Leading Through Mistakes | Lead Change Group


Leading Through Mistakes | Lead Change Group.

I love articles like this.  I love that they speak to what we all inherently know and feel and understand to be true and right in the world.  And I love that in this case it provides insights from those in places that do this well, as it gives hope that we can all achieve the same.

I also struggle with them, as not only someone who studies and practices in this field but also as a worker who experiences the alternative.  We read articles and research and the myriad other pieces of information that confirm our core beliefs in the way we should treat others and be treated, but often when that bubble bursts we are standing or sitting in an environment that is exactly the opposite.  So what do we do?

I am a firm believer in demonstrating what we want to see in others.  Admit when you make mistakes, and mean it.  It definitely isn’t always easy and it certainly can make you more vulnerable,  but if all of can continually present our mistakes to others and own them, others may feel more willing to do the same.  This helps remove the stigma and hopefully help to influence the culture around you, no matter whether you are have positional authority or not.

We can also attempt to provide feedback and suggestions to those around us on using the many methods of using mistakes for good, not evil.  We can suggest articles, books, papers, and more that have information and would be “some interesting reading” in a friendly and caring attempt to help others to see some new ways they could do things.  But we cannot always get through, and need to know when to back off.

It can be easy to be positive when we talk about what we should do, or what we know is true, but the reality is that many workplaces out there do not have cultures that support this mentality.  Even worse, there are many organizations that do, but some of the managers do not support the same.  In these cases, if you have exhausted every avenue, there may be no other choice but to leave the team, group, department, or even the company.  Being in an environment that burns you down for mistakes, or having a manager that refuses to admit their own while ensuring that any of your own are glaring, pointed, and clearly spotlighted will suck the very life from you and all work you do.  I firmly believe that change can happen, and that the things we know about the interactions between engagement and motivation, leadership, communication, and behaviors is true and important.  The catch is that we have to know when the environment and/or people are open to that change.

For leaders,  think for a moment on not what your perspective is, but what is the perspective of those that you are in charge of?  Do they feel like you are supportive?  Do they feel like they can make a mistake?  How do you help them?  How would you view or treat your employees differently if they were your friends instead of employees?

What do you think?  Have you been in a situation like this, as an employee and/or as a leader, and what was it?  How did you handle it?  What would your recommend to others?

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12 Ways to Maximize Collisions of Perspective | Leadership Freak


12 Ways to Maximize Collisions of Perspective | Leadership Freak.

I am a firm believer in the fact that conflict can be healthy and does not have to be negative, but the key is to be able to disagree in a healthy manner.  As always, the Leadership Freak hits it dead on!  Don’t run from conflict, but embrace it with clear boundaries and rules and it can become one of the greatest business tools you have at your disposal!  I think we often forget that many inventions and innovations happened when someone was told that they couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or wouldn’t, or it would never work.  Conflict, though not always comfortable, is often the catalyst for great things!

When you have time, lead your team.


In the not-so-distant past, I had the opportunity to experience a situation unfolding where a manager has taken on the role of “working manager” to a detrimental point, exacerbated by a number of facts.  First, they are in a first-time management position with direct reports, which started as one and grew to 6 in a very short period of about two-and-a-half to three years.  To make matters worse, their role has increasingly taken on more individual contributor responsibilities, while the responsibilities of the team members reporting to them have Man facing problems and stressbecome increasingly varied and complex.  This is a recipe for disaster.

Organizations today are increasingly attempting to “do more with less” which is not a new concept, but we see organizations taking it to frightening extremes at times.  While to some degree this is a fact of business, we need to ensure that we are also being mindful of the conflicting measurements and expectations we place on leaders in the organization.  How much time do you and/or your managers spend focusing on your own projects and tasks?  How much time do you or they dedicate to actually managing and leading?  Are your tasks and managing and leading your people considered different, and what is more critical?  These are important questions.

Too often we forget that the functions of leading and managing are complex, and require focus and time.  This is even more salient when leaders work with diverse workgroups across national and international boundaries, and across multiple areas of expertise.  The basics of learning to delegate are important, but there is certainly more.  Leaders in complex leadership situations need to the opportunity to say no, they cannot take on another task, another project, another product, another whatever without fear of reprisal.  It is senior leadership’s responsibility to create and encourage this environment, and everyone’s responsibility to help support it.  Further, it is the responsibility of leadership throughout the organization to make sure that the right people are not only in the right place, but also that they receive the right support at the right time.  This means for themselves and other leaders.

We need the time, the training, and the support to be the best that we can, and that means each and every one of us, consistently.  There is no silver bullet, but an important component is awareness.  The awareness of senior leaders and mid-level leaders to recognize when they or others are taking on too much, or trying to be the hero, or trying to continue getting the accolades of being the “doer” versus being the leader.  While there are many other areas for potential focus, this one thing makes a huge difference in engagement, creating a trusting environment, building relationships, and increasing potential and performance for everyone.

 

Lessons Abound for Businesses in the Wake of Civil Unrest


With the number of major world events happening over the last 6 months, I have to believe that people are starting to take notice and ask why. In many cases perhaps there is no reason to ask why, such as the overturn of the Tunisian government, or the similar situation in Egypt. Even as we speak the unrest in Libya is building to a crescendo, with people around the globe starting to feel the impact at the gas pump and in the stock market. Not to mention there are plenty of people, myself included, that are waiting to see the outcome, and what it means for not only the Middle East and African countries, but for all peoples and countries around the world. Business should take lessons from these situations as well, not only of the impact to them, but for what it means in the country of “YourBusinessToday”.

We often look at situations in foreign countries and think that it could never happen to us, and what we certainly don’t think about are the similarities between a country and a business. Any time you have a population of people being governed by a body who has greater and greater power and control in the eyes of those people, you really walk a fine line. It is the responsibility of those in power to take a step back, listen to their people, and ensure that not only do they understand them but are working on their behalf to make things better for them. Without people to lead, and people who want to follow you, you have no authority and can and will lose much. Whether that much is a company or a country is based on your situation, but the result is generally still the same.

In tribes such as the Trobriander and others around the world they have this concept correct. There are even companies such as Gore that get it right. You have to keep groups small, allow the people to have a voice, base authority on merit, and truly have your people’s best interest at heart because your people are you and you are your people. When you create a hierarchical system, giving greater and greater authority while separating the leaders and people from each other, you often end up playing a huge game of telephone to understand what is really going on with the people. Authority and respect needs to be earned by leaders, and voluntarily given by followers. When you try to force it, or demand it, you degrade the entire structure of trust and communication. We see this when we look at world leaders who are killing their citizens to maintain control, or taking money out of their pockets in one form or another to fill their own, or even in the case of working over their people’s heads and behind their backs on “diplomatic policies” that are really about making the leaders power and money greater (sometimes at the expense of the people they serve).

Unfortunately we fail to notice, or do anything about, the actions of business leaders that are equally egregious. We as human beings tend to view it as a greater tragedy when bad things happen to a people of a country, but accept it more when it comes from a business. While business leaders may not be mowing down their employees (and who knows, perhaps some do!) there are certainly cases where they are making deals for their own benefit, and lining their own pockets because “they earned it”. I’m sure that many of the world leaders out there being overturned and ousted believed the same thing at one time or another.

The time may not have come yet, but I believe that if current events are any indication, the time will come when people around the world will begin to become infected with the pandemic virus of “we won’t take it any more”. As this day draws near businesses better take heed and make changes, because as the global economy changes, the global environment changes, and one only knows how many governments change there will certainly be the possibility of a target being painted on the front and back of every business leader. Again, we’re not there yet, but that day may not be too far in the future.

Supported Communication Patterns Thrive in the Workplace


Something I have noticed in the different organizations I have had the pleasure (or in some cases nightmare) of working with are the different communication patterns. This is a topic that I believe sits on the mind of many across many different types of organizations (clubs, associations, committees, businesses, etc.). Just think for a second, how many times have you ever made a comment like “we never know what’s going on” or “you better be careful what you say around here…the walls have ears.” These kinds of statements are precisely the indicators to watch for to signal that there is a major communication problem.

When I say that there is a major communication problem, perhaps a more correct statement would be that there is a major problem with the communication environment. The only way that problems in communication can really get out of hand in the manner that causes the aforementioned statements, is if the people in the environment support an environment that allows it to thrive.

So how do you change the environment, especially if you are not one of the decision-makers? First, a simple discussion with your supervisor, if possible, would be a good start. Clarify your concerns and possible solutions. As with anything, include the benefits to the business, group, employees, members, etc. as well as the issues that the current environment is causing. It’s important to have real examples as much as possible.

The second thing to do is practice what you preach. By simply modeling the behaviors that would create improvement you can infect others 360 degrees and hopefully start an epidemic. What behaviors would be represented here? Not allowing gossip and backbiting to occur. Simply help break that chain of information by not listening to it, or passing it along, no matter how interesting or tempting. Make sure that as much as possible you keep those around you in the loop, and ask for the same in return. This truly should be an expectation. If you find yourself in a situation where people are bypassing each other and getting supervisors involved when not necessary, or you find people attempting to pull “power plays” call it out and make it unacceptable.

It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure that the work environment is a happy healthy place, and that includes in the communication arena.

Corporate Commitment to Long-Term Memory Could See Greater Overall Success


In today’s world of “I need it yesterday” there is an unfortunate tendency to forget about some of the most basic ideas and functions. One of these that I have noticed in the corporate world is the necessity to simply force as much information on employees as possible, with an expectation for them to remember, synthesize, and utilize that information. Unfortunately this is done without any thought on how the company can help this process, which is detrimental to both employee and company success.

Think about your own company for a moment. Do you get inundated with emails, conference calls, classroom training, online training, and meetings? How much of the information delivered through all of these sources do you actually retain? What information are you deleting, forgetting, or tuning out because there is just too much?

To commit information to long term memory it really needs to be encoded as something meaningful in the mind, and needs the time to be properly transferred from working, or Short-Term Memory to Long-Term Memory. In the haste to get things done “yesterday”, we often overlook these basic psychological functions.

If corporations truly made a commitment to improving this process, what would it look like? Perhaps we would see different expectations set and in different ways, meaning “You received xyz training yesterday, and so let’s talk about how you will apply it, and put together a plan to allow you to use the new skills or knowledge.” Or maybe, “You received abc email this morning. Send me back what you understood that email to say.” While these methods would not always be applicable and/or necessary, there are many situations in which they could certainly be helpful.

What would a company look like if things were treated in this fashion? How would people feel about the company 10 years after they start? Would it change anything at all?

I have to believe it would change things for the better for all involved. It would stand to reason that a company full of people who have received and retained information would reduce the number of communications needed to go out, would reduce the amount of training and re-training that would need to take place, and would see the company succeed greater through reductions in wasted time, money, and information.

Organizational Teams Show Parallels to Facebook


I just finished an interesting article from Twitter called Deric Bownds’ MindBlog: You’ve got to have (150) friends…, and I have to admit that I use my Facebook for personal contact and to stay in touch with people that I can’t otherwise stay in face-to-face contact with.  I can also agree that I have people that at one time I was in close relationships with, but that over time they have become a part of the outside ring of my 150+ friends.  But even further I started to think about the idea that is pointed out in the essay referenced from Robin Dunbar: people can really only have “around 150 close, meaningful relationships both online and off.”  After reading that statement I can’t help thinking to myself that even 150 would be stretching it in most cases; I’m not sure that I’m even close to that number as I sit here right now.  I might have around that on my Facebook, but out of those I really only have a close relationship with about 25 of them.

So what do I propose this has to do with organizational teams?  Let’s look for a moment at the average business unit, division, or team.  How many people belong to that group?  200?  500?  1,500?  Is there any question that with teams and groups this large that there are feelings of being ignored, detached, unheard, or separated by employees, supervisors, and managers alike?  Too often managers and supervisors, and even in many cases employees are expected to build relationships and work together in an environment that is completely counterproductive to that end.  By simply changing the size of teams, I would propose that we could easily improve the functionality and success of teams and groups by simply evaluating the effective size of those groups and teams.  In order for people to develop the sense of closeness and relationship, and even more so caring, about a common cause it must be encouraged through the proper environment.  This is why quick, irregular meetings of regional, national, or international members of teams and groups, or of the leaders of a group or organization are generally ineffective in being productive.  Without regular contact and interaction (and not just by phone and email), you simply can not effectively build relationships and the necessary fight for a shared cause.

I can’t begin to say that this is something that could happen overnight, but I truly believe that this is a concept that needs to be viewed with as much urgency as sales skills and production rates.  Life within business is not so much different than the rest of it elsewhere, so let’s take these lessons and use them to be more productive, successful, and happy.  Along the way, maybe you can make some new close friends…just don’t try to add them all to your Facebook.