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What I learned from the highest paid State employee

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Over the years I have become a big believer in the wisdom of learning from observing others.

State Represenstative Jason Murphey

State Represenstative Jason Murphey

Here’s a lesson I have internalized from taking note of the actions of Oklahoma’s highest paid state employee.

Sooner football fans rightfully look back on the decade of the 90s as an era of missed opportunities and excuses. Throughout the decade, the Sooners consistently fell beneath the high standards to which Oklahoma fans had become accustomed. Those shortcomings could all-too-frequently be explained through the lens of excuses such as the probation period of the early 90s, bad officiating, player injuries, or just bad luck in general.

Here’s the thing about bad luck: it’s a compounding problem. Once a person believes they have been afflicted with it, they start to believe that success is impossible.

In 1999, when Bob Stoops become Oklahoma’s new head coach, he summarized his leadership with the following statement:

“We’ll operate with no excuses. There are no excuses; you succeed or you don’t.”

With that one statement, Stoops set a high standard for performance and by not making excuses refused to acknowledge the existence of the bad circumstances which had held the program back.

This attitude has kept Stoops as the highest paid state employee, even when the Sooners have a losing week such as this one, because OU fans can expect that he will abide by his high standards and not make excuses. This is a standard to which taxpayers should hold all government officials – not just football coaches.

Voters greatly appreciate those government who do apply this same standard. And they notice when their officials make excuses.

I know this because my office receives calls and emails from constituents who are attempting to deal with government officials who are incapable of performing their duties and blaming their lack of performance on an array of excuses.

The frustrated taxpayer reaches out to me for assistance which I am happy to provide, although my involvement exposes me to the same toxic array of demoralizing excuses. I think I have heard just about all of them.

Some demonstrate a particular adeptness at excuse making. I have heard officials blame their shortcomings on the weather, the events of many years previous, the predecessor (always an inviting target because the predecessor isn’t around to fight back), the official’s “sub-par” equipment, and even his employees. This is a particularly offensive excuse because a government official depends on his employees to be successful and should never pass the buck to those who work for him.

Of course, the most frequently overused excuse is to blame the taxpayers for not paying enough in taxes. I can’t tell you how many times I have heard an underperforming government official blame his woes on lack of funding.

It is always refreshing to find those exceptional officials who express gratitude to the taxpayers and willingness to perform to a higher standard even with less funding.

Just as the Sooners’ bad luck became a compounding problem which trapped the football program into a stasis of poor performance, the governmental excuse-making becomes a contagious virus which has a dramatic effect on government’s performance. It is hard for government employees to maintain a positive and helpful attitude when their boss has invented a litany of excuses.

A government official who falls into the trap of excuse making isn’t likely to ever be able to extricate himself from this habit and he will settle for poor performance because he now believes he is the victim of circumstance over which he has no control.

There is really only one way to deal with this problem. Once the signs of the dangerous disease of excusing making are identified, voters are obligated to take to the ballot box and bring in a new leader who will have the attitude of, “We’ll operate with no excuses. There are no excuses; you succeed or you don’t.”

Thank you for reading this article. Your interest and input are much appreciated. Please do not hesitate to email Jason.Murphey@hd31.org with your thoughts and suggestions.

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