According to the Associated Press, the Army has removed 588 soldiers from sensitive jobs such as sexual assault counselors and recruiters because they have been guilty of sexual assaults, child abuse, and drunk driving. I applaud the Army for making this move, but I can’t help wondering how these people got their jobs in the first place, or why they weren’t removed when their infractions occurred. I can only conclude that somebody, somewhere dropped the ball.
Ball dropping is a curse, not just for the Army, but for businesses and churches. It is, in fact, the primary reason why excellence suffers so much in our culture. It’s not that we don’t know what excellence looks like or how to achieve it. There are a million books and seminars available to tell us that. The problem is that the people we put in charge don’t deliver.
The other day I walked into a restaurant restroom that made me want to gag. It stunk to high heaven and had wastebaskets that were overflowing. I’m guessing it hadn’t been cleaned since Jimmy Carter was in office. However, there was a cleaning schedule attached to the back of the door. An employee was supposed to clean the restroom every 30 minutes and then initial the time slot. “J.W.” had initialed the previous three time slots. J.W. was either blind and had no sense of smell, or he dropped the ball.
But then, so did the restaurant manager.
And this is the cold, hard truth a lot of us in leadership need to face: when the ball is dropped, it’s easy to point the finger of blame at an underling. But who put that underling there? Who failed to adequately train him? Who failed to follow-up and make sure he was doing his job? Who failed to fire him when ball dropping became his modus operandi?
As I walked out of that filthy restroom, I wasn’t really angry with J.W., I was ticked at the restaurant manager, especially when I saw him being very chummy (flirting?) with a couple of his female servers. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. Instead, I just decided not to eat there anymore.
And this is the danger for our businesses and churches. When balls get dropped and nothing is done about it, people walk away angry and frustrated, never to be seen again.
If you’re a leader in your business or your church, perhaps it’s time for you to look closely at your operation. Are balls being dropped? Is one of them yours? If so, what are you going to do about it?