Our last article discussed the CEO or other senior leaders as the “fall guy” for organizational mistakes. Now that a mistake has occurred, willful negligence or an unintentional accident, what happens now? How does the organization or individual recover? As I stated several times in a past article, it depends.
It depends on the severity of the mistake, presence of intentionality, and so on. It also depends on the culture of the population affected and that of the offending individual or organization. Does the organization have a history of making offensive mistakes? Does the individual have a reputation of repeat acts of indiscretion?
Here are some things that organizations and individuals can do to help repair their image.
An apology goes a long way – but only so far and so often. Apologize after losing you cool once during a meeting and you may be fine. If you have a history of explosive rage, you may find yourself updating your resume and a trunk full of what was once in your desk. Organizations can apologize too. This may be a result of (un)intentionally misleading customers and an apology could be in the form of a Tweet, Facebook post, or even a news announcement. A personal phone call could do the trick as well.
Make amends through financial compensation, repairing what was damaged, replacing what was lost, or offering something at a steep discount or free. Organizations do this often. When an auto manufacturer identifies a malfunctioning seat-belt, they offer free replacement and may even offer a rental car if needed – at no cost to the customer. I once offended (unintentionally) a colleague of mine and was able to buy them a cup of coffee and talk it over. In the end, we were both fine without any additional fall-out.
Now, this may sound counter-intuitive, but it may be appropriate in some cases. The issue may seem so severe at the time, but in reality, it was minute. Depending on the severity of the mistake, and the results, the best decision may be to do nothing and let the issue just fizzle out on its own. I have done this at times, and it works ok. Usually when I do nothing, it is only temporary as I end up following my “nothing” with an apology later.
For the individual, this may mean leaving a position, changing employers, or even starting a new career. For the organization, this could result in a product realignment or disbandment, adjusting services offered, or even just policy and/or process changes.
These are not all-inclusive, just a few ideas to get you thinking. What works for you? Any recommendations, please let us know.
Jared W. Snow
Here is a quick lesson from my 11 year old son, Gavin. You see, Gavin enjoys tinkering around the garage. The challenge for me is he uses tools and doesn’t put them away – big surprise for anyone with an 11 year old?! I recently purchased a new tool chest – the kind that locks! I told Gavin that since he helped lose pieces and some were not put away correctly, that he earned the opportunity to help organize my new tool chest.
It came time to organize the sockets. There were at least 2 dozen that were not where they belong and my instructions were to organize them first by standard and metric. I showed him that standard have measurements of 1/4, 1/2, 3/4, and so on and that metric have a number and “mm” next to it. Easy instructions, not too many sockets to organize, and he was doing it with a smile.
Then he says, “Dad, your way works, and I don’t mean to be rude, but I have a faster way.” First, I was glad he was trying not to be rude. Second, I was surprised that he had an easier way. Was it to just throw them out?! So, he showed me. And here is the 2-part lesson. Apparently, at least on a Craftsman socket set, the standard sockets have, along with the brand name, the measurement only, while the metric sockets have 1/8 inch tick marks all the way around the bottom of the socket. Who knew!? So instead of looking for the “mm” he was looking for the tick marks. I have been doing it the difficult way all these years!
The second lesson of my 2-part lesson is you never know who you will learn from. That day, I learned that even a self-proclaimed efficient and effective guy like me can learn something from an 11 year old. Don’t ignore the person who you believe to be too young, too old, uneducated, wrong job, wrong business, or any other “wrong” or “too” [insert assumption here], as you never know who or where you will learn from.
Jared W. Snow
Have you ever played a game of chess, and moved the pawn in a sacrificial position enabling you to take control of the board in what seemed like a game winning decision, just to realize it was a fatal mistake? I have. Have you ever counseled a subordinate or peer, offering what seemed like sound advice at the time, and think back later and question your advice? I have. Have you ever said the right thing at the right time, and find out it wasn’t? I have done that too. Chances are, as a good leader, you have as well. You take chances. You make decisions. You do your best. What does this have to do with chess?
The game of chess takes years of practice to become a superior player and a master strategist. Most of us have played the game, but how many have mastered the strategy of chess? Did you know that you can lose a game of chess in just 2 moves? This is call Fool’s Mate. If you are not careful, you can fail your team in just 1 move.
In the game of chess, the player must utilize all pieces in front of them in order to win. All pieces are important to every player and must be utilized in some way – defensive or offensive – to win. Is the pawn just a piece to be discarded so the rook can take over the board? I say no. The pawn can take out other pieces (offense) and block the movements of other pieces (defense), as well as force the other player to take the pawn and utilize a turn. I am not a great chess player – my 11 year old son can beat me! The point is, all pieces are important to the game.
Leading people and managing projects is just like a game of chess. A good leader must understand the skills of their team, where they are best suited to succeed, and know how to leverage their skillset. The status and goal of the team’s projects must be managed at all times. This does not mean micro-managing the team or project, just management and understanding. The leader must lead the team and manage their projects in such a way that team communication, collaboration, and effort move in unison in an intentional fluid motion towards success. This takes time and practice.
Chances are, if you manage a large team, you are a strategist, coordinating the efforts of your team instead of “doing” things such as answering customer support calls, installing a computer, or welcoming someone to your building. As you lead your team, you are moving the pieces within your board to accomplish the team’s goals. You may even have a team of subordinate leaders who are responsible for training and leading your pawns, rooks, and bishops. You are the chess player for your team and you are responsible for their well-being.
You may not feel you are the best player or leader, and sometimes you may even wonder if what you are doing is providing value (I have). Every team needs the chess master, at least the master in training. So what do you do if you make the mistake and provide the right advice at the right time and realize it wasn’t? Learn from your mistakes and move on. Share your experience with your team. Showing that you make mistakes will demonstrate to your team that you are the chess master but you are also learning with them.
Whether you are the pawn, rook, or the chess player, do your part on the team. One day you will become the player, or chess master, and someone will look to you for the right advice at the right time. And you will be right.
Jared W. Snow
Have you ever wondered why other drivers are just not as courteous as you (or maybe they are wondering that about you!)? Or, why your coworker doesn’t deliver the report as she is supposed to? Maybe, why your husband can’t seem to understand what you are telling him? For many, the idea, concept, process, whatever it is, is common sense, so we believe that it should be common to those around us. The result, we end up disappointed or frustrated, or even angry.
So why does this happen?
Most of us have heard (and said) that common sense isn’t common. Do you think this is true? My stance is that common sense is common; otherwise, they wouldn’t call it common. However, it is not common to everyone. At least not in the way most of us think. Why? Because we are all different.
I was working with two other coworkers who were fed up with how each other conducted themselves, I will call them Mike and Todd. Mike was the lead and would complain that Todd was not completing his tasks as he should. When asked if Todd was told what to do, Mike would say, “Of course!” The reality is, the message was not delivered in a way that Todd understood.
In this example, Mike would tell Todd to “complete your assignments”. Todd would claim they were done and Mike would claim they were not. The issue? The message was not clear enough. “Complete you assignments” is far different from “Complete your presentation and reports by 10:00 am Friday November 6, 2015 and deliver them to me by email.” The later provides a more thorough suspense and deliver method, which can be easily followed (assuming the task/project instructions were clear as well).
So which method is considered common? Both. How?
Standardize products and service, delivery method, and set clear expectations with your team. Doing so will create a clear standard that can be followed, monitored, and adhered to. If your team is cohesive and has been together long enough, “complete your assignments” will be common for your team.
If your team is still forming, or if you have members who require more in-depth instruction, then provide that for them. There is no harm in providing clear instructions. This will help build your team to become more cohesive, efficient, and effective. Remember, it is not that they lack common sense. Common sense is just different for everyone.
As you work with others – subordinates, peers, your leadership – consider what they determine to be common sense. How does it differ from what you determine to be common? Does this change how you perceive them? How they perceive you? Keep this in mind as you lead your team, take instruction from your supervisor, or changing lanes on the freeway. Because common sense isn’t common, or is it?
Jared W. Snow
We have all been there. Waiting for what seems like eternity for your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant, becoming more impatient as your hunger grows and the clock ticks. In reality, it has only been 30 minutes for your favorite sushi roll or perfectly seasoned and grilled steak to appear. At last, you can finally enjoy that meal you so desperately desired.
Last week I discussed the differences between efficiency and effectiveness. How does your understanding of expectations and quality relate to efficiency and effectiveness? Essentially, efficiency is related to time and effectiveness to quality (review last weeks discussion here). Knowing what is expected and defining quality will change what is determined to be efficient and effective.
So what if I expect my favorite restaurant to be less efficient in trade for a more effective quality product? Is this really less efficient or just different? Conversely, should I expect a fast-food restaurant to be more efficient but receive a lower quality product? Is this really a lower quality product or just different. What does quality mean?
Quality can be defined as the degree to which a product or service meets or exceeds the customer’s expectations. (Project Managers also consider the grade of a product or service, but that is a different topic.) If I go to a steakhouse, I expect a perfectly seasoned and grilled steak. If I go through a drive-thru, I expect a burger cooked and served quickly.
When I go to my favorite steakhouse, I am sacrificing my time as I know the wait will likely be 45 minutes, but I am gaining what I perceive to be a high quality meal that meets my expectations. Should the fact that I already know the wait time is going to be 45 minutes change my definition of efficiency?
When I am in a hurry, I will go to a fast-food drive-thru and order a quick burger. I am exchanging what I determine to be a higher quality product for efficiency (less time). Does this change my definition of quality?
You see, quality is not less or more, it is different, and the same with efficiency. If I were to go to a steakhouse, and I receive a fast-food quality burger instead of my perfectly grilled steak, I would be disappointed, as the steakhouse did not meet my expectations for what I determine as quality in that situation. Alternatively, I should not expect a steakhouse quality burger from a fast-food drive-thru.
How does a steakhouse relate to leadership? As you lead your team and determine efficiency and effectiveness, consider the expectations set, and how you and your team define quality. Ensure everyone is of the same understanding to reduce unmet requirements, simply because your definition is different from the others.
Moving forward, as you go to your favorite restaurant, see if you can tell what they value more – efficiency or effectiveness – and does this change based on your expectations and definition of quality. Meet with your team, clearly articulate your expectations, define quality, and drive efficient and effective results. See what happens when you become more efficient through effective use of your expectations and a clear definition of quality.
Jared W. Snow