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You Are Where the Buck Stops

Leaders, the buck stops with you. I hope that’s not news to you. If it is, we will spend some time today talking about why.

You may wonder, why now? I’m no fortune teller, but I read enough. And from what I’m reading, challenging times are right in front of us.

It’s hard to say how good or bad it will be. We certainly don’t know how it will impact every business. But it will affect many companies and consumers.

And if things get tough for you, resist the temptation to give over control to external forces. Your team is looking to you—every decision you make matters. And the mindset you approach the next few years will tell the tale of your business, division, or team.

You Are Responsible

No matter what level of leadership you hold in the organization, you are responsible for everything that happens on your team.

Read that again.

You are responsible for everything that happens on your team.

And while you may know that intellectually, you need to embrace it emotionally. Because when things go wrong, we want to find someone to blame. Because otherwise, that means it’s us.

But bad news, it is us. As a leader, you need to have an awareness of what’s going on throughout your organization. That the proper training is in place, team members are encouraged for excellent work and held accountable for their mistakes. And you have the right processes in place to be efficient and effective.

And, if you have not made sure of all those things, that is on you. I am not giving you a license to micro-manage or live in the weeds daily. But you must create the clarity and tracking to ensure everything is getting done and to see problems before they become catastrophes.

You Can’t Complain – You’re in Charge.

Well, I was a complainer too far into my leadership career. I complained that my team just wasn’t getting it. My boss didn’t understand the problems we were facing on the ground that some other department was screwing up my customer relationships.

As I grew, though, I realized that complaining about others reflected what I wasn’t doing. My team wasn’t getting it? The real issue was what was I doing, or not doing, to help them understand the business, the product, or the customers?

My boss just didn’t understand? What information was I bringing my boss to help clarify the picture for them?

Some other department screwed up my customer? How well did I communicate my customer’s needs internally? Or, how much did I tell my customer about how our processes worked?

Complaining results from not dealing with the core issues in front of you. It is an outward representation of you not taking control.

You’re Not Paying Attention

Leaders have a lot on their plate. And it doesn’t matter. They need to be ever alert for those small details that aren’t adding up.

Are you looking closely at your metrics? Are you only talking with your direct reports, or are you out on the floor where the action happens.

When I look back on some of the disasters in my career, the signs were always there.

  • I chose to ignore a gut feeling that something was not right.
  • I convinced myself that my direct report wasn’t acting weird instead of having a tough conversation.
  • I ignored the issues raised by my sales rep rather than pushing back on product or pricing to do more to help,

The signs are always there. There are few real surprises in business. There are only trends that we are not trying or willing to see.

Leadership is hard. Great leaders are the ones carrying out their responsibilities anyway. They know that outcomes are their job. And they closely track the events in their business and how they and their teams respond.

So dig in. Pay attention to what is going on around you. If something isn’t working, then change quickly. It is not the time to wait and see what happens.