Someone else

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“I’m sorry, but I have to vent. It was a horrible day at work,” began my friend on our monthly catch-up call. “We’ve all been there,” I offered. “Yeah, but not like this.” As a substitute instructional aid, she’d been asked to assist teachers on a field trip for 275 fifth graders to celebrate the successful completion of a testing week. Her bus was the last unloaded and by the time she entered the skating rink, it was chaos.

Teachers were standing, arms crossed, griping that no one from the administration was there to organize the event; no one told them what was suppose to happen; and no one had alerted the rink to their coming. While all legitimate concerns, being angry, frustrated and absorbed in their own plight meant no one was dealing with scores of eleven-year-olds rushing to grab skates, ripping open snacks, pushing to get sodas and throwing trash on the floor.

“I was utterly horrified,” my friend told me. After watching for several minutes, she decided to recruit a teacher and the two of them began organizing students and assigning tasks to teachers. She did what people who are winning at working do. They act.

In twenty years in management, I’ve seen people waiting, watching and hoping someone else would step up, take ownership and make things happen. I’ve seen people stuck in blame-gear while others are doing the work and solving the problems. And I’ve seen people hesitating while others are committing. No surprise these were the same people complaining in my office when others received bigger increases, better assignments, or more interesting projects.

You see, people who are winning at working become the someone else that others are waiting for. They step up and do something. They know when to act, and they feel better about themselves when they do. That’s because action feels better than inaction and commitment feels better than non-commitment. Both build your self-esteem.

So, here’s my bottom-line: you can’t be winning at working if you’re waiting for someone else to be the someone you could be. In my way of thinking, winning at working means you commit to offering the best you there is. Sometimes that means you have to dig a little deeper for your courage or push yourself outside your comfort zone. Sometimes it means you have to handle 275 out of control children when you’re the lowest ranking person around. But it’s like Shakespeare said, “Nothing comes from doing nothing.”(c) 2005 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.

Sign up to receive Nan’s free biweekly e. Column at Nan Russell has spent over twenty years in management, most recently with QVC as a Vice President. She has held leadership positions in Human Resource Development, Communication, Marketing and line Management. Nan has a B.A. from Stanford University and M.A. from the University of Michigan. Currently working on her first book, Winning at Working: 10 Lessons Shared, Nan is a writer, columnist, and speaker. Visit or contact Nan at

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