Leadership Lessons: When Mistakes are Made Create a Teachable Moment 3

Coaching Session - Digi60 - Ottawa Film Festival

One of the best compliments I had ever received as a Manager was from an employee after I had disciplined her. It took her about 15 minutes after the fact before she realized what I had done. I was reminded of that incident the other day when a reader wrote me and asked me how to go about “calling attention to a person’s mistakes indirectly”. In my management training sessions I talk with team leaders, supervisors and managers about how they need to create “Teachable Moments”. Mistakes are inevitable. Mistakes will happen but discipline should always be a positive learning experience.

It’s difficult for anyone to take constructive criticism in a positive way. (As far as I’m  concerned there is no such thing as constructive criticism only positive feedback) People on the receiving end do take it personal. (It’s human nature) I know for the most part you are giving it for the right reasons.

When working with others it’s important to always be positive. You need to look at mistakes in a positive way. (Look at them as learning opportunities) When mistakes happen – and they will happen – you need to create an environment where it’s OK to fail. You need to create a “Teachable Moment”. You need to be able to separate the act (What the person did) from the person they are. (You’re OK; it’s what you did that isn’t. I don’t want to change you I just want to change what you did wrong.) Try using the “Sandwich Technique”. Think of a sandwich that has two slices of bread (whole wheat multi-grain, lightly buttered, hold the mayo) with a slice of lean roast beef, lettuce and a tomatoes. (If you’re going to eat this sandwich it might as well be a healthy one)

Try creating a “Teachable Moment” by following this simple recipe:

  1. The first thing you need to do is design the right environment. Make sure you have your teachable moment in an area that is conducive to learning. A quiet boardroom, office or on the shop floor if you are going to be teaching someone how to operate a piece of equipment, etc.
  2. Start the conversation off by saying something positive about the person. The years of experience they have that is invaluable to the department and organization. How they contribute to the overall success of the department. The first slice of bread will help you take your emotion out of the equation. The first slice of bread will help you separate the act from the person. Remember the person is OK; it’s the act that you want them to change.
  3. The lean roast beef in your sandwich is what you want them to change. It’s important to let the person know that it’s not them that needs to change but what they are doing. Let them know the negative impact the “act” is having on the team, department and organization. Let the person know you are there to help them be successful. Ask them what they think are the reasons mistakes are happening and what they would recommend be done to correct the problem(s). Together, work out a course of corrective action  that you both can agree on. However, it’s important that they own the plan.  If it’s your plan – and it fails – then you’ve given them an excuse why it failed. If it’s their plan they are more likely to “buy-in” to the process and make it happen.
  4. The second slice of bread is used to bring about closure. Let the person know that you are looking forward to working with them. Let them know that you will be following-up with them to ensure that the plan is getting the desired results. (People do what you inspect not what you expect) Always follow-up. Manage by walking around. Discipline should always be a positive learning experience. Be sure to praise performance. Let them know you are pleased with the progress they are making. “Catch people doing something right and give them a one minute praising” – Ken Blanchard – One Minute Manager.

Spring – A Great Time for Renewal

Ah, spring in Canada! There’s nothing quite like the changing of the seasons to get your heart pumping. Everyone seems to have an extra bounce to their step. The migrating snowbirds are returning from their winter retreats, and the trees and grass – once dormant – are starting to show signs of coming to life again.

Spring – a great time for renewal. A great time for all of us to dig ourselves out of the winter doldrums, dust off our summer sports equipment, get the bike out of storage or go for that long overdue walk. Spring is a great time to “re-sharpen the saw” as Stephen R. Covey would say. The season of new beginnings is a perfect time for self-reflection and re-assessment. Are you getting what you want out of what you’ve got? Are you getting your WIIFM? (What’s in it for me) Spring is a good time to ask yourself: Are you happy and content with where you are at this stage in your life, both at work and at home? If the answer is yes – great. However, if you’re not perfectly satisfied, what are you prepared to do about it? You need to change the behaviour to change the result. Doing the same thing and expecting a different result is the true definition of insanity. You need to have a Dr. Phil moment and take an honest look at yourself and your surroundings and come to terms with whatever it is that is getting in the way of you getting what you want.

It may come as a surprise to some people but life is not meant to be a spectator sport. Life is a ticket to the greatest show on earth. You need to get off of the couch, roll up your sleeves, and get back in the game. Where would you like to see yourself in 6, 12, 18 or 24 months from now, both in your personal and professional lives? Success is a matter of being focused on the goal and being prepared to do whatever you need to do to accomplish it. Success for the most part – in any undertaking – is having a plan and then working that plan, and if you’re not accomplishing what you set out to do, then you need to change that plan and start again.

Larry Winget in true Larry Winget fashion sums it up best in his book – “It’s Called Work for a Reason: Your Success is Your Own Dam Fault”. Wishing and hoping won’t make it so. You need to develop those kinds of habits that are going to take you to where it is you want to go. (Soft skills like patience, open mindedness and empathy) Don’t wait for perfect! There’s never going to be a “perfect” time to start, a “perfect” set of circumstances, or a “perfect” plan. You need to heed the advise of Esther Dyson: “The delusion that you’re perfect – or that if you do the right thing, things will always work out OK – makes you resistant to change and fearful of failure … you’d rather not discover that you’re imperfect, that maybe what you were doing was wrong. The more people can go through these discoveries the better.”

So remember – Any time is a good time to start a new beginning. Why not make spring time – your time for renewal? Strike up the band. Shake the dust off your action plan and get at it! Read a book, attend a workshop or join a group of like-minded people. The point is – stop talking about it – and do it!

21st. Century Leadership is a Matter of Being FOCUSED

Stop! Enough already. Please tell us something we don’t already know. I’m about ready to scream just like the character in the movie when he yelled – “I’m as made as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!!! The last straw for me was a recent news article headline that read – “Poor leadership seen as main cause of low worker morale”. (Oh really? Give me a break). You’re got to do better than that. I hope someone didn’t pay good money to a research firm so they could state the obvious.

The article went on to report that seventy-three percent (73%) of human resources executives that were surveyed said poor leadership is the leading cause of low employee morale. That far out numbered the percentage who  blamed workload (16 %) and salary and benefits (11 %). The conclusion reached from the results of that survey was that – “Being fair with employees builds morale, improves productivity, decreases turnover and ultimately boosts the company’s bottom line. (Ya think) Maslow has been telling executives that since he first introduced his “Hierarchy of Human Needs” theory in 1943. He observed that people respond better if they feel that they are appreciated and respected. It’s a basic human need we all have to some degree or another.

I am a student of human behaviour. I’ve been conducting my own research expanding over a 40+ year career in managing people and there are seven things that I have come to know for certain. I believe to be an  effective leader you need to be FOCUSED.

To be an effective 21st. Century Leader you need to be:

F – Friendly. People respond in kind and are more likely to want to follow a leader that they have built a relationship with and trust. Smile – let them know you care.

O – Observant. Manage by walking around. Offer assistance only when and were needed.  Provide people with the tools that they’ll need to be successful and then get of out their way. Resist the urge to micro-manage.

C – Competent/Confident. Know what you know and know it very well. And know what you don’t know. Surround yourself with talented people and rely on them often.

U – Understanding. Develop empathy. Be able to see it from their point of view. Carnegie believed effective leaders listen to understand not necessarily to agree.

S – Sincere. Be genuine. If you are truly interested in your people and you truly want them to be successful then it will show in the way that you interact with them.

E – Energized. Act like you want to be there. If you aren’t passionate about what you do – if you don’t like being around people – you need to choose an alternative career.

D – Dependable. If they can’t trust your word then they can’t trust you – period. If you say you are going to do something – then do it and do it without delay.

Daniel Goleman said it best – “We are being judged by a different yardstick. Not by how smart we are, or our training and expertise, but also by how well we handle ourselves and each other”. Effective leaders make an emotional connection with the people who choose to follow them.


Adults Can Learn New Things – It Just Might Take Longer

Performance improvement is achieved by gaining both knowledge and understanding of your own behaviour, and by increasing your willingness to change the way you interact with and respond to others. If you understood how someone likes to communicate, listen, manage and be managed, and you communicated and managed them in a style that they liked – would they be more receptive? Would they be more apt to listen to what you had to say?

Suppose for a moment that we are born a certain style – a certain way of behaving. And suppose for a moment that that style dictates the way we communicate, listen, and interact with others. And suppose there were four distinct styles of behaving and that, generally speaking, we “fit” into one of those four styles. If that were true, would there be any value in understanding your style and the styles of the people we work with?

Can you change  your behaviour to get a different result? (Can you create new habits? Stop doing one thing and start doing another. And the more you do it the more it becomes you.) Simply put can you act in a way that is going to get you what you want? I’m a behaviorist by training, which is a fancy way of saying that I study and watch people for a living. I use an assessment tool called DISC which identifies your style. Once I have identified your style, I work with you to teach you how to communicate and interact more effectively with someone who has a different style then you. Each of the four styles the DISC tool identifies has its own strengths and limitations.

Dominant personalities are task-focused and prefer to lead the group, but may come across as unapproachable. They can be seen as insensitive to others and show impatience at times. They are often referred to as A-type personalities.

Interactive/Interpersonal personalities are great communicators and they love being around people, but they may appear superficial in their approach to others. They can appear to be disorganized and to lack follow-through.

Steadiness personalities are great listeners and are very loyal, but can appear to be indecisive when making a decision, for fear of upsetting others. They have a tendency to outwardly agree with you, even when they don’t, and resist change, preferring to maintain the status quo.

Conscientious personalities are our very best planners. However, they can be overly concerned with perfection. They appear to act aloof and prefer to work alone. They tend to stifle other’s creativity by sticking to the rules: their rules and their plans.

I believe there isn’t one style that’s better suited to managing people then any other style. A strength overused, or used in the wrong situation, can become a weakness. The secret to great managing is to change your management style, depending on the person you are working with. Your job as a manager is to teach your people what they need to know. One management style does not fit all. Remember: There are no dumb students, only dumb teachers who refuse to use every tool available to them to ensure that their students have learned.