If the shoe fits

IMG_5753After my Crunch time post last week, a friend told me he couldn’t wait to read the follow-up. I never expected to write one, but dang it, he was right.

My dog ate my Mophie.

Just days after I called out my kid for not taking responsibility, today it became my turn. My mouthy puppy gnawed on my phone’s external battery pack, and to add insult to injury, he did it while sitting beside me. I assumed he had his bone–belatedly I realized he didn’t.

So was it the dog’s fault? Nope. It was all mine.

I should have been watching. I shouldn’t have assumed. I should take better care of my stuff. The blame lies on my shoulders.

BUT.

There’s another lesson in this.

Stuff happens, and sometimes it happens fast. Sometimes it even happens right under our noses.

So while I still expect my kid to take responsibility for leaving his phone unattended–just like I’m owning up to letting my dog chew on my Mophie–I’m going to cut him some slack. He’s human; we all are.

And yeah, while you’re smirking and thinking that it always looks different when it happens to me, sometimes that’s the only way I learn the lesson.

Cut me some slack.

(Well, JD, you got your wish. Now stop laughing.)

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Up the ladder

up the ladderIn my day job, all employees have to complete periodic legal compliance training. Once a quarter, I have to watch 2 or 3 online videos about selected topics relevant to the workplace and then pass a quiz on each one. It’s not really a big deal (though I do hear a lot of grousing when the reminders come out), and usually I just do them and move on.

Yesterday was the day I dug into this quarter’s modules. (Yeah, the deadline is Friday.) Partway through the first module, something caught my attention. I backtracked a few frames to make sure I had it right.

Sure enough, what I had noticed was this: the first recommended course of action when faced with this particular problem was to approach the offender and present your case reasonably and professionally. It said:

You CAN speak up and tell someone that something they are doing or saying makes you uncomfortable. It demonstrates leadership and can make all the difference in the world.

Hallelujah! A voice of reason and responsibility. I wholeheartedly support reporting procedures, and they should always be followed according to the prescribed protocol. However, the first step in any conflict should be to bring it to the attention of the person involved. Tell her you don’t like it, it makes you uncomfortable, you find it offensive, you think it’s wrong, whatever. Give the person a chance to respond; perhaps you can work out the issue right then and there.

So often these days, I feel as if the immediate reaction of many is to move directly to what I believe should be the SECOND step of the process: tell the next person up the ladder. And often that next person fails to ask the follow-up questions, “Have you talked to this person directly? Have you tried to work it out?” Certainly, the up-the-ladder process exists for a reason, but that reason is to give people redress when the last step didn’t solve the issue. We can’t jump into the middle of the process without trying the simplest, most reasonable course(s) of action first.

And I especially loved the part that stated, It demonstrates leadership. Darned straight. It says a lot about a person who is willing not only to stand up for herself, but also to (try to) handle an issue directly rather than simply handing it off to someone else.

I know there are exceptions to every rule and that occasionally, the direct approach just won’t work. I get that. But we must at least ask the question, What can I do to help this situation and then evaluate the options before pushing it up the ladder. Start on the ground floor, not the first rung.

P.S. We don’t let our kids do this; why should we?

Pulling a Truman

buck stops

People are grousing about the price? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

Customers don’t understand our product? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

No one came to our seminar? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

One customer thinks another customer is getting preferential treatment? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

People don’t like the new program? Sounds like a sales problem to me.

A friend and mentor used that phrase all the time. His point was that rather than simply acting as a conduit for every voice from the field, we should engage with those voices and address their concerns. Instead, we often throw up our hands and shake our heads, decrying those jerks back at the office whose ridiculous ideas caused the issue in the first place.

We don’t get to make all the decisions ourselves, regardless of what job or position we hold. At some point, we’re going to have to stand in the gap between someone else’s decision/policy/precedent and our constituency. We have two choices: commiserate or moderate.

If we commiserate, we do nothing to help the situation. And we give away any power of our own. Really, we become part of the problem.

If we moderate, we hold the power to improve an unfavorable situation. We become part of the solution.

Let’s take another look.

People are grousing about the price? Let me show you what you get for your money and why it’s a good value.

Customers don’t understand our product? I must not have explained it well enough. Let me give it another shot.

No one came to our seminar? Let me help get the word out next time. I can stir up some excitement.

One customer thinks another customer is getting preferential treatment? What can I do to help him feel appreciated?

People don’t like the new program? Let me show you its benefits and how they could improve your situation.

Don’t think I’m pointing the finger at salespeople; we ALL have to sell ourselves and our work every day to our customers, colleagues, friends, or family. If the buck doesn’t stop with you, it sounds like a sales problem.

By the way, the friend who said that was a VP of sales. How’s that for taking responsibility?

So sue me

About a month ago, I took my he-man wrestler son to the emergency room for only the second time ever. He had bent his elbow at an odd angle in practice, and though I was fairly sure the prescribed remedy would be ice, immobilization, and ibuprofen, I went through the motions of having it checked, just in case.

Three hours and a pile of forms later, we walked out of the hospital with an ice pack and a sling, as well as instructions to take ibuprofen. (Told you so.) After a few days, my son’s arm was back to normal. Case closed on a normal adolescent rite of passage.

Apparently, I was wrong.

Last week I received a form from the insurance company to be filed in cases of an accidental injury. Although a bit puzzled (shouldn’t most injuries be accidental? and if they are instead deliberate, shouldn’t THOSE be the ones requiring explanation?), I attacked the form with my pen, eager to move on.

I quickly observed that the form was intended to help the insurance company determine where it could lay blame, i.e. who else might be able to pay for the charges. There were sections that requested the name and address of the responsible party and homeowner’s insurance information. My hackles really started to rise when I reached the question about whether I had retained legal representation, but I didn’t completely lose it until question number 9.

If a lawsuit or claim against the responsible party will not be filed, please explain.

Wait, what? I have to explain why I’m NOT filing a lawsuit? I guess that means the presumption is that we should always be looking for someone else to blame, and I find that appalling. It should be the other way around. People should have to justify the lawsuits they do file, not the ones they don’t.

Whether we play sports, get behind of the wheel of a car, order a hot beverage at a drive-thru window, or [fill in the blank with your own example], we bear responsibility for our own actions. My son chose to participate, with my blessing, in a physical contact sport. Sometimes people get hurt, and we both knew that going in–and accepted the risk accordingly. Now that it has actually happened, we can’t look for somewhere else to shift the blame.

That’s my not-so-humble opinion. If you don’t like it, sue me.