In the Fall of 1946, Fred Canfil gave a small sign to President Truman, for his desk. It read:
“The Buck Stops Here”
Canfil, then United States Marshall and a friend of Truman, had seen the sign at the Federal Reformatory in El Reno, Oklahoma and had one made for the President.
The buck stops here means “I am responsible, there is no need to blame anyone else for this, it’s mine to manage”. While Truman kept the sign on his desk only a short time, the message would stay with him for the rest of his life.
When you say, the buck stops here; you convey ownership of the issue to those around you.
If you blame someone else for a problem or situation, you are passing the buck. Blaming someone else is often easier and less painful than taking ownership. In fact, it might not even be entirely your issue, giving you, in some ways, the right to pass the buck.
The problem begins when your choose to blame something or someone; you introduce blame into your language, into your conversation, and it begins to infect your company culture.
And not in a positive way.
When blame becomes prevalent in your company culture, you see the following:
- Problems don’t get solved
- Mistrust replaces trust
- Collaboration suffers as people start working against each other rather than with each other.
I recently observed where poor communication was blamed back up to the CEO. Maybe this is true, but the business leader needed to share this with the CEO and not with her team.
Sitting in on a client’s customer meetings, I listened to a Sales Director blame his customers’s late delivery issues back to the production facility, instead of owning the problem.
When cross departmental collaborations aren’t working, you rarely hear one department say, “this poor process or our poor communication is our fault, we see that and are willing to change things”. Instead, blame is given to others, who often aren’t even in the room.
For a leader, these are moments of truth. If the buck doesn’t stop with you, the blame game starts with you.
Make a choice.
If you are wondering what happened to Truman’s “The Buck Stops Here” sign…..
You can still see it today at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library in Independence, Missouri.
The phrase, and the sign that Truman made famous, has been displayed at the Library since 1957.
Start saying and acting like “the buck stops here” and set the example for ownership in your organization.