Monthly Archives: March 2012

#117 – Leadership Conversations

One way to think about leadership is as a series of conversations – with individuals, small groups, and large groups. Arguably, what transpires in these conversations is the substance of a leader’s contribution. If all of a leader’s conversations were recorded and transcribed, what would the pattern analysis reveal?

Food for Thought ~

Related to the subject of leadership conversations, Jim Kouzes, one of the authors of the excellent book, The Leadership Challenge, had this to say:

“We have ~ 3 minutes of attention span for the average interaction. To inspire a shared vision, communicate the vision over and over, many times a day, in a way that is compelling and exciting.”

I would add that this does not necessarily mean to repeat the same words, although that may sometimes be appropriate. One of my interpretations is that we must always be clear on our key messages, and be prepared to repeat and restate them as needed throughout our conversations. It also speaks to the importance of the organization’s vision, and how it serves as a touchstone for daily guidance.

Question of the day ~

How do you regard the conversations you have with people? Are you wisely using the time and opportunities presented by these conversations?

New Article now Available ~

My new column in the North Bay Business Journal is a story about the larger lessons that can be learned from making a mistake. If you haven’t read it yet, please click here to read the article.

With a warm welcome to my new subscribers!


#116 – Story of a Mistake + Thanks!

One of my clients told me about a mistake they made. It was handled so beautifully that I used the story as the basis for my new article in the North Bay Business Journal. It is a great illustration of turning a problem into an opportunity. This happens to be a particularly successful, privately held company. Even in a competitive industry and in this economy, they have done well. Indeed, it may be that how they handle this sort of situation is part of the reason for their success. I hope you enjoy the story and the lessons it offers. Click here to read the article.

Food for Thought ~

We have been exploring the subject of mistakes in the past few weeks. We all make them, individually and in our organizations. It’s what we do afterwards that determines the additional ramifications of the error. Sometimes, a mistake triggers a flood of strong emotions. Give yourself a better chance to solve whatever problems the mistake causes by pausing before you react – either for just a moment or even longer, if appropriate. Wait until you can think clearly and then take the action necessary.

Question of the day ~

What was the most recent mistake you or your company made, and how did you handle it? Would you do it differently next time?

Thanks very much to all of you who sent your good wishes for my health and recovery from my recent surgery. They worked! I am quite well, and your kind sentiments were truly appreciated.

Singing songs of Spring,


#115 – Rest + A Personal Note

This week’s message is just a short personal note to let you know that I had some minor shoulder surgery last Friday. The surgery went beautifully (thanks to a caring and highly skilled medical team) and I am recuperating nicely (thanks to a cadre of close friends) but I need to take a break from my computer for a day or two. I came across this lovely quote a few months ago and this seems a perfectly apropos time to share it with you.

Food for Thought ~

“Take rest ~ for the field that is rested yields a beautiful crop.”
Ovid, Roman poet 43 BC – 17/18 AD

Question of the day ~

How are you at taking the rest you need?

Take good care of yourself. No one else can. It’s one of the things we can’t delegate.

#114 – Dealing with Mistakes by Employees

My topic two weeks ago on “The Undercover Boss” brought a great reply from one of my colleagues, Gig Hitao, who described the approach he used with the employees of his market research firm. Gig wrote: “I had a great system to deal with errors. First, I provided extensive training. In addition, I told employees that if they made a mistake to let me know so that we could fix the problem and that I would never be angry with anyone for doing that. I also told them that if they tried to cover up a mistake, they would be fired. And I was true to my word. When an employee did something that went wrong and they told me, I always thanked them and we then immediately worked out a solution, so they felt good about the outcome. They would then adopt this attitude and really care that the job was done right, because they knew how important it was. Sometimes they would tell me about issues just to be sure they handled it in the right way. They knew they wouldn’t get in trouble if I wanted it done differently. Plus, I never had to fire anyone for covering up a mistake.”

Food for Thought ~

Gig’s comments provide a wonderful example of how mistakes can be converted into learning opportunities. It also illustrates the point that how the leader handles the situation can nurture good morale and employee engagement, both of which serve to actually minimize mistakes. Well done!

Question of the day ~

What is your style of dealing with mistakes by people you work with, whether employees or collaborators? Do you have a company “policy,” either implicit or explicit, regarding mistakes?

Gig also mentioned his approach to the other side of the coin, when someone did something especially well or put in extra effort. He gave them a cash “Extra Effort Bonus.” Thanks, Gig, for sharing your “Mistake Management Method.”