IN BRIEF

B-t-B players are slow to deal with
problems or conflicts


Once you
understand the motivations behind the technique, its use becomes
straightforward. First, if the player starts to deal with the issue, he is
accepting some degree of responsibility for it. Next, others may hold him
accountable for the existence of the difficulties or at least for how things
turn out. Playing B-t-B requires someone or something on which to dump the
responsibility and the blame, if things go sour. For the player dealing with
anything lessens his ability to point the finger anywhere but toward himself.


B-t-B players play it safe


Using this
technique is not as easy as you might first think. The trick is to see that it
is a very complex play. First, the player must be able to see when there is a
risk of any kind. Next, the successful player uses all his options.


Option one is to
avoid doing anything that could turn out badly. Option two is to have a backup
or a cut-and-run plan.


Rich is another
master with the technique. His main play is to do things the same way he always
does them. What has worked before is likely to work again. He knows people
seldom find fault with his handling things in the usual way, whether it works
or not.


Next, Rich always
looks at how things can go sour and little at how they can succeed. He asks,
“What are the three strongest reasons for not doing this?” His motto
is nothing ventured, nothing lost.


Finally, any time
he has to do something that has some risk, he spends most of his time figuring
out what to say if it goes sour. Of course, the best thing to be able to say
is, “I was uneasy about this but went along reluctantly. I handled it the
same way we always handle things. I did it By The Book. I can only say I
held up my end. Someone dropped the ball.”


Rich’s play calls
for doing things the same way he always does them. He avoids all risk as much
as possible and has an explanation for failure made up ahead of time. Sure,
there is a more simple version of Rich’s play. Do not do anything new or
innovative and try hard to keep others from making that mistake. When in doubt,
do nothing and there is always room for doubt.


B-t-B players put most time and
energy into worrying and keeping things the same.


For the B-t-B
player, any change is a risky business. Any time there is change, there is some
degree of uncertainty. This uncertainty makes it unclear how to cover one’s
self and could require some change in the game plan. For the B-t-B player, the
old ways are always the best ways because they are familiar and usually work.
Risk to the player is minimal – the player’s bottom line. Any change is risky
and must be avoided.


B-t-B players never do anything
quickly


Timing is
everything. For the successful player, timing is the only thing. Those who are
aspiring but not yet accomplished B-t-B players think timing has to do with
making the right move at the right time. The experienced player knows better.
Timing has to do with nothing but not making the wrong move. Better safe than
sorry is the motto of the expert B-t-B player. It is a simple truth that one
seldom receives criticism for what he does not do. It is also true things
usually work out in a non-negative way so long as no one interferes. It does
not matter what positive outcomes have been precluded so long as things do not
get worse. Put this wisdom together and you can easily see why the player
figures that it is best to put off decisions and actions as long as possible.
The logic is sound. You only need to accept the premise that calls for the
safety and no risk life of the B-t-B player.


The key to using
the technique is knowing how to postpone everything. Having a few tricks will
be helpful. Here are some things to say if push comes to shove:


•           Let me get
back to you on this one


•           Get me some
more hard data


•           Give me a
couple of days to give this one a closer look


•           Better safe
than sorry


•           This may
seem like a little project, but I think your being involved makes it important
enough to go slowly


If the pressure
builds up, taking it up the ladder, taking it to a staff meeting, or requesting
a written recommendation are useful. If it is already in writing, the player
asks for a summary or a more detailed proposal, depending on what is not
readily available. The goal is to put the whole thing off as long as possible
without seeming to be resistive or less than supportive. Many times, everyone
just gives up before having to jump through the hoops.


There is a story
about a government type who always asks for written requests. The eager
staffers prepare their requests in a few days. The day after they turn them in,
the bureaucrat gives the requests back with a demand for more data. This
process cycles at least three times. At that point, he reads the proposals. The
next step is for him to edit the paperwork and give it back to the staffers.
This cycles for two or three rounds and then he refers the proposal to either a
staff meeting or up the ladder. From there, the game goes on until the staffers
give up, quit, or the idea is out of date. The player’s rule is that nothing is
so urgent it cannot wait.


B-t-B players avoid responsibility


For these players,
not accepting responsibility is axiomatic but let’s elaborate. The challenge
for the player is not to give his game away. Success in the organization
depends on being seen as accepting responsibility. The more responsibility the
player’s superiors think he accepts, the more likely the player will get
promotions and more responsibility.


How can the player
get the benefits of accepting responsibility without taking on the liabilities?
It is actually fairly easy.


First, the player
does everything necessary to get into a position of authority or leadership. At
lower levels, this happens by volunteering to head projects, chair committees,
or anything else that makes other people responsible to the B-t-B player.


The next trick is
to delegate all tasks or decisions to those under the player. If things work
out well – and they usually will – the player smiles and gives the credit to those
who did the work. Of course, everyone can see that this classy person is quite
a manager and is definitely someone who can handle responsibility.


If things do not
go well, a fixed B-t-B rule says never blame your subordinates. The skilled
player says, “My people gave it all they had. They are a great group. It
was just a little beyond their reach this time. They have what it takes,
though. They will do nothing but get better.” Notice how the B-t-B player
stays close but just a little above his people. The failure is not their fault
and they will do better next time. Of course, the failure has nothing to do
with the player himself. The trick here is to be the leader and not part of
those people who are responsible.


Sure, the player
will need more people, more resources, and probably a bigger title to get the
job done next time. It also is as sure as oil going up the wick that there will
be a next time.


B-t-B players take
no chances


The FastChip
Corporation is a small computer supply business catering to the home computer
market. Its location in a large shopping center gives the store a lot of
traffic and a high percentage of small cash-and-carry sales. The rest of the
sales are in the area of $1,000 to $3,000. These larger sales are hardware.


The store policy
is not to sell their display stock. If there is not stock in the back, the
customer gets a 5 percent discount and delivery within twenty-four hours. This
assures that each customer sees the full line.


On Monday,
December 1, the store’s policies are a problem. An aircraft manufacturer
experiences a power disaster that brings down its computer system. As an
interim measure, it sends out for thirty-two PC systems. The disaster makes the
need urgent.


Rick, the FastChip
manager, receives a personal visit from the manufacturer’s buyer. The offer is
to buy the twelve systems in stock for 90 percent of the retail price. This
takes the systems on display and those in the back.


Rick has a
problem. Should he follow the store’s policies or make a $17,000 sale? Of
course, this is not a problem for a B-t-B player like Rick. His first step is
to tell the buyer that it will take until 3 p.m. to get a decision. From 11
a.m. when the offer comes, Rick stews over the decision and tries to contact
the owner. At 3:30 p.m. when the buyer calls him, Rick tells the buyer they
cannot help out this time.


It is a triple
play of sorts. Rick puts off dealing with the issue, worries about it, and then
opts to play it safe.


What does the
owner say when Rick tells him about the missed deal? Do not be silly! B-t-B
players never tell, unless it is on someone else. Even if the owner finds out
later, Rick can assure him that he tried to contact him. He also can reference
store policy and honestly share how much he worried about and struggled with
the decision. B-t-B players are, if nothing else, company people. The worst
part is that Rick is sure he made the right decision. Better safe than sorry!