Who can you depend on? This is a question I have asked throughout my professional life. I am sure it is something you have asked yourself at least a few times, especially when things are not going well. It reminds me of the words from the song, “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers. .
“Lean on me when you’re not strong. I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on. For it won’t be long, I’m gonna need, somebody to lean on”
What is most disappointing is when you think that you can depend on someone, only to have them fail you. This has happened many times in my life.
When my eldest son was in high school, he participated in track and field as a mid-distance runner. His school turned out really good runners and he happened to be one of them.
But, the track facility was poor. It was an old cinder track which was rutted and unusable when it rained even slightly. The coach asked the team’s Parent’s Association to help fundraise for a new all-weather track. We were also to lobby the school board for funding as well.
We agreed and were headed by Dave, a fairly well known individual in the community. He was well known by the school board members. We were sure with Dave pitching the need we would get approval and funding for the new track.
Everything started well. The board showed interest, but then some politics came into play and things bogged down. Instead of working through the difficulties, Dave told the Association he would no longer participate in the project. This was disappointing, but we determined that with or without Dave we would move ahead.
After much effort and time, we finally got approval to move ahead. We had a goal to meet of funds we had to raise. We formed a committee to do this. One of the new members said, “You know who should head this committee? Dave.”
I was flabbergasted. Let’s put this in the hands of someone who bailed on us at a very difficult time. I said, “No. He is not dependable.” Reputation is one thing, but reality is something else.
We moved on again, without Dave. We completed our project and our track and field athletes had a new track and field that they could be proud of.
This type of thing happens way too often, especially in business.
Business is like a marriage. In a marriage you trust each other. But, you also depend on each other for help, assurance and support, especially when times are tough. That is why selecting the right business partners is so critical.
Depending on people’s transcending partnerships, there are many others that we interact with that we need to know whether they are dependable or not. For instance:
Suppliers or service providers
These are the people that supply materials and services to us. We need to know that they are serving us well. If they are having difficulties that will impact us, they need to keep us informed. They must tell us how they are working to keep us supplied while dealing with their difficulties. They provide great service not only when times are good, but also when times are bad.
They expect that that we are providing a good, stable environment in which to work. In exchange for this they are giving us and the company the best that they can provide, day after day. There will be mistakes and issues will arise. They are honest about these. They take responsibility for them. They make sure they are corrected and work to ensure they will not happen again. We depend on them to get their work done timely, accurately and thoroughly. There are and should be no surprises.
Customers or Clients
We work to provide them the best service possible. We are there when they need us, especially if there is a problem that needs to be fixed. In return, they are loyal and truthful with us. If there is a situation that needs attention they speak openly with us about it. If we did something wrong they have no problem alerting us to it. They allow us to rectify it, without recrimination. They are not always looking for a better deal and will leave us if they believe they have found such. We are loyal to them and in turn, they are loyal to us.
This term is very loosely used. Too often people tell me about all the fiends that they have. In reality, they are talking about acquaintances, not friends. We all have a ton of these. They are people we interact with on a regular basis. We are pleasant to each other and quite social. But they are not our friends. A friend is there for you when it is convenient and when it is not. They stand by you, both when you are present and when you are not. When a friend says they will do something for you, you can be assured that they will. Acquaintances may make promises, but they are not always kept. To depend on them to do so is a big mistake.
I have learned through some painful experiences who I can depend on and who I cannot.
I wrote about this in “Trust but Verify: A Critical Business Mantra”. In it I spoke about my first job out of college and how my manager was not truthful with me or supportive of me and my career. He was in it for his own best interests. He was allowed that, but not at my expense or to lie to me about it. I thought I could depend on him. I was wrong.
It is not what a person says, but what he or she does that is important. Someone who tells you that they have your best interests at heart or is there to support you, must actually prove so by their actions. To say something and then not follow through is worse than making no commitment at all.
I have been blessed to have a large number of people I know I can count on, in both my business and personal lives. We all need help at various times, I included. It is assuring to know that there are people who I can count on when help is needed.
Adding to my sphere of trusted partners is a never ending. I have written about many things in my life and career. But, since my “semi-retirement”, I have upped my writing activity. I am now writing about things I never imagined I would. I have gone beyond an occasional business article to cover things such as:
- My first book on business
- Regular posts and blogs on LinkedIn
- Posts, comments and blogs on Medium
- A second book of which this article will be a part
I could not and would not have gotten into this without three very important people; Pat Crowley, Jeff Webb and Renia Carsillo. They have helped and directed me throughout my book writing process. They are there for guidance, direction and corrections when I err. And err I do, as this is a new experience for me.
A year ago I didn’t know these people. In that short time they have become friends in the truest sense of the word. I know that I can depend on them and they have not let me down.
Unfortunately, in business a lot of people are not as dependable as one might think.
Bruce was the head of Quality Control. As Operations Manager I contacted him about a problem we were having with our fine art brushes. The imprint which was applied via a hot stamping process was poor. The reason was that the brush handles varied in size. It was just a fact of life. If the handle was a little thicker, the imprint was very heavy and squashed so you could barely read it. If the handle was on the thinner side, the imprint was so light you could barely see it.
I asked Bruce for help with this problem. He told me he didn’t have any time to spend on this and I would have to solve the problem on my own. Thanks for all the help Bruce! Great job as head of Quality for the company!
So fix the problem I did. Working with my staff, we found a process called pad printing. The image to be printed was transferred from an inked image to a silicone rubber pad. The pad then applied the ink to whatever surface you were printing on. Since the pressure adjusted for thick or thin, the same image quality appeared. It was great.
As we got approval and started installation, Bruce appeared. He now supported the work we had done. He tried to become involved in the project to take credit for the work he had refused to do. I and the others on the team told him to take a hike, his services were not needed.
I am sure you have people like Dave and Bruce in your life. They are there when things are running well and are ready to take credit, even when undeserved.
But you also have people like Pat, Jeff and Renia who are there to help you to learn and improve. They will work with you when times are difficult and see you through to the end. They are true friends and answer that burning question, “Who Can You Depend On?”