The Buck Stops Here!

The Buck Stops Here!“It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you place the blame.” ~Oscar Wilde

THE ANCIENT ROMANS had a tradition. Whenever one of their engineers constructed an arch, as the capstone was hoisted into place, the engineer assumed accountability for his work in the most profound way possible — he stood under the arch.

BUCK PASSING is the act of attributing another person or group with responsibility for one’s own actions. The expression originated with the game of poker, in which a marker (in frontier days, a knife with a buckhorn handle), was used to indicate whose turn it was to deal. If a player chose not to deal, he could pass responsibility by passing the “buck” (as the marker became known) to the next player.

ACCOUNTABILITY is an elusive concept in ethics and governance; linked with other concepts such as answerability, blameworthiness, and liability. In leadership, this means accepting responsibility for actions, products, decisions, and policies within the scope of our role or position, with an obligation to report, explain and be answerable for the consequences. Many people have become masters at ducking accountability; whether those in the political arena, corporate boardrooms, or our own office meetings. The economy’s been a convenient whipping boy, as has Fannie Mae, NAR, and whichever political party you don’t belong to. Competitors get our finger pointing too (they must be cheating). Oscar Wilde said it – if at first you don’t succeed fix the blame quickly! Russ Welch (Nick’s future dad-in-law), sent me a story about this moral weakness. Should you consider a similar “Strike three, you’re out” policy?

THREE ENVELOPES: David had just been hired as the new CEO of a large corporation. The CEO stepping down met with him privately and gave him three numbered envelopes, #1, #2, and #3. “Open these if you run up against a problem you don’t think you can solve,” the departing CEO said.

Things went along pretty smoothly, but six months later, sales took a downturn. David was catching the heat. At wit’s end, he took out Envelope #1. The message read, “Blame your predecessor.”

David called a press conference and tactfully laid the blame at the feet of the previous CEO. Satisfied with his comments, his Board, the press and Wall Street responded positively. Sales began to pick up, and the problem was soon behind him. About a year later, the company was again experiencing a dip in sales, combined with serious product problems. Having learned from his previous experience, the CEO quickly opened the Envelope #2. The message read, “Reorganize.”

This he did with fanfare, and the company quickly rebounded. David had dodged a second bullet. However, after several consecutive profitable quarters, the company again fell on difficult times. Out of ideas and under extreme pressure from a disenchanted Board of Directors to quickly return to profitability, David again went to his office, closed the door and reluctantly opened the third envelope. The message read, “Prepare three envelopes.”

“We must reject the idea that every time a law is broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
~ Ronald Reagan

“Employers today are looking to their leaders to think more strategically. No longer is it acceptable to focus on the day to day issues. The team is accountable for the day to day decisions.”
~Catherine Pulsifer, What Are the Benefits to Me

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Hello there!! My name is Andy Kogan and a guest blogger for this site. I am a Realtor with Weichert�, Realtor’s, Graham – Welch. I am a Kansas City Metro area Native and a life-long resident. I have years of experience dealing with a wide spectrum of individuals and their individual needs.

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– Previously employed as a counselor
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