The unforgivable sin – guessing with certainty

6 12 2016

“Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them.” ~ Bruce Lee

“The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi

All of the leaders on my team know that the one unforgivable sin they can commit is to represent something as truth to me, when they’re guessing.  If I take your “truth” up the chain of command, and get called out for being wrong on it,  we will indeed have a conversation that you will not forget.  Now, if you tell me you are 99% sure of something, or that you’re “almost certain” of something, then I will represent it that way up-hill, and it gives both you and me a way to save face when we are wrong.

There’s no shame in being wrong, but the only way to be forgiven for being wrong is to admit to it, tell what you learned from it, and to internalize the lesson so that it doesn’t happen again.

Speaking of forgiveness…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.


30 11 2016

“Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

There are 3 kinds of decision makers.  First, you have the naval gazers (many of you Googled that last month).  These are the people who are asked to come up with a plan, and then they execute it like the man in the cartoon below.  Ready, Aim, Aim, Aim, Aim and they never pull the trigger because they’re worried about either the consequences of failure, or are afraid that they don’t know what they don’t know.  The second are the ones that go off half-cocked (maybe the bully comparison from above works here).  They get started without thinking.  They are more like Ready, Fire, (oh, drat), Aim,  and try to fix their mistake by changing what they executed.  That may mean stopping everything and re-training, or it may be an instant fail, in those situations where you only had one chance to get it right.

Leaders, try being the third type… The corageous ones who go ready, aim carefully, and then fire.  Think about as many consequences and obstacles, have a plan for dealing with them, then pull the trigger.  You may not hit the target on the first try, but you’ll be going in a good enough direction that someone will be able to give you the guidance to shift your aim just a bit closer to success.  A car that is parked can’t get anywhere (the first type) and a car that drives off a bridge can’t get any further (the second type).  A car that drifts a little to the right or the left is much more likely to make it to it’s destination.

Speaking of fire…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

With all due respect, grasshopper.

3 08 2015

“If a grasshopper tries to fight a lawnmower, one may admire his courage, but not his judgement.” ~ Robert A. Heinlein

I’m a leader that enjoys hearing how I’m wrong.  I consider having someone challenge my idea a great way for me to learn a little bit more than I did when I started.  It’s good to have a team where the lowest ranking person on the team can challenge the ideas of the highest ranking person.

That being said, it can be unhealthy for a career to challenge some leaders with anything other than “all due respect”.  I’m fine joking around and having a good time, so my threshold for “due respect” is tied to my more laid back, “enlisted guy” style of leadership.  Others you will encounter in your career may have an “officer style” of leadership, where there is a clear line between officers and enlisted.  These folks might insist on being called Mr. Jones, or otherwise want a more arms lengh relationship with their team.  These people may be just as open minded on push-back, but set a higher bar on “due respect”.  Be sure you’ve felt out the leadership style of someone you may be challenging, as the percieved “style” of that challenge may over-ride the substance of your idea, and you might get smacked down.  That might mean that you have much to learn about judgement, grasshopper.

Speaking of grasshopper…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.