Interesting sign because it really doesn’t mean anything in plain English, but, in slang it means the final responsibility for everything ends up here. If one of the workers mess up, it is my fault. If it doesn’t get done, it is my fault. For President Truman it meant that he had to make the decisions and accept the ultimate responsibility for those decisions.
Some leaders, even some current ones, have the opposite phrase which is called, “Buck Passing” or “Passing the Buck”. When a leader ‘passes the buck’ he blames someone else for his failure. Maybe he forgot a meeting, but he says his secretary did not tell him about the meeting. Or, he doesn’t finish a report on time but blames his computer or the printer or whatever. He always has an excuse for what he doesn’t do, often blaming someone else.
A leader has to imagine that the sign is always on his desk. A leader has to keep his word. Encourage his people. Get the job done!
So, if the ‘buck stops at your desk’, what should you be doing?
1. Think before you promise or brag about being able to do something. Look at it carefully, study it, measure what it is going to take before you speak.
2. Build a team that works together, not in competition. Let them be involved in setting the goals.
3. If you say you will do something, then do it. Don’t back off. A promise is a commitment. Work hard!
4. If something happens and you can’t get it done, don’t make excuses and don’t blame others, even if it is their fault. Just regroup and take another shot at it or adjust the goal.
Being a leader involves accepting and owning the responsibility!