Don’t Do This When People Make Mistakes

We all screw up sometime.  Maybe a careless moment or a poor evaluation of the circumstance.  There are consequences when mistakes are made.  I have been “blessed” many times with being clean-up crew when there is a big mess that needs to be cleaned up.

The fact is mistakes are how we learn.  I have really come to realize this as I have gotten older and gained more experience. There are so many times I get that “deja vu” feeling because I am in a similar circumstance I’ve been before and I remember the proper way to navigate out of it.  Experience is huge and you can’t always make up for it.

I have watched mistakes happen and I have watched how various leaders handle the problem.  There is one thing that I have learned that never seems to work in fixing a mess.  This is using blame.

When you are in the midst of fixing a bad situation the worst thing you can do is to immediately go to blame.  There is a time and a place to analyze and discuss the failures that led to the problem, but going to blame will only magnify the issue.

You will likely isolate the person who messed up.

They will feel that it was all their fault.

They will feel attacked.

They will not be in an effective position to help you fight your way out of the mess.

When one of your reports messes up its for a reason, in the vast majority of cases, the person responsible for the screw up is the person you see in the mirror.  They were not trained properly.  They were overwhelmed and you should have provided help. They weren’t ready for the assignment.  They didn’t have the proper resources.  It’s not them- it’s you!

So why are we quick to blame?  It’s our own ego and pride response.  We blame to protect ourselves.  Protect our perfect standing.  It couldn’t be me?  I did everything right!

After the dust settles and emotions die down, then you can take a look at the mistakes that were made.  The only way for learning is to confront the mistakes that were made and make changes so they don’t happen again.  This is the learning experience.  This is life.  The best lessons are learned out of pain.  It’s not fun- but it’s true.  When you have a mess, concentrate on clean up.  Jump in and help make it right.  Then, after things are fixed, take a good look at what happened and fix the problem.  Time to heal allows for objectivity and reflection.

Stay away from blame.  When you feel like you need to play the blame card- STOP AND THINK- about your role in the problem and understand what you are really doing when you blame.  A great leader will accept responsibility.  They understand that they are not perfect.  They are emotionally mature enough to know that they can make mistakes sometimes and they accept the failures of their reports.

Jump in and fix the problem.  Keep your mouth shut.  Talk about what happened later.

So what do you think?  Have you worked with a “blamer” before?  Do you see the connection between blame and pride?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

The F Word

When I was in high school I remember sitting frozen by the phone thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

Would I be rejected?  

Would she laugh at me?  

Would she make me feel foolish?  

Would everyone hear about it and think I was crazy?

Was I overstepping my boundaries?

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Sometimes I just couldn’t pick up the phone.  I tried to overpower the thoughts that I had, but sometimes they just won.  I wasn’t good enough.  What was I thinking?  She is way out of reach for me.

I was strangled by the F word.  FEAR.

Now as I look back at it- what is the worst thing that could happen?  She says no.  There may be some laughter and maybe I was overstepping.  Yet, I will never know because I didn’t try.  The F word.

Fear is powerful.  Yes, I am a man and I have been afraid and ducked out plenty of times in my life.

When I should have moved forward.

When I should have taken the chance.

When I could have stepped out and made a difference.

What does the F word do?  Let me give you a few of the finalities of fear.

You Freeze:  Fear stops you from making a decision.  You stop.  And while you are stopping, the rest of the world is moving.  You loose your advantage.  You are now looking from behind.

You Miss The Boat:  Opportunities are an instant.  A moment in time.  When you decide to wait or you decide it’s too risky, the opportunity is gone.  Things change.  You can’t go back to that spot.  It’s gone, quite possibly forever.

You Determine The Outcome:  If you fail to act you know what will happen.  Nothing.  You have decided it.  Maybe that’s what you want.  Maybe the risk is too high.  But one thing for sure,  It’s done.  If you choose to risk the outcome might be good.  Choosing not to risk decides the answer.

Often the root of a failure to act can be traced to pride.  I never loose.  I always come out on top.  What would everyone think if I actually failed?

Yet failure is actually healthy.  It doesn’t feel good when you are in it, but I have learned some of my greatest life lessons through failure. So what do you really learn in failure?

You learn that the sun will rise the next day.  You find out that the people that really love you are still there.   You find out that the F word is mostly in your head.  You find out that faith is the thing that allows you to risk.  Faith in yourself.  Faith in your family.  Faith in a Father who loves you no matter what!  Fear is a product of the enemy.  An old scheme he uses to take away your power.  A way to neutralize you in the spiritual battle that is going on around us.

So what are you going to do?  Are you going to crumble and let the F word decide for you and make your final decision OR will you fight through it and go for it!  Do something risky.  Do something big.  Shake off the F word, have faith and trust in yourself!

So what do you think?  Have you had times when you were overcome with fear?  Have you failed to act because of fear?  What do you do the beat the F word?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

Me First

I hate to wait in lines. I don’t know why, but long lines just really irritate me. If I walk into a restaurant at lunch and the line is long, I’ll go back to work hungry and just skip lunch!

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Except for the line thing, I am generally very patient. I understand that sometimes to get quality it just takes time. There is no way around it. I wish everyone else felt that same way. Unfortunately, our instant everything, super fast, efficiency driven, want it yesterday world feeds this impatience. We want it now. We don’t want to wait.

A very wise woman once told me that the root of impatience is really self-centeredness and pride. You want everyone to drop everything they are doing and serve you. It’s like taking cuts in that lunch line. You don’t want to wait your turn. You want them to rearrange their schedules to make you first. So impatience is more that just a characteristic or just “my thing”. It’s much deeper.

After she shared this with me I could see the connection. When I get frustrated with the long line, I am saying that I should not have to wait in the line. It’s OK for everyone else, but not for me.

How do you avoid being that impatient person? How can you manage people without being “me first” all the time? Here are some ideas:

Clearly define the time constraints. If you need something done quickly then communicate the reasons for the rush. If you can’t really describe significant reasons to reorder priorities then it may just be a me first situation.

Consider the workload. Ask your report what they currently have on their plate. Don’t assume that they are in a position to drop everything they are doing to address your needs. Work together to help prioritize the item so that you are both comfortable with the schedule.

Quality takes time. Let’s face it. If you want quality work, it will take time. A rushed job will always show it. Give the person ample time to produce quality work. It’s a win win situation. You will get better work and they will feel better about what they produced.

Provide resources. As you are delegating tasks make sure they have sufficient resources to do the work. if they are are short on resources, then it will always take more time than it should. Ask your report if they need anything to get the job done efficiently and according to your schedule.

Consider the costs. There are always trade-offs in time management. If you are busy taking care of a special project for your boss, you cannot be doing your regular work at the same time. When you delegate, make sure that you are targeting the right person who has the time to be pulled from their regular work without serious damage to your operation. Fight the urge to further load up your workhorse employee who never says no. You will likely be overloading your best employee!

Yes, you are the boss and you can make them drop everything to take care of your special task. But is this really the right thing to do? Or is it just your pride and ego driving the boat. Next time your “me first” kicks in, remember that your stuff may not be the most important thing on their to-do list. Your reports are paid to think and prioritize. There are obviously other tasks and assignments that they are working on and they must also be completed! Maybe it’s time that you take a number and get in line!

Have you worked for a “me first” boss before? Do you struggle with waiting for your tasks to be completed? is patience your weakness? Hit “Like” if you can relate or click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

The Dangers of Meddling

“I can do whatever I want- I’m the boss!”

Have you heard this before?  This is a true statement for the most part.  If you are the boss you can do whatever you want.  But is it healthy?  Is it the right thing to do?  Will it do more harm than good?

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Meddle: 1. to become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted.  

               2.  to change or handle something in a way that is unwanted or harmful

When you think of meddling you probably think of a mother-in-law giving advice on child rearing or your father lecturing you about your personal finances.  Meddling is not a typical way to describe a management and leadership problem, but I believe that meddling is much more common in business than you might think.  And- I believe that it can be very damaging.

When I typically visit one of our construction sites I will call ahead and talk to the Project Superintendent and give him a heads up that I am on my way to the site.  This is a call out of courtesy and respect.  I am not really obligated to call them- I out rank them.  Others like to show up unannounced to do a “stealth” visit.  I really fail to see a good reason to come unannounced.

The reason I call is that I believe that I am going out on their project site.  Yes- I outrank them, but we have put them in charge of the site.  It’s their domain.  Their responsibility.  Even though I am a company executive, out of respect and to align with responsibilities, I feel that I need to notify them and ask to be out on “their site”.

I believe this theory holds true with most areas of management.  If you put someone in charge of a particular area, then you need to respect their authority and stay out of the day-to-day operation.  You hired this person for a reason and you have given them specific duties.  There is a chain of command for a reason.  If you fail to respect the responsibilities and you drift in and out of issues as the wind blows it can be very damaging.  Here are a few of the problems that can develop:

  1. Undermining Authority: By getting involved in the day-to-day activities, you are blurring the lines of authority.  This adds a layer of confusion to who is really in charge.  The employee will be able to take the path of least resistance.  If you are trying to discipline an employee or work out a particular strategy, your efforts can be completely destroyed by a meddler.
  2. Mixed Messages: By getting involved, you will invariably be sending a different message to the employee.  It is extremely unlikely that your message will be identical to the manager who is their direct report.  If you follow the chain of command, the employee will hear only one voice and this will eliminate confusion.
  3. If Dad Says No- Go Ask Mom: We all know this tactic used by children to get what they want.  This also occurs in management.  If you meddle, you are setting yourself or your manager up to be manipulated.  By getting involved, you have added an additional person to the equation and you may be used to wiggle out of a responsibility.
  4. Nice Guy: If you are the big boss and you want everyone to like you, it will be very difficult for your manager to keep the employee focused on areas of improvement.
  5. Turns Down The Volume: If you are meddling and constantly giving direction instead of following the chain of command then the voice of the manager becomes secondary.  Due to your position, the meddler’s message will always drown out the voice of the manager.  Their voice becomes secondary.
  6. Mr/Ms Everything: You have now set yourself up to be involved in everything.  You will now field questions and problems that you really don’t want to deal with.  You can’t get away.  You can’t take a vacation without anxiety.  You loose your trust in your managers.

These are just a few examples of the damage that can occur when you neglect to follow the lines of authority.

You believe that you are better.

You just can’t stay out of things.

You can’t trust anyone to get it right.

You have to get involved in everything.

You want everyone to rely on you.

You have no real confidence in your managers.

Your opinion is the only one that really counts.

You may be telling yourself that you are just “helping out”.  Well, if that’s the case, then ask them if they really want your help.  Remember, if you truly want to help and be productive, then you need to take complete control of the issue and follow it through to the end.  You can’t have one foot in and one foot out.  You can’t bail out when it’s not fun anymore.

Be very careful.  Being a meddler is addictive. When you are involved in everything and you drift in and out of things responsibility suffers.  Who really has the ball?  Should you really carry everything?  Push everything back through the chain of command.  It’s there for a reason.

Empower your managers.  Support them.  And, most importantly, stay out of their business!

So what do you think?  Have you witnessed this behavior before?  Do you believe that you are entitled to do whatever you want when you are the boss?  Click on “Leave A Comment” and tell me what you think! 

The White Knight

“The opposite of pride is not humility as being humble often contains a measure of pride. The opposite of pride is actually gratitude”!   Mary New

Mary shared this to a group of friends recently.  I think there is a lot of truth in this statement.  We often think being humble or meek is admirable, yet there is often a thread of pride that is woven in to our humility.  Pride is incredibly insidious.  It is often completely unrecognizable to us.  We think we are acting under the motivation of doing a good thing- but is the good thing REALLY our motivation?

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The servant heart is especially prone to this.  You may feel like the “white knight” coming in for the rescue when you serve others- however…. 

Do you ever consider what would happen if you did nothing?  Would they really perish?  Maybe it would actually do them some good to remain in a state of want.   

Do you they really need what you have to offer or are you simply enabling and feeding your ego?

Here are a couple of checks to see if the white knight drug is mixed in:

Measure the Sacrifice:  Are you putting aside things that are truly important to you in order to serve?  Are you neglecting your spouse, you family or friends to accomplish this “good thing”?  Be objective about this.  You may need to get advice from a friend on this as you may not be able to see it.  Your family, spouse, and close friends should come first, right?  If you are choosing to serve in front of these, you are likely receiving a good strong dose.

The End Game:  Where are you going with this?  What is your ultimate goal?  Before you make the investment (even properly measured as discussed above), you need to consider what the final outcome looks like.  This may seem elementary, yet the servant heart will look past this important step and charge into situations and really muck it up.  Why would you do this?  Again, you are likely taking another hit from the pride pipe.

Check for Fanfare:  Are you flying under the radar or are you acting in a very noticeable way.  If you truly want to serve you will do it without notice.  The best gift is an anonymous gift.  If you need your name on it, you are likely looking to get something back.  Another puff on the pipe.

Is Good Enough:  If you are taking things to the extreme, then it’s likely that you are doing it for yourself.  Do what you can with what you have and move on.  Yes, we should do things with excellence, yet, there is a limit to this.  If it has to be picture perfect you are probably looking for another fix.

It’s My Religion:  Playing the God card can really cloud your thinking.  Often a good work in a religious setting can be a great disguise for a personal motivation based on pride.  History is full of crazy acts that did little to honor God.  So who do you think got the glory?   

Check Out:  Are you able to leave project?  There is always a time to end it.  Are you able to do it?  It’s OK to fail or move on.  It’s very rare that leaving will cause catastrophic damage.  We can actually fool ourselves into thinking that they will die and be helpless without us.  Crazy isn’t it?  This is almost always not the case.  They will find others to help them.  You are not the only person in the entire world.  If you are convinced that only you can do it, it’s likely another surge in the veins.

I am not absent of these tendencies.  I am a perfectionist and I have a servant’s heart so this is as much a manifesto to me.  However, I am learning to recognize when pride begins to appear.  Pride isn’t necessarily a bad thing- in measure.  We should be proud of our accomplishments.  The key is recognition and staying objective. 

What is my actual motivating factor? 

Why am I doing this? 

These are important questions to ask you.  Don’t get frozen in analysis but go into situations with your eyes wide open.  Like you tell your kids- Just say no to the white knight!

What do you think?  Am I off base on this?  Am I just being heartless?  Click on comments and tell me what you think!