It could be that I am getting older. Okay I definitely am.   I do remember when as the manager, leader, executive, you were accountable for the success or failure of the entire enterprise. After all,

  • Everyone follows the course you set for the organization.
  • Your direct reports are responsible for their subordinates.
  • People lead by example.
  • The “big bucks” are paid because you are responsible.


Succeed or fail, you were the one on the line. Why? Because you had the ability to hire and fire, set goals and objectives, and make sure things happened (or didn’t). To blame a subordinate was a confession that you failed to manage, lead, and execute.


In my first role as manager at the ripe ole age of 23, I ran a retail bookstore. One day I received a visit from the corporate VP of Sales. Within moments of being in the store, he began to reprimand my assistant manager.


I politely interrupted the VP and asked him to step into my office. Something very important had to be addressed.


He stepped into the office and I quietly shut the door. I began by asking him what the issue was. When he explained he had taken care of my assistant manager and behavior would be corrected.


I began to explain that anything wrong in my store was my responsibility and to be taken up with me. If something was wrong, then I was the one he needed to tell, no one else. I’d take it up with my employees IF it were something that needed to be addressed. Every operation and action taken within my store was done under my authority, so I am on the hook.


It was a concept quite unfamiliar both to him and the organization, as I was soon to find out. You can delegate the activity, but you cannot unload the ultimate accountable for action and results.


Truthfully, there have always been those who are never responsible, and when something negative happens, it’s always someone else’s responsibility or fault. Actually it may have been someone else’s action(s).   You, however, are responsible for making sure the right things get done and the wrong things don’t.


Yes, there are always going to be instances when something slips through the cracks, but on a day-to-day basis managers get paid for minding the store. Unfortunately many managers are quick to take credit for success and quicker to lay the blame when things don’t go right, or as planned.


Before I go further, the following tale is not meant to malign the military or the current administration (Congress, however, is not exempt.)


A former military man explained the game to me:


“You need to understand. In any battle or campaign, the general is never at fault. It is the major’s fault. But keep in mind, the major can’t be faulted, because the captain was supposed to take care of it.


The captain gave orders to the corporal. He didn’t give the corporal the following:

  • Equipment
  • Directions
  • A team
  • Supplies
  • Transportation to the battlefield


As a result of poor direction, inadequate resources, and no access to where things needed to occur, the campaign failed. When the failure became evident, Congress demanded answers.


The inquiry began with the corporal, who cited that he was unable to undertake the mission because he had no supplies, people, and transportation.


The captain responded that is no excuse. “I gave you an order, and you should have succeeded regardless.”


The major called the captain in. It was agreed it was the corporal’s fault. The major then told the general it was a failure in the field.


The general went to Congress and said the corporal was at fault.


When the corporal was brought before Congress to talk about results, he simply stated: “If the General had been accountable, he would have asked for weapons, his team would have had the newest and best, and been the brightest. The corporal concluded if the soldier was as well equipped as Congress, then all the ass-ets would be protected and victory assured.”


The corporal was shot at dawn or would have been if only someone had been accountable. When all was said and done, the corporal ran for Congress.


A short time later, when the General came before Congress the first question he was asked was, “Remember me?”


Ultimately the success or failure of an organization depends upon its leadership. An organization will be unable to function effectively and efficiently when managers are operating under these constraints:


  • lack of experience
  • inability to make decisions
  • too concerned with “size” instead of quality of results
  • seeking growth at all costs
  • sacrificing workers to maintain their own interests
  • never accepting responsibility for anything


The organization will be unable to compete. The organization will fail.


Copyright ©2005 F.O.C.U.S. Resource, Inc.


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