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.


Trust your leadership gut.

20 05 2016

“It’s so much easier to like people, and to let people in, to trust them until they prove that you should do otherwise.  The alternative is being an iceberg.” ~ Taylor Swift

Over the years, my wife has pointed out that I have a thing for picking out the bad people, or seeing those of ill intent, long before other people catch on.  She’s said that when I make a determination that I don’t like someone, there’s not much they can do to change my mind.  I’m always civil to them, but they won’t be invited over again.  On the other hand, you really have to go out of your way to have me not like you.  I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and enter all new relationships with a positive attitude.  So basically, everyone starts out with a grade of A, but once they hid C minus, they fail (i.e. prove that you should do otherwise), and RARELY can move back up to A with me.  That’s not to say I don’t forgive honest mistakes… those happen.  I just don’t forgive evil intent once I believe that’s in a person (Don’t turn your back on a snake).

Leaders, the point is that we all have a different tolerance for forgiveness and/or trust – Some people don’t let everyone start off with an A.  You may be a little more reserved and/or private, and let everyone start with a B or C, and make them work their way up to an A.  You’ll have your own personality style, but hopefully, you don’t meet strangers and immediately assume that they’re out to get you.  Paranoid leaders don’t often grow a great, diverse and successful team.  You’ve got to let enough, different types of people get “in” to grow such a team, which means stretching your definition of “good”.  That said, watch, listen, and learn about people, and if you have to shut people out, trust your gut when you do.  You got where you are with that gut.

Speaking of iceberg and the gut that got you here, I opted out of a Rubes cartoon today, because this crossed my e-mail yesterday, and felt true!…


Tribute to Justice Scalia (and Vulture Pancakes)

18 03 2016

“In a big family, the first child is kind of like the first pancake.  If it’s not perfect, that’s okay, there are a lot more coming along” ~ Justice Antonin Scalia (RIP)

As a first child, and a pancake expert (yes, I can flip them without a spatula), this quote really hit home.  When I saw who the quote was attributed to, I had to pick it, both for the newsworthiness, and the fact that, despite any politics, the judge was, by all accounts, a really great friend and family guy.  He’s going to be missed, and our Senate will guarantee that his name will be in the news for the next year or so, sadly.

Leaders, you’re not always going to get it right.  You’re going to make mistakes, and wish you could just have a do-over.  But, you can’t.  When we make mistakes as leaders, real people are impacted by them.  While I don’t want you to beat yourself up unnecessarily, please do remember to learn from the mistakes, and do what you can to fix them.  The person you didn’t mean to be short with (and wish you hadn’t), or the wrong call you made really do impact people on your team.  Find a way to make it right, or at least apologize for being wrong.  Neither your supervisor nor your staff think you should be perfect, so a little apology or fix goes a lot farther than pretending it didn’t happen.

Speaking of pancakes…

vulture pancake

Rubes cartoons used with permission.

To ask for permission, or forgiveness?

22 04 2014

“I have learned, as a rule of thumb, never to ask whether you can do something.  Say, instead, that you are doing it.  Then fasten your seat belt.  The most remarkable things follow.” ~Julia Cameron

As a leader, you can ask for permission, or do it, and ask for forgiveness later.  I’m NOT saying that you should go off and spend $1 Million, and then ask for forgiveness, but there is a spectrum that goes from one option to the other.  Say you have a dissatisfied customer on the phone, and it will cost $50 to satisfy them.  You could say “I need to ask my VP if I can do that, and make an angry customer wait (because your leader is out of the office), or you can tell them that you’ll fix it right now, and then let your leader know what you did.  You’re likely to get an “attaboy” for excellent customer service. However, even if you have to apologize, was your heart in the right place?

There’s time to ask for permission, and there are times when you have to use your best judgment, and pull the trigger.  It’s probably healthy to have a conversation with your own leader to determine some “what if” scenarios.  Frame the conversation around how much they are comfortable losing as a trade-off for accountability and immediate customer satisfaction.  That should help you frame situations when you need to ask for permission, and when you need to do your best to spend the money appropriately, with a follow-up conversation around what you did.  You might be surprised how high the number is… after all, you’re a leader, and probably one with common sense, too!

Speaking of thumbs…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

To err is human, to forgive is righteous

31 01 2014

“We are all full of weakness and errors; let us mutually pardon each other our follies – it is the first law of nature.” ~Voltaire

Regarding leadership, Colin Powell also said “Get mad… then get over it”.  We will all make mistakes as leaders.  Our job is to evaluate the data to the best of our ability, then make the call.  If you wait for 100% of the data to support a given hypothesis, either you missed the opportunity, or your competitor beat you to the punch.  When someone on your team makes a mistake, get mad, get over it, and talk about how to avoid a similar mistake.  When you make an innocent mistake, you should be able to count on your leader to do the same.  Of course, making the same mistake over and over again eventually won’t be forgiven – but that’s a different topic for a different comic. 

To err is to be human (i.e. “stuff happens”). Hindsight is 20/20.  Experience is the name we give our mistakes… There are so many sayings about mistakes because there are so many mistakes.    So, whether you made the mistake, or someone on your team made a mistake, get over it (either the anger or the guilt).  Fretting over spilled milk is unproductive.  Working to fix it, and celebrating the mistake so others can learn from it is the way to go. 

Speaking of pardon…



Rubes Cartoons used with permission.