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.

“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.

The pain of bravery

28 06 2016

“Take chances, make mistakes.  That’s how you grow.  Pain nourishes your courage.  You have to fail in order to practice being brave.” ~ Mary Tyler Moore

I think I’ve spoken of making mistakes and learning from them enough for a while.  It’s been a while since I addressed bravery.  That’s when you know what the right thing to do, but you also know (from past experience) that doing the right thing can be uncomfortable – for you and/or the person being confronted.  Calling out a co-worker for messing around when you both have a job to do can be uncomfortable.  Asking someone near you to quiet down so that you can do business on the phone takes bravery.

Leaders, we don’t have the luxury of not acting when we know that the wrong thing is going on.  You can’t pretend to not see something, because addressing it might mean that someone doesn’t like you.  It does nobody any good if you delay that conversation.  You’ll probably have sleepless nights worrying about it, and the bad behavior will be considered “acceptable” because it’s clearly going on with your knowledge.  Tear off that band aid, and have the conversation that needs to happen.  Dealing with issues early on are almost always the best way to stop that unproductive behavior.

Speaking of pain…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

A plethora of blunders

11 04 2016

“Youth is a blunder, Manhood a struggle, Old Age a regret” ~Benjamin Disraeli

“A blunder at the right moment is better than cleverness at the wrong time.” ~ Carolyn Wells

The sheer number of leadership quotes that I found having to do with blunders tells me that I’m not wrong (pun intended) in spending the amount of energy explaining to people that it’s OK to make mistakes, so don’t waste energy regretting them.

That said, I’ve beat this topic to death over the last few weeks, so I’ll just let you jump to the comic today.  I may be wrong in doing so, but I can live with the mistake, if so, and learn from it.  🙂

Speaking of blunders…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

Laugh it off, Leader.

28 03 2016

“Mix a little foolishness with your serious plans.  It is lovely to be silly at the right moment.”  ~Horace

On the occasions that I’m working from home, and my wife happens to be there, she has walked by me and said “That’s the work face, huh?”  Then I look up at her, and she says “and there’s my husband!”  One of the harder things to train new leaders is that it’s OK to occasionally drop the work face and just have some fun.  Sure, keep your eye on the goal, but share a laugh with your team.  Let them know you’re human, too.

Having that sense of humor, and that humanity in the workplace will make it more likely that your team will ask you for help when they’re stuck.  They’ll also be more likely to come and tell you that they made a mistake, knowing that you’re a human, with a heart, and that you’re likely to understand and help them fix it, versus yelling at them.  Your team will laugh together more if they don’t think you’re going to come out of your office, and scold them.  So, laugh a little… starting with the comic below.

Speaking of silly…


Rubes cartoons used with permission.

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.