Are you a “Shoulddo”? 

My friend George Goodrich and I were talking a while back about one of the AFS technical committees.  George mentioned something that "Shoulddo" had said.  I must confess that I got distracted from what George wanted me to hear by thinking about who “Shoulddo” was.  I thought I knew everyone on the committee by both first and last names, and it just wasn't ringing any bells.  I finally asked George who he was talking about.  He told me a name I recognized, and I then asked why he was calling him “Shoulddo.”

George looked at me with somewhat of a surprised look on his face.  "Haven't you ever listened to him in a committee meeting?  All he ever talks about is what we should do, but he's always too busy to work on it; therefore, he's ‘ Shoulddo.’"

I paid close attention to the individual he pointed out.  George was right on; the guy always had a lot to say about what we should do, but was never willing to work on what we "should be doing."  Unfortunately, I also found a number of other candidates for the title in committees.  There seems to be a lot of input on what should be done, but not too much action from certain people.

I started paying attention to this in other areas and found that there are “Shoulddos” " all over the place.  While serving on a church committee, I asked a woman about her coming up with so many things we should be doing without her backing it with action.  (I know, not very "church-like" of me.)  She replied that she was "an idea person" and didn't have time to work on things like that.  (Nice job description; where can I apply?)

After becoming active in an AFS chapter, I found that there was a lot of input about what the chapter should be doing without a great deal of willingness to help.  We should be working more closely with the colleges; we should be working with the high schools; we should be doing something about the foreign trade issue; of course, we should be helping improve the image of our industry, and so on.  As chairman, I would have been happy to see these “Shoulddos” at our meetings so that I could at least ask them if they wanted to work on something, but most were too busy to attend.

I'm sure it won't surprise you that I also found “Shoulddos” in some of the foundries I've visited.  There seems to be no end to the ideas of what should be done to improve the operations.  Unfortunately, there doesn't appear to be the time or the knowledge to put together something that could really be evaluated by management to see if it really should be done.  I guess it's always easier to improve an operation in someone else's area.

What disappointed me the most was the morning that I looked in a mirror and found a “Shoulddo” looking back.  I realized that I have a lot to say about how the government should be run, but usually don't even know who is running for some of the offices.  My wife frequently hears what should be done, but rarely do I even take the time to write a letter to a public official.  Sounds like a “Shoulddo” to me.

When you think about it, talking about what should be done is usually just a waste of energy. Sometimes the person we’re talking to doesn’t have the power to do what we want. My wife certainly doesn’t have the power to change what the government does. Most of the rest of the time, when the person we’re talking to does have the power to do something, he or she is already doing what they think should be done. Why should they work on what you want unless you’re their boss?

I guess we can't avoid being a “Shoulddo” sometimes, but I encourage you to spend more time thinking about what you're going to do instead of what someone else should do.  If you're in charge of melting, think about what you are going to do to improve the melting operation instead of worrying about what the core department should do.  If you're the boss, instead of thinking how the employees should respond, concentrate on what you're going to do to ensure that they do respond appropriately.

There’s a little publication called “Bits & Pieces” that summed it up best by saying, “Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who put them into action are priceless.”