Good Employees Make Mistakes. Great Leaders Allow Them To.

20130418-070009.jpg

by Amy Rees Anderson

As a business leader, I found that one of the scariest things to do was to give your people the freedom to make mistakes. While mistakes allow individuals to learn and grow, they can also be very costly to any company. Scared as I was, I knew that truly great leaders found ways to allow their people to take these risks, and I genuinely wanted to be a great leader. I wanted to help my employees to grow. So I set out to discover how to accomplish this without placing my company in jeopardy.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Meg Cabot

I quickly discovered that the first step was to determine the areas of the business where a mistake could take place without causing too much damage. I took careful attention to make sure that any areas where we would damage our clients and the trust they had placed in us were off limits for significant risk without serious executive involvement and oversight. I identified other areas where I could feel more comfortable allowing people the freedom to experiment on new and better ways of doing things.

The second step was to communicate to the employees that we were setting an official company policy: Making any mistake once was OK, so long as it was an honest mistake made while attempting to do what they felt was the right thing. Making any mistake once was OK, but repeating that same mistake a second time was NOT OK. The hard, fast rule was that if you made any mistake for the first time the entire team would have your back in fixing that mistake if anything went wrong. However, if you ever repeated the mistake a second time, then you were 100 percent on your own to face the consequences. This rule applied for every first-time occurrence of each new mistake you made.

We all make mistakes. Every one of us. If we aren’t making mistakes, then we likely aren’t trying enough new things outside our comfort zone, and that itself is a mistake. That process is the best way to learn and grow as a person. As John Wooden once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned. Mistakes are not failures, they are simply the process of eliminating ways that won’t work in order to come closer to the ways that will.

Great leaders allow their people the freedom to make mistakes. But good employees are those who when mistakes are made 1. Learn from them, 2. Own them, 3. Fix them, and 4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again.

1. Learn from them: Good employees recognize that they have, in fact, made an honest mistake. They do not get defensive about it, rather they are willing to look objectively at their mistake, recognize what they did wrong, and understand why their choice or actions were the wrong thing to do.

2. Own them: Good employees take accountability for their mistakes. They admit them readily. They don’t make excuses for their mistake, rather they acknowledge that yes, they made a mistake and they express openly what lesson they have learned from that mistake. They go on to express steps 3 and 4 below.

3. Fix them: Good employees do what it takes to rectify their wrongs. They are willing to do whatever they can to fix the problem and make it right. Certainly there are times when the damage is done and recompense cannot be made, but good employees do their very best to repair whatever damage has been done to the best of their ability. They always establish a timeline with follow up for when the problem will be fixed and make sure that progress is communicated throughout the process so everyone feels the urgency and care with which they are correcting the problem.

4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again: This is the most critical step in the learning process. When a mistake has clearly been made, the most important thing anyone can do is figure out what safety nets and roadblocks can be carefully established to ensure that this same mistake will never take place again. Document this step so the lessons learned and the safeguards setup can always go beyond you. Do everything in your power to help others learn from your mistake so they don’t have to experience them on their own to gain the lesson you’ve learned.

The steps to correcting mistakes apply to any area of life. Whether it’s business life or home life or personal life, the principles of apologizing remain the same. Good employees make a lot of mistakes, and truly great employees are those have mastered the art of apologizing for those mistakes:

Great People Practice The Six A’s of a Proper Apology:

Admit – I made a mistake.
Apologize – I am sorry for making the mistake.
Acknowledge – I recognize where I went wrong that caused my mistake to occur.
Attest – I plan to do the following to fix the mistake on this specific timeline.
Assure – I will put the following protections in place to ensure that I do not make the same mistake again.
Abstain – Never repeat that same mistake twice.

People who implement the Six A’s will find that the level of trust and respect others have for them will grow tenfold. People who implement the Six A’s will find that others will be quicker to forgive them and more likely to extend a second chance. It’s not the making of a mistake that is generally the problem; it’s what you do with it afterward that really counts.

Amy – “you can follow my daily blogs at http://www.amyreesanderson.com/blog”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/04/17/good-employees-make-mistakes-great-leaders-allow-them-to/

Advertisements

Good Employees Make Mistakes. Great Leaders Allow Them To.

20130418-070009.jpg

by Amy Rees Anderson

As a business leader, I found that one of the scariest things to do was to give your people the freedom to make mistakes. While mistakes allow individuals to learn and grow, they can also be very costly to any company. Scared as I was, I knew that truly great leaders found ways to allow their people to take these risks, and I genuinely wanted to be a great leader. I wanted to help my employees to grow. So I set out to discover how to accomplish this without placing my company in jeopardy.

“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” – Meg Cabot

I quickly discovered that the first step was to determine the areas of the business where a mistake could take place without causing too much damage. I took careful attention to make sure that any areas where we would damage our clients and the trust they had placed in us were off limits for significant risk without serious executive involvement and oversight. I identified other areas where I could feel more comfortable allowing people the freedom to experiment on new and better ways of doing things.

The second step was to communicate to the employees that we were setting an official company policy: Making any mistake once was OK, so long as it was an honest mistake made while attempting to do what they felt was the right thing. Making any mistake once was OK, but repeating that same mistake a second time was NOT OK. The hard, fast rule was that if you made any mistake for the first time the entire team would have your back in fixing that mistake if anything went wrong. However, if you ever repeated the mistake a second time, then you were 100 percent on your own to face the consequences. This rule applied for every first-time occurrence of each new mistake you made.

We all make mistakes. Every one of us. If we aren’t making mistakes, then we likely aren’t trying enough new things outside our comfort zone, and that itself is a mistake. That process is the best way to learn and grow as a person. As John Wooden once said, “If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything.” Mistakes are the pathway to great ideas and innovation. Mistakes are the stepping stones to moving outside the comfort zone to the growing zone where new discoveries are made and great lessons are learned. Mistakes are not failures, they are simply the process of eliminating ways that won’t work in order to come closer to the ways that will.

Great leaders allow their people the freedom to make mistakes. But good employees are those who when mistakes are made 1. Learn from them, 2. Own them, 3. Fix them, and 4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again.

1. Learn from them: Good employees recognize that they have, in fact, made an honest mistake. They do not get defensive about it, rather they are willing to look objectively at their mistake, recognize what they did wrong, and understand why their choice or actions were the wrong thing to do.

2. Own them: Good employees take accountability for their mistakes. They admit them readily. They don’t make excuses for their mistake, rather they acknowledge that yes, they made a mistake and they express openly what lesson they have learned from that mistake. They go on to express steps 3 and 4 below.

3. Fix them: Good employees do what it takes to rectify their wrongs. They are willing to do whatever they can to fix the problem and make it right. Certainly there are times when the damage is done and recompense cannot be made, but good employees do their very best to repair whatever damage has been done to the best of their ability. They always establish a timeline with follow up for when the problem will be fixed and make sure that progress is communicated throughout the process so everyone feels the urgency and care with which they are correcting the problem.

4. Put safeguards in place to ensure the same mistake will never be repeated again: This is the most critical step in the learning process. When a mistake has clearly been made, the most important thing anyone can do is figure out what safety nets and roadblocks can be carefully established to ensure that this same mistake will never take place again. Document this step so the lessons learned and the safeguards setup can always go beyond you. Do everything in your power to help others learn from your mistake so they don’t have to experience them on their own to gain the lesson you’ve learned.

The steps to correcting mistakes apply to any area of life. Whether it’s business life or home life or personal life, the principles of apologizing remain the same. Good employees make a lot of mistakes, and truly great employees are those have mastered the art of apologizing for those mistakes:

Great People Practice The Six A’s of a Proper Apology:

Admit – I made a mistake.
Apologize – I am sorry for making the mistake.
Acknowledge – I recognize where I went wrong that caused my mistake to occur.
Attest – I plan to do the following to fix the mistake on this specific timeline.
Assure – I will put the following protections in place to ensure that I do not make the same mistake again.
Abstain – Never repeat that same mistake twice.

People who implement the Six A’s will find that the level of trust and respect others have for them will grow tenfold. People who implement the Six A’s will find that others will be quicker to forgive them and more likely to extend a second chance. It’s not the making of a mistake that is generally the problem; it’s what you do with it afterward that really counts.

Amy – “you can follow my daily blogs at http://www.amyreesanderson.com/blog”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/04/17/good-employees-make-mistakes-great-leaders-allow-them-to/

10 Leadership Lessons I Wish I Learned In My 20’s

20130408-030335.jpg

by Todd Wilms

All of us would do well with a second bite at the apple, another chance to go back and do it all over again. Our mistakes, as much as our successes, define us and can help steer us forward today. With this in mind, here are 10 lessons learned over the last 20 years of doing business that are now part of my thinking. Or put another way . . . during the interview question where they ask you “what is your management or leadership philosophy?” Well, here it is. [View the downloadable slideshow here]

1. Run With Blinders On
We spend a lot of time wondering what is happening over there in the organization. “What are they doing over there? What is that group doing? Wait, why did they get that project? ” At best this is wasted energy, and at worst a real distraction that keeps you from being fabulous you. It wasn’t until my mid 30s that someone close to me gave me this advice. Their message was surprisingly simple: run like no one else matters.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean be an isolationist and it doesn’t mean you don’t work with other people, but if you see yourself wondering what someone else is doing and it isn’t something you can directly incorporate into making you better, it is wasted energy – pure and simple. Put your blinders on and focus straight ahead – all of that other stuff wont matter.

2. It Is All Personal, Not Business
Contrary to Hollywood screenwriters and every movie Michael Douglass has ever been in, business is personal. Telling yourself anything different may be a necessary rationalization to help you sleep at night, but the sooner you admit it, the quicker you can learn to lead. Every decision you make to “buy” or “not buy” has another person on the other end of that sale that impacts them directly.

Knowing this is personal should not stop you from doing what is right for the business and the hardest decisions I have had to make have been about whether to hire or fire people. I have had the privilege of hiring someone (who had been out of work for awhile) on Christmas Eve and of making tough decisions to let folks go. The faster you can get used to personal, the quicker you can learn how to properly react to your business decisions and garner the respect of your ecosystem.

3. Think Marathon, Not Sprint
Your world will get smaller and smaller as you grow in it. You encounter the same situations and people over and over. After awhile, you wont even bother saying “deja vu” anymore. With this in mind, sometimes the best decisions are made with a long-term goal in mind, even at the cost of sacrificing short-term gains. But, thinking of this as a long-term race, instead of your short-term goal this week, will help you make smarter decisions. Great leaders are keenly aware of the long term repercussions and what tomorrow will bring as they weigh their decisions today, or put into my favorite quote “We said ‘let’s worry about it tomorrow’ yesterday.”

4. Find A Mentor
Always have someone as your coach, your confidant, and your advisor. This can be formal or informal, but you need a “go-to” person at every stage of your life. This person may change and you may add mentors over time. I have been fortunate enough to have one mentor for 16 years, plus 3 others that have been added to my stable of advisors. I know who to call and when to call them – and they always take my call. But there is always someone better at something than you are. Find them. In case you were asking, “why would they help me?” it is because they get the better end of the deal. I see that now that I am fortunate enough to be a mentor several times over.

5. There Are Incredibly Smart People Who Will Help You If You Ask
One of my mentors told me how he would reach out to people he admired and ask them a few questions – their expert advice. Always done in a respectful way and mindful of their time, he was significantly more successful than not in getting some great counsel and often a new friendship or relationship with this person. And damn if he wasn’t right – it totally works.

I have had a great interaction with a former US President, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, several noted authors, a few CEOs, and multiple significant business luminaries – all because I asked. Not everyone will respond, but that’s OK. In the future, I just wont sign my memoir for them when they ask.

6. Leadership Doesn’t Need A Title
Don’t wait for the title to lead. Leadership is about helping the business succeed and helping those around you make that happen. Leadership is also about trust and those around you knowing you have their back. Too many young employees and managers feel like “When I get that title, I can really guide this place.” You should be thinking about how you can show leadership on your first day. If you know nothing else about what is going on, start to get to know people and what they are doing or working on, their background, and what makes them tick. Your influence starts with orientation. Good leaders don’t wait for titles.

7. Learn to Eat S**t
Everybody has someone who has power over him or her – no one is immune. For you proud, independent sorts – this one will be a challenge. Get used to doing things you don’t want to, don’t like doing, or aren’t in your comfort zone. Yes, you can quit or complain or stage a sit-in or whatever. But there is another big plate of it waiting at your next job.

Oh, by the way, starting your own company and being your own boss doesn’t get you out of this – you have investors, partners, and customers who own you. So, get used to it, accept it, and grow your career so these times are fewer and farther in between. Or plan on winning the lottery and living alone on your own island, but then you are going to want satellite TV and now you are dealing with DirectTV and now you are right back to having to eat s**t – never mind.

8. Your Business Network Should Grow Inversely Proportional To Your Personal Relationships
In your 20′s, you will have access to some of the greatest people who will eventually become life long friends. You cannot predict who these folks will be – some that I was sure would be with me for life have dropped out of sight, only to be replaced by some fantastic friends who I did not see coming. You will have a bigger network of friends and personal acquaintances at this age as you aren’t saddled with bigger responsibilities of life (kids and their schedules, aging parents, etc.). Meanwhile, your business network is in its infancy.

Over time, your business network should grow, as you see your personal relationships grow smaller in numbers (fewer, but – hopefully – deeper relationship). Knowing this is coming can help you select your core friends and help you effectively grow your business network.

9. What Is More Important Is How You Handle The Big Screw-Up
Over time, you are going to make some colossal blunders. Epic screw-ups. Personally, I had a history of making all the right moves – uncannily so. Then 1-2 big missteps sent me rocketing backward. When failure eventually happens, how you handle it will define you. Do rise to the occasion and accept responsibility or do you fall in a pit, never to be heard from again? Do you blame everyone else, or do you face it head-on, smile, and say, “what’s next?” How you handle it sends a clear signal of your mettle to both friends and your business network. Leadership is as much about defeat as it is about success. (See the next lesson)

10. Get Knocked Down 6, Get Up 7
This one didn’t make sense to me earlier in life. “Of course you get up,” was what my head said an age ago. ”Why wouldn’t you?” Over time, I have seen folks make a few mistakes, but find it harder to get back up the 4th or 5th time. Remember, this is a marathon so think long term. Keep getting up and stick it out, even when you want to just lie down on the mat for the 10- count. Those that keep getting up when life knocks them down will soon find that there are great leadership opportunities for those that are weathered by experience and keep showing up.

Bonus: Wait It Out
Change is inevitable. New org structure, new boss, mergers, a constant terminal of folks coming in and out of your work life. Similar to “Run With Blinders On,” when you see some big new thing that you think is going to cause some disruption in your life, there is a tendency to want to react immediately to the situation. Don’t. Most of these are minor inconveniences – nuisances at worst. Take a breadth.

I have learned – over time and “the hard way” – that if something is standing between my goals and me, I can wait them out. They move on, flame out, and sometimes become my advocate. Usually they just implode and you are in a greater place for sticking it out. Wait them out (or see “win the lottery, move to island” strategy above).

There is an accompanying slideshow that is available for download here. Enjoy!

http://www.forbes.com/sites/sap/2013/04/08/10-leadership-lessons-i-wish-i-learned-in-my-20s/

12 Revealing Questions Successful Executives Must Ask Themselves

20130319-070342.jpg

by Kevin Krogue

1. Are You Still Relevant? Is your company’s primary product riding a growth trend or is it declining? Are you Hostess still trying to sell Twinkies or has the market long ago moved on? Do you still matter? Where is the next big wave to catch if you aren’t on one?

2. What is Your Why? Is your primary purpose for doing what you are doing still clear and compelling? Have you defined your Why? (Mission or purpose.) Is your What clear? (Vision) Do you have your When written out? (Goals) Are your Hows set and prioritized? (Values, strategies and tactics) Is it still the right Who? Target audience and your executive team.

3. Are You Leading or Managing? You lead people, you manage things. You need both. Leadership is the greatest variable with the most leverage. Leadership decides the path to follow, how fast is the speed of the march, and how to deal with each bend in the trail. Management executes to the variables of the journey. A leader is a shepherd who walks in front with a clear voice, a manager is a sheep herder with a well-trained horse, while a poor manager needs a sheep dog.

4. Are You Great, or just Good? Excellence is first a decision before it is action. Do you have passion for what you do? Are the best in your world at it? Can you make enough money to keep the water over the rocks? Jim Collins in his awesome book Good to Great says you need passion, potential to be the best in the world, and a clear ability to make money to be great in our world of business. Be honest… are you great? Or just good.

5. Are You Taking Care of Your People? They are first and foremost. When is the last time you listened to them? Have you added to their opportunities and their benefits with your success? They are your success. Have you also made the hard decisions? Your people are even more important than your customer.

6. Are You Growing Your People? As you grow your people is how they grow your company. Are you investing in training, mentoring, and coaching to help you and them avoid the Peter Principle, which is the inevitable rise to the level of your own incompetence.

7. Is Your Team Aligned? Does the pay plan invent them in the right direction. Is the Mission, Vision, Values, and Goals clearly and specifically defined, printed and communicated? Are they buying in to the plans you are making in 2013? Have you asked them? Is everyone pulling with the sales teams? Are your managers aligned with the direction of the company? If not, fix it.

8. Have You Listened to your Customers Today? Roku just released their version 3.0 and it is selling like crazy. Why? They decided to put a headphone jack on the remote control. So somebody watching streaming video on their TV could do it without interrupting everyone around them. My wife Crystal, says it’s perfect for older people who can’t hear. They turn the volume up so high it disrupts everyone around them. Roku listened, thought, and innovated an idea that is reaping incredible rewards.

9. How Likely Are Your Customers to Refer Others? Have you asked Fred Reichheld’s “Ultimate Question” lately? “ On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to refer our company to your friends and industry colleagues?” This is the 1st key question to measure the loyalty of your customers. Research shows that someone who gives you a 9 or 10 will refer, and is loyal. A 7 or 8 is neutral, they will nothing either good or bad. A 6 or less will bad-mouth you and your business. They will detract. Why loyalty? Because satisfied customers will leave you as fast unsatisfied customers will. Loyal customers will buy from you again and again and they will recommend you to others. Loyal customers are clients. You want clients, not just customers. The second question after you ask The Ultimate Question is “Why did you give us that score?” You better listen to the answers you receive and fix the problems that arise…. quickly.

10. Do you Have Enough Quality Leads? This is the life blood of business. It isn’t sales, it’s leads. If you have leads, your salespeople will figure out how to close them. What is a quality lead? You will know. They have ANUM. A = Authority, N = Need, U = Urgency, and M = Money…. in that order.

11. Do you Have Enough Sales People? This is the question you ask once you have quality leads. It is a teeter-totter that you need balanced. You increase capacity for quality leads, then you add more people to close them. If you don’t have enough leads, the sales people struggle and leave. If you don’t have enough salespeople, the leads languish and decay. Sales people are like having enough guns on the ship, leads are the ammunition.

12. Are You Learning from Mistakes? Dave Elkington, our CEO here at InsideSales.com, is very good at this. Of course, he first has to believe he is making a mistake of course, but if he recognizes that he mistaken, he admits it, and never seems to make it again. I wish I could claim that.

If you can’t reply appropriately to these 12 questions, then I have a joke to tell you…

There was an executive who took over a new job from his predecessor. When he showed up on the first day he spent a great deal of time learning from the person whose job he was taking. He was trained well and then as the person whose job he was taking was ready to leave he turned to him and gave him three envelopes.

As he was leaving he said, “my last advice is this, when you come up against a problem you can’t solve, open envelope #1. Then do the same for up to two more problems. These will get you through.”

He almost forgot about the envelopes until nearly a year later he came up against an obstacle he couldn’t seem to overcome and he didn’t know what to do until he remembered envelope #1. He opened it.

It said, “Blame it on me!” Which he did, and he was amazed how well it worked and got him through.

Almost two years later he came up against another problem for which there seemed no solution, and once again, he remembered the envelopes. So he opened envelope #2.
It said, “Reorganize!” Which he did.

Once again he was absolutely amazed at how well the advice of his predecessor worked to get him through.

Several years later he had lots of problems starting to come his way, and finally one large enough that he couldn’t seem to overcome. He remembered envelope #3. He slowly tore it open.

It said, “Go prepare three envelopes!”

http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenkrogue/2013/03/19/12-revealing-questions-successful-executives-must-ask-themselves/