Archives for category: The human side of management

Ok, The Buck Stops Where?

Part of the “The Human Side of Management; Leadership and Decision Making Series”


Its’ not about you, Mona, my wife, says softly at those times when she is forced to deal with me and my angst.

OK, I get it!  But does that hold true for business owners and operators as well?

 In our careers it often seems we are judged based on our accomplishments or lack thereof -quarterly reports on performance to goal;  annual reviews; promotions, job searches, board reviews, stakeholder positions – on and on and on….

 So, I postulate, it is all about me!

 Of course it’s about me and my accomplishments!  Everything I claim as happening because of me does happen because of me.  After all,  my job as a manager or administrator is to make good things happen.  And I use all the resources at my disposal  – people, physical assets – effectively and efficiently to accomplish stated goals.  True, without my access to key assets, without  skilled people on my team able to bring capabilities and knowledge I don’t have to move us toward our goal, I don’t succeed.  But, it remains my responsibility, my obligation, to bring these often disparate parts together to act in the common interest of the goal.


 In my office I gazed out my window looking out at the beauty of my surroundings while agonizing over just how to make my team including the dissident and inherently disruptive move us to our goal.  My group includes avid supporters, malcontents capable of malevolent behind the scenes innuendoes and rumors, followers of internally anointed individuals pushing their own agenda.  Conflict between themselves and me had become public.

 My supporters on the board urged me to “deal with it,” or face the wrath of my detractors.  And my detractors quietly worked to derail my leadership.  Even community members were touching base to share their concern.  Supporters recommended I “bust up the team and get rid of the malcontents.  Board detractors suggested “Maybe it was time for me to move on.”

For me, it was a classic “Hamlet” moment – what to do; what to do!  Allow me to pause here.  I think we as managers usually figure out quite quickly who are our primary supporters as well as our primary detractors. But that at best accounts for 40% of your stakeholders.  The rest?  It’s hard to know just what motivates them to move to one side or the other.  For me, the issue is decided by these primary groups; for,my experience leads me to believe, they are also the “best” players – it will be their skills sets, their special knowledge, their commitment to the goal that will determine the eventual outcome.

 So, how to respond to these “primary” stakeholders?  My first inclination?  Not much different than leaders from line supervisors to presidents, (and, of course politicians) who have harped since the beginning of time. “Why me?  What have I done to deserve this?  Doesn’t my staff know I regard them as essential?  Why doesn’t my board stand up and put an end to this? My inclination was to yell,” Hey, it’s not about me!  I inherited these problems,  I’m not the one who hired these people, you haven’t given me the resources necessary……and on adinfinitum.”


 I know better.  It is about me!  It’s about my willingness to find a way, create buy-in, get people on board, wisely use resources.  I am the one who agreed to hold this position of responsibility.  I’m paid the big bucks!  OK, I am paid.  Of course, our success sinks or swims with me.

Or does it?

 Help me out, owners, managers, administrators, please!  Bottom line: Is it about you (me) or not when it comes to accomplishing the businesses’ goals?  Is this the primary obligation for leadership?

 In the meantime.

 Stay true to your goal.  Stay honest with your people.  Accept what must be done.

Que La Paz Prevalezca en la Tierra! May Peace Prevail on Earth!


Ojochal OSA



 The Dogs (and cats) of Ojochal

Reprint:  Originally published October, 2012

From time to time I reprint blogs originally written for a limited audience.  This episode is reprinted as part of the “On Being Human,” series.  Hope you enjoy!


Puntarenas, Costa Rica
Sunday, October 21, 2012

He followed the car up our road – some would call it a driveway – to the casa.

We had been invited by our neighbor, Karine, to come up and see their view.  They run a true Indonesian Restaurant which includes an outdoor dining area serving both as their living room and the restaurant.

Going up their driveway – yes, they have a real driveway – their large, part golden retriever walked by Karine’s side keeping Mona and I in his sight. “He’s a really good dog,” Karine offered, then quickly added, “but he’s also a guard dog.  We moved here from Belgium five years ago and he showed up in the first week.  He adopted us immediately,”  she said, affectionately scratching his ear.  “Happens a lot around here.”

When we got up to the house, the dog approached Mona allowing her to scratch his neck.  He didn’t bother with me.  Just as well.  He barks at night and I can’t stand barking dogs, except for our dog, Charlie, of course.

Before walking up with Karine, Mona and I had seen seen a laborer, Ricardo,who was doing some work for us, go by in his car, turn left and head up our road.  He was working to  redo a part of our steps to create better traction for us.  Both Mona and I had slipped and fallen going down these tile steps when it was raining and we’ve had enough of that.  We were anxious to get back and see his progress, so we bid adieu to Karine and her husband, Mac, and headed back home.


“He just followed me up the driveway,” Ricardo laughed.  Ricardo has great control of the English language, having helped the neighbor above us build two houses in the area.  Ronald, our neighbor, whom we have never met, and his wife live directly above us in a huge house that Ronald and Ricardo built.  He and his wife live alone in this 6000 sq. foot home along with their three dogs – but that’s another story.

“Ah, who followed you here”?  I asked Ricardo.  “Shoo, shoo, off the porch,” Ricardo yelled and a black blur ran off the porch.  “That perro,” Ricardo laughed.  “He likes it here!”  “Well,” I said, in my sternest voice,  “when you leave, he’d better leave with you!”  Ricardo laughed again, “Si Señor!”


At the end of the day Ricardo and his apprentice left.  Much to my delight, the dog followed his car down our road.  I went into the house to make myself a drink and started to carry my drink to the porch.  It was time to watch the sunset.  I stopped because I thought I heard Mona talking to someone.

“It’s OK, boy.  I’ll just go get some water for you! ”

The dog had returned.

“Mona, I screamed, don’t!”

“Don’t what,” she replied.  “I’m just getting the poor creature some water,”

“You can’t do that!”  I was pleading now.  You give that dog water and he’s not going to leave.”

“I’m not going to stand by and watch an animal suffer,”  she hissed.

For the first time I looked at the dog.  He was pitiful.  Like many of the dogs we have seen on the road, he was skeletal thin, his eyes clearly showing the pain of his existence.  His body was filled with sores and he smelled worse than anything I have ever experienced.  We would later discover why.

“We’re not going to have that dog here,” I stated emphatically.

“OK, but I am going to feed and water him.  There’s some kind of pet protectors group in Uvita.  We can check there to see if they will take him, Mona said, firmly.

I hate it when I know I’ve lost!  I hate it even more when I know Mona’s doing the right thing.  I hate it even more when I remember I had just written in my blog how important it is to respect all living things.

So, the next morning, off to Uvita we go, me hoping that when we return the dog’s gone.  Turns out that pet protectors is headed by the local veterinarian.  She voluntarily accepts strays, treats their maladies, and helps locate new homes for them.

“She’s not here this week,”  the volunteer told Mona.  I was sitting in the car moping.  “Would you be willing to care for him and feed him for a week and we’ll check to see if she has some space open.”

“We’d be glad to,” Mona replied.

Soon, we’re at the super marketo, buying food for our friends the  Tennison’s s visit next week – and, of course, buying dog food.

We return to our casa, me hoping against hope, the dog has gone on.  Perro came off the porch to greet us delighted to welcome us back home.


It is Sunday.  Mona is napping, I’m writing in my blog.  Perro is asleep on the porch.

“Nuff for now.”

Que La Paz Prevalezca en la Tierra! May Peace Prevail on Earth!


Ojochal OSA Puntarenas Costa Rica

Ojochal OSA

 Flash! Business has learned the value of customer ratings; or Using the carrot and  a stick approach to management and control 

I had just come home from a shopping exercise.  I made one small purchase.  My “shopping assistant” was very helpful and I commented offhandedly, “I hope they pay you well?”

“Alas, no,” he said. “I don’t quite get minimum wage, plus they keep my hours low so they don’t have to pay benefits.  In fact, I work three of these types of jobs to keep my young family going.”

Walking up to the pay counter, I told the cashier,” I wish there was some way of thanking the young man for his assistance.  Her face lit up:

“There is,” she exclaimed!  Just go to the website listed on the bottom of your receipt, go online and you can take a survey and place his name on it.  He’ll be delighted, I’m sure!  Do one for me if you like.  My name is Jamie.”

Some weeks later I was talking with the store manager where I do much of my basic merchandise shopping.  I told her about my earlier experience filling out the “satisfaction” form.  I asked whether they had such a program.

“Of course we do,” she replied.  “By the way, how good was your evaluation on a scale of 1-5?”

“I remember giving 4 5s and a 4.”

“Oh,” she replied.  “Then you shouldn’t have bothered.”

“Why,” I asked.

“Because the only ones management probably uses are the straight 5s.  He probably got dinged for your “bad” review.”

“You’re pulling my leg,” I replied.

“No, I’m serious,”   she said.  “In fact, in our store, upper management uses these ratings to compare store performance to other stores in the chain.  It’s one of the factors rating not only store performance, but individual performance to goal. It can even impact performance bonuses.  Bottom line:  It’s just another hammer in upper management’s tool kit.”

“But, hold on; who gives all 5s,” I protested.”  “I wanted to praise the young man, not damn him!”

Now, my store manager friend was upset: “You want to play the game? Then learn the rules,” she retorted.

So, I asked a couple of other managers I knew in other industries.  Yeh, they said, one adding:  “So what?”


I can’t help it!  Now, every time I get a “How’d we do?” notice, I ignore it.  I feel like an aggregate statistic existing as a management ploy.  I would like to fill these surveys out, thinking I am participating in helping the company do a better job serving their customers.  But, I don’t feel that way, so I don’t bother.  In fact, I am bothered that I have to spend time deleting this auto response trash.  At least I’m not hurting anyone or putting unintended pressure on someone.  Maybe I should have caught on sooner.  I never get any response stating my thoughts were appreciated – or read, for that matter.  Not even an auto response!  Not even from the president!


There is always “the other side” of the issue.  I haven’t talked with “upper management.”   So, how do you as an owner-manager use your “How’d We Do or Tell Us How We’re Doing,” tools?

Do you use them?  If so, for what purpose?  Does anyone in your organization read the replies?  How do you use the aggregate information elicited?  Do you use the results as a “Management hammer, in your management control tool kit?”

Just to be upfront, if you answered any of these questions with less than a 5, don’t bother to reply.


Que La Paz Prevalezca en la Tierra! May Peace Prevail on Earth!



Part of the Business Ethics series, “The Human side of Business.”