Owning It

“He that is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”-- Benjamin Franklin

New Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslam is owning it. How about you?

On October 16, 2012, the Cleveland Browns football team got a new owner. His name is Jimmy Haslam, and he and his father built a truck stop empire that is now an $18 billion company called Pilot Flying J.

In his gradual takeover of the team, Mr. Haslam has exemplified a style that explains his success in plain-speaking terms: “The harder you work, the luckier you get.”

His deal to secure ownership of the Browns took several months and was very transparent. He made no secret of the things he observed that looked like they could have been done better.

Hours after his ownership was ratified by the NFL, he publicly announced a timeline that would retire current management and usher in new. There were names and dates and times specified as to when things would happen and why.

It was tight. It was specific. And it was business.

As a “starving-for-a-championship” lifetime fan, I couldn’t be more pleased. It seems a real winner is not only onboard, but behind the wheel.

It’s not the bully speak of “no place or time for failure.” It is the steady, solid, reliable sound of a man who knows that challenges lie ahead and that his leadership will involve his participation and his ability to set the bar high, meet challenges, and help his entire team succeed -- players, coaches, front office, and even the fans.

In an interview with current Browns coach Pat Shurmer, one of Haslam’s habits was inadvertently mentioned. I was really struck by the simplicity of this idea that exemplifies the true heart of the successful man.

Shurmer said that every meeting they have ends with Haslam asking him the same question: “And now Pat, what can I do for you?”

In other words, as a strong leader, Halsam understands that he, too, has marks he has to hit; expectations of things he needs to provide to make this team--this company--succeed.  He doesn’t shy away from the fact that he, too, is on the hook to exceed expectations.

So to be that leader who expects great things, he knows he must set the pace. If he wants staff to act independently, he must give them the authority to make decisions. If he chooses to micro-manage some areas, he has to know that his participation may interfere with the plans made by those he has put in charge.

Too often I hear of middle managers being second-guessed to death by supervisors who provide sketchy direction, yet expect specific results.

I hear this especially in the private sector regarding the field of sales, where managers are simply promoted by having maintained a high record of sales themselves, the belief being that these winners will pass on their secrets to a new set of underlings and profits will rise.

Yet top management is slow to realize that a long record of time and sales accomplishments on the job does not equate to management abilities or people skills.

So people are promoted who have no idea about asking their staff what can be done for them to make their opportunities greater. Often, these managers hold jobs for less than two years--the length of time given until their inability to manage begins to show up and their initial blushes of success are found to be temporary.

So where does all of this lead?

I’ve introduced you to a new man who seems to be setting a pace for success. I’ve contrasted him with others to point out the success that can be found by understanding their role as top management involves as much support of the team as it involves expecting support from the team--inverted pyramid, if you will.

But what does it all mean for you?

Very simply, there are three rules:

1. Humble yourself

2. No excuses

3. Own it

Humbling Yourself

I have watched many of my friends lose their jobs in the past four years, including cohorts who thought themselves an intricate part of the team: decision makers, “near term-final say” people.

In one afternoon, they have lost their jobs and had to humbly reset their personal assessment of themselves with the over-riding notion being, “ Hey maybe I wasn’t as important as I thought .”

One friend got off a plane carrying the elements of a presentation in a large, awkward case and, when he saw his company contact waiting for him at the end of the gate, he handed him the case expecting welcome relief.

With his free hand, the contact reached in his pocket and handed him a plane ticket for his immediate return back to where my friend had flown from. In a rushed, awkward exchange, he was fired and told his flight home was boarding.

Completely stunned, he said nothing and turned to find his gate.

“Don’t you want this?” the contact asked, holding up the case. My friend just shrugged and walked away. When he turned to look back, the guy was stuffing his presentation into a garbage receptacle.

No Excuses

He returned to Cleveland dejected and hurt. And it took him days to get his head wrapped around it, but when he finally did, he said to me that he really had no right to be surprised. He had felt it was coming for a long time.

And, most of all, he submitted that he hadn’t been working as hard as he once had; that he had to admit his performance had fallen off. He’d gotten comfortable and stopped trying as hard.

I am glad to say that his maturity about this realization became the basis of a “no excuses” attitude that helped him gain another position within weeks of the firing. He had the help of a head-hunter to set up the interviews, but truly, within less than a month he had landed with another company, making only a few thousand dollars less than at the company he had left.

He tells me he’ll make the rest up in commissions--part of his determined, no-excuse mindset now.

“For me,” he says, “I have to maintain a ‘serving attitude’ and if I keep in mind that I owe the company I work for instead of them owing me, things stay in focus.”

Own It

In all, the overriding philosophy seems to have more to do with attitude than aptitude.

The current and winning philosophy seems to be “what have I done and what can I do for my company?” This replaces the “what have they done for me lately?” philosophy that was made famous in the 1980s. It is clearly outdated.

You must own your reputation.

You must own the responsibility of your job, your family, your life direction, because it is never really “over.” It is never really done.

There is no career spiking of the football anymore. The playing field has changed drastically.

Election 2012 looms in the not too distant future. Before you close the curtain of the voting booth to decide who shall move forward to lead this country, be sure you check yourself first and get in touch with the individual you have become.

Which leaders, both local and national, reflect the values that have established your foundation?

Boil away all the outside noise, the ads, the slogans, the signs, the lies, and decide what it is that YOU want, need, and deserve.

If we could maintain a nation of people who would stop and consider such things, there would be no need for advertising at all. We’d be humble, no-excuse owners of our lives and inevitably harmonious brothers and sisters.

Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at rdc@clevelandmetroparks.com.