Posts tagged " responsibility "

Soft Skills

December 15th, 2016 Posted by Susan's Musings 20 comments

My husband and I spend a fair amount of time filming our TV show, Ancient Jewish Wisdom on the TCT network. We used to work on our set in Marion, IL, but recently we started taping in the Akron, OH studio.

Every time we have been there, we interact with a large number of station employees. Some make up the camera crew, some direct the show, while others are involved with administration or post-production work. The employees span the spectrum of age, race and gender. To be honest, we are not an easy couple to host. Anytime we spend the day there, TCT asks someone to drive half an hour to pick up and bring kosher food to us.

Here is what I have noticed. Every person we meet is unfailingly competent, cheerful and willing to go the extra mile to do their own job as well as any other task that is needed. We are very often there from early in the morning until late afternoon. Many days when we leave the building, staff that has been there with us from the morning is setting up for an evening event. Yet, the hard-working professionalism and downright niceness never flag.


Easy Living – First posted 4/2/09

October 10th, 2010 Posted by Susan's Musings No Comment yet

I was in the supermarket this morning when I heard hysterical laughter, of the kind that I associate with teen-age girls, coming from the next aisle. My guess was confirmed when I heard a young voice say, presumably to a store employee, “Sorry. It slipped out of my hands.” I couldn’t hear his reply but a few seconds later the store’s loudspeaker system boomed with a request for a clean-up on aisle 4.

Shortly thereafter, I found myself in a checkout line behind two high school or college age looking girls. As they came to the checker, one of the girls said, “We’re the ones that caused the mess. You can charge us for two sugars instead of one.” The checker replied that there was no need for that and the transaction concluded.

A few years ago, Readers’ Digest ran an (admittedly unscientific) experiment where they dropped wallets with owner I.D. in shopping centers around the world and then recorded in which cities the wallets were most likely to be returned. There was quite a discrepancy, more than could be accounted for by chance. 

While I am far from a global, or even American, trotter, I have lived in and visited a number of places. To me, more important than the number of museums, the public transportation system or even the number of kosher restaurants is the stress level of daily living. I don’t quite know how to index that, but I do know that when I lived in Los Angeles, going to the supermarket was an arduous chore that I did as rarely as possible. Entering the library meant stepping over vagrants in alcohol or drugged induced stupors lying on the library steps. Driving meant being constantly vigilant against people trying to gain three seconds by not letting you change lanes or by cutting sharply in front of you.

Where I live now, in the Pacific Northwest, supermarket shopping is more of an excursion, an energizing activity that breaks up a work day. Whether I am errand hopping to the post office or bank, or dropping in at the library, driving around, parking and running in and out of buildings is enjoyable.

When I was a little girl, my parents instructed me, among other things, to stand to the side while waiting to get into an elevator so that people getting off would have a clear path; to give my seat on the bus to an elderly person, and to speak softly in public so as not to intrude on other people’s lives. I have a feeling that not pocketing the money from someone’s lost wallet never even had to be articulated; it was just understood.

My thanks go to the parents of the young women ahead of me in the check-out line who taught their daughters to accept responsibility. As far as I’m concerned, if every citizen learned that lesson, we could improve everyone’s standard of living without adding a single cent to the deficit.


You Made Me

August 17th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

A few years ago, a large construction company was uneasy about having to change managers in the middle of an important project.  They consulted me after they placed Jennifer in charge of developing the new financial controls system.  I soon discovered that though she was familiar with the work plan and project definition, she was convinced that the venture was already a month behind schedule.

After warning the board of directors that the job would fall even further behind as Jennifer got up to speed, I advised them to grant her the authority to reset expectations and schedules. Only then could she take ownership of the project.  Without exercising authority, Jennifer would never feel truly responsible.

It is not only in business that authority must be granted. Occasionally fathers and mothers also forget this lesson.  Parents sometimes try to share a hobby that they nostalgically remember from their youth.  However, they turn their child into a spectator rather than a participant when they make all the decisions themselves.  When the child loses interest and abandons the project, the parent is disappointed.

It is appropriate for parents to expect children to participate in some of the household’s chores.  The results are invariably best when some decision making power comes with the job.

Though it is hard for many to do, whether at work or in the family, it is vital to grant authority so that subordinates or one’s own children begin to assume responsibility.  Without an opportunity to properly assume ownership of an undertaking, not only won’t people see the job through but they will also often resent otherwise wonderful opportunities.

For a compelling instance of this timeless truth, listen to Adam’s response to God’s challenge:

…Have you eaten from the tree that I prohibited you to eat from?
(Genesis 3:11)

Adam responds:

…the woman whom you gave me, she gave me from the tree and I ate.
(Genesis 3:12)

Adam could merely have responded, “The woman gave me from the tree and I ate.”  God would have known which woman Adam meant; after all there was only one in existence.  Why did Adam stress, “the woman whom you gave me”?

Ancient Jewish wisdom answers this perplexing question.  As you can imagine, Adam was infatuated with Eve.  Her arrival utterly transformed his life, filling it with passion and creativity.  Yet, on some deep level which emerged during this crisis of disobedience, Adam resented not having a voice in choosing his life partner.  This emerged in his words, “the woman whom YOU gave me.”

“This wasn’t the wife I chose for myself,” he is saying.  “You made me marry her.  So, what did you expect, God?  Look what happened!”

Obeying our parents’ wishes is a big part of the Fifth Commandment.  One exception, however, is if they try to tell us whom to marry.  (It is a really good idea to heed parents or friends when they tell you whom NOT to marry!) The reason is that marriage is tough enough without having a spouse who hasn’t ‘bought-in’ or ‘taken ownership.’  There are too many challenging moments, particularly early in a marriage when one or both partners might silently say, “If only I hadn’t listened to my parents; they made me marry this person.”  Every married individual needs to know that he or she made the decision freely to marry and therefore is responsible for that decision.

Whether in business or family, withholding authority stunts people’s growth, blocks achievement and is downright disrespectful.  Both children and employees reach full potential when they are gradually granted increasing authority to match the increased responsibility they assume.

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