It’s easy to accept responsibility when things are going well, but what happens when it all goes wrong? In this edition of Tough Things First, Ray Zinn discusses having the guts to take responsibility for mistakes and the virtues therein.
Rob Artigo: I’m Rob Artigo, your guest host for this edition of Tough Things First. Hi Ray. It’s good to be back with you.
Ray Zinn: Yes, Rob. It’s always good to chat with you. You always have interesting topics for us to discuss.
Rob Artigo: A lot of them, I think, come from your mind. I’m just picking your brain. As entrepreneurs, it’s easy to accept responsibility when things are going well. I know that works for me. It doesn’t take me very long to go, “Oh yeah, that was my idea.” It’s not so easy to admit it when you’re the one who’s made the mistake. Tell us about the difficulty of accepting the blame for a bad decision.
Ray Zinn: Well, we have egos, and those egos often get in our way, because it’s who we are. We don’t like to think that we make bad decisions or that we make mistakes. That’s human nature is we make mistakes. It’s not the mistake that really hurts. It’s not remedying it is what hurts us. That’s what gets in our way of solving problems, so we say, “Oh well, it can’t be a problem, because I didn’t cause it.” We tend to procrastinate or put it off, and then that problem becomes a real devastating or problem problem for the company, and you end up now making a bigger mess out of it than if you’d handled it immediately. Don’t worry about who’s fault it was. Don’t let the problem become the problem. You want to be a problem solver not a problem maker. Even if it was not your problem, solve it. If it is your problem, obviously, you’ve got to get in and solve it. Be a problem solver to a problem maker.
Rob Artigo: A large or small company, is it helpful to be the kind of leader who has that buck stops here kind of attitude?
Ray Zinn: Absolutely. The tone comes from the top. As the leader of the company, you set the tone for your company. If your company has the right kind of culture, the right kind of tone, it’ll be reflected in your people. They’ll offer better quality, better service, more loyalty. Having the right kind of tone in your leadership will make a big difference in how successful your company is, or will be.
Rob Artigo: You have your different levels of management and at each one of those levels you’ve got people who are leaders of other people. Do you recognize it when somebody else has that buck stops here kind of attitude? “This is my section,” or, “This is my product line, and I’m running it and I’m managing it. If there’s a mistake the buck stops here with me.”
Ray Zinn: Yes. In fact, we want everyone to have a buck stop there with them. If you do, then, of course, you have a very good culture within your company doing whatever it takes, no excuses, as we have had in our company for many, many, years. By the same token, there’s a good news/bad news, or the yin and the yang, as they say. When you have a buck stops here, you’ve got to be careful not to form a silo. A silo is where you isolate yourself and say, “Hey, don’t get into my pasture. Don’t get over my fence. Stay out of it.” That sometimes happens when you have a bucks stops here mentality throughout the company is they form these silos, because they don’t want anybody perturbating their particular function. When you have a buck stops here mentality or culture within your company, make sure that you’re not forming silos at the same time.
Rob Artigo: What happens to a business leader who is not willing to be buck stops here person, or not willing to accept responsibility when they’re the ones who made a mistake.
Ray Zinn: Well, it can be just exact opposite of what we talked about, about silos. Then there’s no interacting or intrafunctional relationships, because if you’re not willing to accept your responsibility for your particular problem, then the other group or organization is going to isolate themselves from you so that they’re not contaminated by your mistakes. That’s the other problem is that you’re intrafunctional relationships breaks down and you just don’t get along with other people or organizations.
Rob Artigo: If you have senior management who are, maybe, played the role of taking responsibility, but they don’t really. It’s really just in name only, or, superficially, they take responsibility. Based on your experience, your many years of experience as a business manager, did you learn to be able to recognize those people in the crowd?
Ray Zinn: Sure. There’s two types. There’s the type that’s super A personality and they’re always in everybody’s face. Then there’s those who just like shrinking violets. They’re just off in their own little corner. They don’t help as you would solve problems, because they don’t want to step on somebody’s toes. They don’t want to get involved, and so they don’t help. I mean, they refuse, almost, to point the finger and say, “Hey. This person needs to this,” or, “We need to do that in our organization.” On the other hand, the super A personality are the people, who are in your face all the time, will aggravate and cause problems, and nobody will want to interrelate with them. You’ve got both sides of it. You’ve the people who are overly aggressive and you’ve got the people who don’t speak out at all, who just stay in their own little corner and just dwindle away as you would.
Rob Artigo: You want the employee who is more active, more available, more communicative.
Ray Zinn: Absolutely, but not aggressive, not to the point where they’re in everybody’s face, because that tears down morale within your organization. You’ve got to be careful that the people who are always out there in front, in everybody’s face, maybe they’re aggressive, maybe they’re getting some things done, but they’re also causing problems in the interim. Those people can be just as harmful as the people who just sit back and do nothing.
Rob Artigo: Thank you, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks a lot, Rob.
Rob Artigo: As always, you could reach Ray Zinn with your questions at toughthingsfirst.com. You can continue your education there and the conversations with all the podcasts. There’s blogs, and links to information about the book, Tough Things First. Thanks again, Ray.
Ray Zinn: Thanks, Rob.