Why I Check My Staff

by Colin Berkshire

A staffer who I haven’t worked with much recently asked me: “Why don’t you trust your staff?” Surprised, I asked why she felt this way? She explained that if I trusted staff I wouldn’t always be checking their work, I wouldn’t be adding up the numbers in spreadsheets with a manual calculator. I wouldn’t be walking as much through our facilities to see what was going on.

I explained to her that I am always checking things for these reasons:

  1. Smart, hard working people like to be acknowledged with genuine, sincere recognition. When I confirm that they are actually doing things correctly I can give genuine praise which everybody in the organization can trust. There are many self-promoting people in a company. When I acknowledge that somebody is doing a good job, then everybody knows they are doing a good job because I know what is going on.
  2. Smart, hard working people like when they are checked. They do all of this hard work and sweat the details. So it is frustrating if nobody notices what they have done. It is frustrating to work smart and have it all get lost with “nobody even knows.” Smart people appreciate demonstrating that they are doing a good job.
  3. I am responsible for the work on the projects I champion or head. I need to protect myself and the organization. I find it inexcusable that the president of Volkswagen professed that he didn’t know such widespread and blatant cheating was going on. This is a man who is not building a culture of honesty, checking, cross checking, and recognizing truth. In my world, the buck stops on my desk and I am responsible for my entire organization’s work. In the VW president’s world he can simply disavow all knowledge and hen he is found out he can resign and take a $20 Million retirement package. The difference here is integrity.
  4. I do find errors. I can take another look from a different perspective and catch problems and fix them early. You would be shocked at how many times I have found spreadsheets that don’t add up. People blindly trust spreadsheets and they should not. Spreadsheet errors can cause wring decisions to be made and millions of dollars to be lost. It’s just incredible how many times an @SUM() will not include all rows, or will include a sub-total row and thereby double up on columns. Those sneaky formulas are rarely scrutinized as closely as the numbers.

So I guess it is all a matter of what a manager is. I view my role as somebody to promote honesty and integrity, to recognize those who work smart, to see that correct decisions get made, and to be responsible for everything happening in my entire organization. Fortunately, I live in a world where political astuteness is secondary to truth.