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.


Not every problem is a nail

15 11 2016

“At the end of the day, we must go forward with hope, and not backward by fear and division.” ~ Jesse Jackson

I’ve talked about how those mistakes that we made in the past create experience, and those who have made plenty of mistakes accumulate all that experience into Wisdom.  That said, we shouldn’t spend too much of our energy looking back, wistfully, at that spilled milk.  We should use our wisdom to pour the milk correctly next time, and enjoy the milk and cookies!  There are some people who just can’t let go of the past, and spend lots of energy re-hashing how they got to where they are, instead of looking forward towards what can be, if they use their energy in reaching that destination.

Leaders, pack away those mistakes in the past, and learn from them, by knowing which leadership tool to take out of your tool bag when a similar situation occurs.  Decide where your destination should be, whether on this project, or this year, or in your career, and start moving towards it.  Bring your tool bag with you, as you never know what obstacles might pop up.  Sometimes the tool needed is the sledgehammer, sometimes it’s the tiny little cross-tip screwdriver that you use for repair eyeglasses.  Often, subtlety will accomplish more than brute force.

Speaking of backwards…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Talking them off the ledge – then asking the same of your leader.

31 08 2016

“The truth is that there is no actual stress or anxiety in the world; it’s your thoughts that create these false beliefs.  You can’t package stress, touch it, or see it.  There are only people engaged in stressful thinking.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Some days, I’d laugh in the face of this quote, and other days, I might throw something at the screen.  If this is one of those days for you, keep in mind the words of wisdom of our fearless CEO – “Did anyone die?”.  This question is asked of me when he can tell that I’m stressed out about something that went wrong, or worrying that something bad was looking like it might happen.  It always snaps me back instantly to a relatively calm state.  Systems are down?  “Did anyone die?”  Oh, yeah… systems go down sometimes – we’ll get through it.

Leaders, keep this in mind when your team members are buggin’ out.  It’s your job to say “Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan.  Everything will be OK.”  You, as a leader, have to show your team that you’ve got it under control.  There’s nothing that can turn minor concern into a running-onto-the-runway panic (see LAX news story from earlier this week) than a wild-eyed leader screaming “What are we gonna do?!?!?!?”.  Leaders – Never let ‘em see you sweat.  Then, if necessary, go to your leader, and explain your concerns, so they can talk YOU off the ledge, too.  🙂

Speaking of anxiety…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Limping to success.

26 08 2016

“Be brave.  Take risks.  Nothing can substitute experience.” ~ Paulo Coelho

“The best substitute for experience is being 16.” ~ Raymond Duncan

I talk a lot in this forum about mistakes creating experience, and experience creating wisdom. What I don’t recall talking about is how exciting it is when given a task that you may indeed fail at, but you are trusted to take on.  That “wow, look what I get to try!” feeling that comes with leadership.  We’re given a task that has NEVER been done (in our experience), and has no rule book, or procedure manual, and we get to just… figure it out.  How cool is that?!?!

Leaders, remember that feeling when you give someone some leadership task to figure out.  Understand that they may not get it right the first time.  When (if) they don’t get it right, encourage them!  They tried, maybe they need to tweak their approach, but seriously… how cool must it be for them to be asked to just “figure it out”?  I admit I take most out-of-the-blue tasks for granted these days, but today’s quote reminded me of just how cool it was the first time my Sergeant told me to take 6 soldiers with me into the woods, and “go raid the red team’s stuff”.  Could I have done better?  Maybe.  Did we raid their stuff and end up high-fiving (and limping) all the way back to camp – Oh, Yeah!

Speaking of substitutes…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

“Team” Executive Decisions

25 07 2016

“If you see a snake, just kill it – don’t appoint a committee on snakes.” ~ Ross Perot

There’s something to be said about making an “executive decision” and just moving on with the consequences of the decision.  I’m tempted to say that you that the older you get, the more likely you’ll be to be correct in your decision (mistakes create experience, which makes wisdom, eventually), but I can’t say that.  The reason for that doubt is that I’ve seen too many instances of the younger generation having insights into some decision that I don’t have.  Maybe it’s a generational thing, maybe it’s experience in technology and what it can do, or maybe it’s just luck.  🙂

The point, leaders, is that you should use all of your available resources to make a decision.  You should ask, and gather as much information as you can – IF you have the luxury of time.  Whether it’s because your time is up, or because you have to decide or lose for a lack of a decision, at some point, dear leaders, the decision is yours to make.  If you have the luxury of a committee to help you, then by all means, use it.  But sometimes, it’s time to pull the trigger, and deal with the consequences.

Speaking of snakes…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Learning lessons the hard (and sorta funny) way.

8 07 2016

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Those of us with teenage children know that no matter how hard we work to give them advice and warn them about probable outcomes and their consequences, sometimes the child is going to be stubborn (more generously: forgetful) and make the mistake anyway.  When they do, aren’t you tempted to dance around and say “I told you so!”?  But we can’t… we have to be solemn and caring, and talk to them about what they learned from it.  It’s like the conversation we had before the event didn’t happen.  Sure, we can (and maybe sometimes do) gloat, but mostly, we try to support our children, even when they do these bone-headed things.  🙂

Leaders, things like these daily comics, and the even better “Guest Writer Thursday” words of wisdom are a lot like the situation above.  Experienced leaders who learned the hard way the outcomes and consequences of a mistake are trying to make your leadership experience better by allowing you the opportunity to learn from our mistakes without suffering the painful consequences yourselves.  Sometimes you’ll learn from them.  Other times, you’ll make the mistake anyway,  We, despite wanting to dance around and say “Nah nah, I told you so!” must refrain from that urge, and support you as you learn the hard way what we tried to help you avoid.  So, if you’re the leader who wants to do the “told you so” dance, please try to refrain from doing so.  If you’re the leader who made the mistake, despite warnings, please forgive the other if they do have a bit of a smug look on their face.  They’re doing their best not to let that urge all the way out!

Have a great weekend, team!

Speaking of backwards…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

A little wisdom, from the wisest

28 01 2016

“The only source of knowledge is experience.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Is anyone so wise as to learn by the experience of others.” ~ Voltaire

“Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” ~ Rodin

“I made decisions that I regret, and I took them as learning experiences… I’m human, not perfect, like anybody else.” ~Queen Latifah

In case you don’t believe my philosophy around mistakes creating experience, which becomes wisdom, that’s OK.  But you can’t deny one of the greatest minds, one of the greatest philosophers, and one of the greatest artists of all time. You can pick either Rodin or Queen Latifah, as you wish.

I’ve had several conversations in the last week with people who (amazingly) weren’t perfect.  I pointed out to each of them that they were way harder on themselves for the mistake they made than I was about the issue.  We’re all our hardest critics.  Understand that stuff happens, learn from it, and let it go.  It makes the workplace a much better place to hang around in.

Speaking of experience…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.