17 June 2010

Sorry, I'll Never Do It Again

I am always struck by people who wish they had more authority or responsibility in their jobs. They want someone to give it to them, but the secret is to take it.  Claim it. Put a flag in it. Give it a name and call it your own. When I tell people this, they say, well, then I'll have more responsibility, more stress and no more pay.  Believe me, a good employer will reward the person who takes on more without being asked. If they don't reward you, wrong employer, move on with all the good experience you just gathered!

One of my best mentors, Jerry Jenko, taught me the age old truism that "It's easier to say I'm sorry I'll never do it again, than it is to get permission in the first place."

I recall hiring my first lawyer to work for me when I was General Counsel at Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream HQ in NJ in 1993. I had no authority to hire anyone. Jerry was the GC of our parent company based out of MN. He called me up and said, "Who said you could hire a lawyer?" Me: "No one, I just decided." Jerry: "You don't have that authority." Me: "I'm sorry, I'll never do it again." Long pause. Jerry: "Right, don't do it again." Dial tone on phone. 

To celebrate, I ate some ice cream in our HQ Haagen-Dazs ice cream store mock-up. 

Butter Pecan, I think.

Thanks for reading.



  1. Nice story Richard, you obviously have the gift of the gab in terms of escaping potentially difficult situations!
    I'd be interested to know if reliance on the "I'm sorry I'll never do it again" line, has ever back-fired? For example, with the repost "Don't worry, I won't be giving you the chance to do it again"!?
    I certainly agree with the sentiment of your post, you have to create your own opportunities and authority, neither are handed to you on a plate.

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  3. Melanie...of course it can back fire. Like any strategic decision, timing is everything! Surprisingly, in my limited experience, it rarely backfires - particularly if used in the context of taking on responsibility (as opposed to an additional headcount)!