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Reasons stop mattering

June 18th, 2011

I’m proud to say that I worked my way through the ranks to get to the position I’m in today (VP, Digital). I started as a junior programmer for McGill Multimedia back when there was no such thing as .com (or more accurately, almost nobody had heard of it).

A long time ago, I made the transition from individual contributor to manager. That transition was difficult. I was no longer responsible for just my own work, but for the work of several others. I learned a lot of lessons the hard way. As I reacquaint myself with people that used to report to me or that I used to report to, I always feel like I should apologize for some of the things I said or did while I was learning to be a manager.

One of the key lessons I learned as I worked my way up the managerial ranks was that excuses don’t exist. I’m given goals to achieve and my job is to achieve them. If they are not achieved, I cannot go back and say that “X didn’t do what he was supposed to do.” There is no X… it’s just me and I hold all accountability for anyone that didn’t deliver on my initiative.

When I ran across this article from Business Insider about Steve Jobs and the speech he gives to new managers, it struck a chord. I wish someone had given me this speech several years ago. It would have saved me from stepping on a lot of land mines and driving my bosses crazy as I figured out the lesson above.


Jobs tells the VP that if the garbage in his office is not being emptied regularly for some reason, he would ask the janitor what the problem is. The janitor could reasonably respond by saying, “Well, the lock on the door was changed, and I couldn’t get a key.”

An irritation for Jobs, for an understandable excuse for why the janitor couldn’t do his job. As a janitor, he’s allowed to have excuses.

“When you’re the janitor, reasons matter,” Jobs tells newly minted VPs, according to Lashinsky.

“Somewhere between the janitor and the CEO, reasons stop mattering,” says Jobs, adding, that Rubicon is “crossed when you become a VP.”

Remember that as you climb the ranks, at a certain level there are no more excuses. Only success or failure.

Categories: Management
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