the road about one mile and began climbing around on the rail cars.

There were trinkets that littered the rail yard that caught our attention; we tossed a few rocks at the box cars, and then finally, the main attraction.  Jeff said, “Guys come over here…this is what Jimmy told me to do.”  And in about three well-executed moves, Jeff had done just as Jimmy Martin told him and the box car was released from the twenty or so other cars that made up the train.  The four of us stood there, eyes wide and mouths hanging open – watching the single box car, at first slowly, but then with a little more speed, roll down the tracks as the slope of the tracks carried the car directly south.

When we all finally looked at each other I said, “I’m gettin’ the heck out of here man.”  Slowly, Terry and Paul followed me, but Jeff stayed to watch.  What none of us knew was the Police were already on their way to investigate four mischievous boys in the train yard.  And when they arrived, Jeff was still there observing his handy work, he was picked up immediately.  Terry and Paul were only a short distance away and were easily commandeered.

I, on the other hand, was well over a block away and when the police car slowly pulled up beside me.  I did my best to ignore them until the officer rolled down his window and said, “Were you down at the train yard with these boys?”  In the back seat I saw Jeff and Terry with a scared rabbit look on their face and Paul in tears.  I looked at them, looked back at the officer paused for a moment, took a deep breath and said, “Yea, I guess so,” and I climbed in the back seat to join my friends.

While the ride home in the back of a police cruiser was humiliating (I slid way down in the back seat  so no one would see me), that wouldn’t have compared to the humiliation of letting my buddies take the rap for something that I was equally to blame.  Like I said, I’m no rat or fink!

Blame can send the most courageous people (regardless of position in life) cowering or it can define their character to their colleagues and clients.  We can show those around us that they can count on us in thick and thin – we can show them we have true character!

Certainly making mistakes is not something we outgrow, I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my career and there are, no doubt, many more that lie ahead.  I hope I can remain true to my 14-year old self and accept blame when it is deserved, and never be known as a rat or a fink…


Core Values: Reality or Fiction

Very impressive, a list of Core Values…

We believe in fair treatment for all

We respect all opinions

We believe in excellence in everything

Our employees are our greatest asset

Accountability for all

Diversity is a top priority

Compassion in business

Okay, so cut the crap and let’s ask your employees and your customers what they know your values to be.

If you are going to develop a list of core values (mission statement, vision statement, etc.) then you better be ready to live those values out everyday. You are essentially creating the yardstick by which you will be measured.  And if the owner, senior management, and those in a position of authority are not ready to live these values, then you developed nothing more than a statement that will be a point of ridicule.

By all means, develop your core values. But if you are really gutsy, if you are ready for some significant and substantive change, ask for an unabashed assessment – Am I living these values?


As we attended worship last evening, I was reminded of the power of hope and how much hope means at this season of Christmas.  It was hope fulfilled that brought a multitude of angels to fill the night sky more than 2,000 years ago.

And so we have hope…

Hope for this day

Hope for this upcoming year

Hope for something much greater than our minds could imagine

Wishing you the Hope of the season throughout the year.

Real Fulfillment

What do we want?

We want to advance in our careers.

We want the corner office!

We want to make more money!

Really?  Is that satisfaction?

Don’t we really want to contribute something? Isn’t real satisfaction to know what our God-given talents are and then use them?

Mother Teresa and Bill Gates have this in common – they found their Gifts and they used them…this is most satisfying.

Twenty precious hours gone

…that’s the time you lose in a year when you have one meeting a day and each meeting is delayed by five minutes because someone was late.

Meetings have a start time for a reason – okay, I’ll state the obvious; it’s when the meeting starts.

If I have asked you to attend a meeting at 1:00 pm – it’s a reasonable expectation that I will be there at 1:00 pm.  But when I don’t show up at that time, I am showing you by my actions that I really don’t care about you, I don’t care about what you are trying to accomplish, and in fact, I don’t care about what you are doing to take care of our clients. I’m showing complete disregard for that most precious and irretrievable gift: your time.

Meetings are an essential part of any organization. They help us communicate, convey, delegate, and set clear expectations. But when you are part of a meeting – get there on time, every time.


From bad to worse?

As I watched some of the special programming on television recently; I must admit I was overwhelmed.  As the evening progressed, and they summarized all of the bad news affecting this nation, it became depressing.  After they outlined all the bad news, they turned their focus on the tragic news.  It seems that just as things should improve…more bad news!  Month after month leads to year after year…when will things change?

Of course the time frame to which I am referring is 1861-1865.  These were the years of the bloodiest war in the history of the United States.  In one battle, in a matter of seven minutes, seven thousand soldiers were killed.  Entire cities were destroyed, wiped from the face of the earth. Thousands were left homeless and penniless.  And just as the war ended and things were looking up, the President of United States was assassinated.  Many could not help but wonder if the United States would survive.

We too are witnessing a difficult period of time in history, and this can affect you and your attitude; the key word here is can.

As difficult as it is, I believe there is good reason to grab hold of optimism.  First to clarify, optimism does not mean ignoring reality, nor does it mean trying to put a positive spin on something for the sake of optimism.  Optimism is the understanding and acceptance of the reality of situation and realizing that we have a choice of how to respond.  A negative response to a negative situation will not help.  In fact, it will likely make you and those around you feel even more hopeless.  People that feel hopeless are less productive, which leads to more negativity.

Truly optimistic people don’t try to fool themselves when confronted with a challenge; they just choose to believe that they will find a solution, regardless of the number of setbacks.  And each time they do find a solution, they put more “legs” under their optimistic way of living.  In fact, by remaining optimistic, you increase creativity and productivity.

Optimistic people look at situations and rather than saying “poor me, what a horrible situation this is” they say, “there must be a solution…”  When you have this attitude, you are more willing to try new things, think and act outside of your comfort zone because you know the answer is out there, you just have to find it.

Just as optimism can be self-fulfilling, so can pessimism.  If you don’t believe there is any solution, you don’t try.  When you don’t try, obviously you don’t find any answers, which only validate a defeatist way of thinking.  Pessimism leaves you feeling hopeless, depressed and eventually sick.  You wear this downcast expression on your face and everyone sees it.

John Maxwell has an excellent book, “Developing the Leader within You.”  In this book, Maxwell points out that the battle for the mind to remain positive is never over.  He also points out that it’s not motivation – it’s just a matter of being responsible for your attitude.  Motivation is a by-product; you work hard, you believe you will find a solution, and guess what? Motivation happens.

Bad news, difficult times, and challenges in life are a normal part of living.  Stop sulking and stop blaming the world for dumping on you.  The difference between success and failure isn’t so much circumstance in life as it is the attitude we choose to adopt.

You can’t be lost if you don’t know where you’re going

Lost only applies to those with direction.  If you have no idea where you are going then it’s difficult to be lost, you may have already arrived.

A business or marketing “plan” that simply responds to the latest trend or next opportunity that arises isn’t lost, it’s directionless.

  • Should you run an advertisement in this journal?
  • Should you attend that trade show?
  • Maybe you should chase the emerging market in South Asia?

Know in what direction you are headed and then get serious about defining your objectives to take you in that direction. 

Everything else, by-in-large, is static and should not concern you.

So when someone asks should we advertise here, attend that, or chase them…you need only look at your map.



Managing or Mentoring

You have an employee who is constantly under performing – they think they are doing fine. They come in everyday and give their best effort…only to be told, sorry, it just isn’t working out, we need to let you go.

Let’s retrace the steps you took to help them.

  1. You talked about their performance to other managers.
  2. You took detailed notes of their under performance and slotted it away in their personnel file.
  3. On at least two occasions over dinner and drinks, you told your spouse how disappointed you were with them.
  4. You showed another subordinate an example of the some of the miscues on their work.

…looks like you have it covered – nice job!

Managers  are a dime a dozen.

Mentors are a rare.

If you want to be the latter – set clear expectations and give your employees every opportunity to succeed!

Got an idea? What are you going to do about it?

Ideas are only the starting point; the real value comes with execution.

Ideas Execution
Are plentiful    Is rare
Can be fun Requires work
Are often fleeting       Can lead to real change
Are skinny Has meat on the bones
Are only potential Is potential realized
Fills time         Fills the funnel

As important as it is to have the free flow of new ideas in any organization, nothing is as powerful as the implementation of those ideas.  



An Assembly Line of One

Henry Ford’s crazy assembly line idea took advantage of basic sequential organization of workers, machines/tools, and parts.  Each worker with a defined (albeit limited) job focused on their task, while others along the line focused on their task.  What we as consumers got were affordable automobiles.

What if Mr. Ford had insisted on doing each of the jobs himself; a ridiculous proposition – right?  You bet it is.  But, is it any more foolish than the micro-managing supervisor in an office?  Your effort never meets their specifications – it must be their way, no room for discussion! And so…their subordinates learn, no independent thinking, no new ideas, and nothing leaves the office without the manager’s approval – nothing.  Growth will never happen because the company is an assembly line of one.

Painstakingly hire the best people you can find.  Immerse them in your culture and make sure they know what is expected.  And then, get the hell out of the way and let them do their job!