Charles Osgood
Cover of Charles Osgood

There was an important job to be done and Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did. Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody couldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when Nobody did what Anybody could have.”

Many of you have seen this condensed version of Charles Osgood’s “The Responsibility Poem”. Each of us has played one or more of these roles at one point or another. Unfortunately this keeps happening over and over again:

  • with the “Bystander effect” when the likelihood of any individual intervening in a crisis is inversely related to the number of people standing by
  • when people fail to notice anything out of the ordinary as friends assemble arsenals of destruction or neighbors hold people captive for years
  • as people watch colleagues head down treacherous paths without offering help.

We’ll talk about crisis interventions another time. For the moment, let’s focus on people heading down treacherous paths – in particular, people heading into new jobs.

The basics of successful executive onboarding are clear. They are all about converging before evolving to earn the right to lead before trying to lead. They are about 1) getting a head start, 2) managing the message, 3) building the team.

It’s also clear that people continue to watch colleagues head down paths to new jobs without intervening. I can’t tell you how many times I hear about people who “just started a new job” and are struggling.

Break the cycle.

As you see friends and colleagues going into new jobs, stop them before they start. Send them to one of the articles or books written on the subject by others or me. Send them directly to us or to someone else. But don’t let them go into a new job unprepared. It’s not quite the same as letting them jump into shark infested water without warning them. But it’s close.

Be the somebody that steps up and does what needs to be done. Your friends and colleagues will thank you.

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