One of the most destructive characteristics of our current culture is the belief of so many people that no matter what happens, it isn’t their fault; they are not responsible. Smoke three packs of cigarettes a day and get cancer. It’s the tobacco companies’ fault for making cigarettes. Eat Big Macs and french fries while sitting around watching Oprah, and then blame McDonald’s for obesity. Let a child play with a lighter and gasoline, and then blame the pajama company because he lit himself on fire.
We make our own decisions in life and we are responsible for our own actions and our own inaction.
I am responsible. Responsible is defined as: involving personal accountability, able to be trusted or depended upon, characterized by good judgment or sound thinking.
Anybody can lay blame for problems or failure at the feet of others. It takes strength, character and courage to stand up and say, “I am responsible,” and then deal with the consequences. When confronted with a challenge beyond our control, it is easy to say, “It’s not my problem,” and give up. It takes determination and effort to grapple with an issue and see it through to successful resolution.
Our job is to perform for our customers. Customers are not always reasonable, customers are not always fair, customers are not always rational, and sometimes customers don’t even know what they really want. Despite those challenges, we must find and satisfy our customers’ needs because, ultimately, our customers will judge us based upon how well we meet or frustrate those needs — real and perceived. If we fail to meet their delivery needs, if we provide defective product, if we don’t respond to questions or concerns in a timely manner, if we promise to take an action and then fail to take it, customers don’t really care why. Our fault, the customer’s fault, our supplier’s fault, nobody’s fault — it doesn’t matter. All that matters is: Did we execute or did we not? Laying the blame for failure elsewhere doesn’t change anything.
One of the first customer calls I ever went on was to address a quality problem that we were having. I was a fresh-faced 22-year-old representing our company alone for the first time. As soon as I walked into the conference room, I knew I was dead meat. Production staff, engineers, buyers and the general manager were all there to greet me, and they weren’t happy. Rather than submit to the beating I knew was coming, I landed the first punch myself by accepting that we were responsible for the problem. I told them what happened, what we were doing to fix it and what they could expect from us. I could see the anger and hostility fade as they were replaced by a mixture of relief that we were fixing the problem and disappointment that the beating wasn’t going to be any fun.
I learned a valuable lesson. Our customers need us to stand up and accept responsibility and accountability for achieving agreed-upon objectives. They need us to communicate how we are going to get the job done, and then they need us to keep them apprised of our actions and our progress. Customers need to know that we will seek help, advice and support when needed. They need to know that we will call on critical resources with the required skill and expertise. Customers need to know that once we take on a job, we own the job, we own the results, and they can count on us to get the job done. When things go wrong, as they will from time to time, our customers need to know that we will stand up, be responsible and take the action we need to take to fix the problem.
Over the course of this next month, your challenge, should you decide to accept it, is to demonstrate to your customers that you are responsible. Demonstrate that you are accountable and that they can trust you to stick with it until the job is done.
Scott Morey is president of Morey Corp. In this role, he provides overall strategic direction and leadership for the company. He specifically oversees manufacturing, operations, finance and accounting, sales, engineering, product development, and technology strategy. During his 36-year tenure, the company has experienced marked growth and an expansion of service and product offerings. Morey has also played a key role in developing and implementing the company’s best-in-class program management and quality systems. He serves on the board of directors for Morey Corp. and 10G (a joint venture with Caterpillar). He is also a member The Young Presidents’ Organization.