Responding to Mistakes

Everyone reacts differently to mistakes. Some have no fear and admit them. Some learn from them and move on. Others regurgitate the facts to place blame on others. Ignoring your mistakes can have a detrimental effect on client and/or co-worker relationships. It’s a sure-fire way to derail your career now and can prevent future opportunities. The next time you make a mistake, or your team fails to fulfill a project’s intended goals on-time or within budget, resist the temptation to find excuses and blame others or situations.

What worked? What didn’t work? Take time to objectively review the elements of the project. Start with objective (factual) items that did work. There will always be some. Then, focus on objective items that did not work. (Objective facts can usually be quantified.) Come up with resolutions with your team. Then, present these results to your boss for  approval to resolve and move forward.

Talk it out with boss or coach. Sometimes we make things mean more than they do. Other times we may be obtuse and not accept the seriousness of our words or actions. Feeling bad does not erase the impact of the mistake. But failing to resolve it and hoping it will go away can be detrimental to your future with the company.  It’s better to talk it out with someone who has more experience and will provide learning opportunities. Resist starting a gossip mill in an attempt to place the blame elsewhere. Not only will doing this limit your ability to positively impact the concerns, you will loose your credibility as a leader.  

Stop mind-reading. Ask! Do not assume you know what others think. Gather their feedback. Allow them to vent, appropriately, if warranted. Actively listen so they will share their experience of the impact on them, or their company. Apologize first, then explain your own actions and intentions. Offer an equitable resolution. Give them time to think about it and set a time to come back to the discussion. The key? Keep communication lines open. Don’t stop talking until the issue has been resolved to their satisfaction, whenever possible. Failure to resolve the mistake sadly means this type of issue will occur again and again, until the lesson has been learned.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Do you silently yell to be heard?

Many executives, managers, bosses and employees have been known to loudly yell from time to time. However, when yelling or shouting is the norm it can damage customer (internal and external) relationships irrevocably. This usually happens when the person has found yelling to work in the past and has no other objective model of how to effectively communicate. Most workers have experienced loud yelling. However, silent yelling can be more damaging.

Vanity is not a virtue. Frequent excuses about your inability to hear will inevitably curtail people from sharing critical news with you. If you have trouble physically hearing others, stop blaming them and set your ego aside. Get a hearing aid. Headsets can help too.

The silent impact. Cyber-space communication is becoming the norm. Unfortunately, email and other forms of electronic chatter can be easily misunderstood. They do not have the benefit of facial expression or voice inflection. Falsely believing it saves time, people have developed a bad habit of sending emails or text messages instead of talking it out with their employees, bosses or co-workers. Wait 24 hours to respond to any upsetting internet communiqué, thus allowing any misperceptions to de-escalate. Better yet! Talk it out face-to-face. Remember, most people only have a sixth grade reading (and writing) level.

Take responsibility. Some busy professionals can easily become upset, while others have too long a patience cycle. Both can be very detrimental when patience is lost! If this is the norm, talk with a therapist for emotional support. Seek objective support from your coach, or business advisor. Limit any venting to a selective couple of people. Please, be sure to ask permission to be candid; limit the time you spend venting. Disregard your ego’s need to exert undue pressure on others to support your view of the facts. Steamrolling only causes explosions, now and in the future. Formulate a win-win plan. When talking it out face-to-face, focus on shared goals and truly hearing their perceptions. If it’s a heated debate, include your boss in the discussions. All together, develop a new plan of action. Keep talking until it is resolved. Only rely upon conference calls as a second best alternative.

Don’t kill the messenger. When you react negatively to upsetting news, it can create defensiveness. You stop receiving critical business or office information from others. Making emotionally charged decisions in retaliation can backfire, making the situation worse (Think, “You’re fired!”). Employees will simply look the other way, or acquiesce, even when they know your mandated resolution won’t work. Or, hire an employment attorney. If you need to vent, ask permission first. It’s a great time to call your coach or business advisor. Learn to take time to collect your thoughts. Ask questions calmly. Listen to others’ replies objectively. Incorporate their ideas whenever possible.

Disagreements. In situations where there appears to be no agreement, it’s far more effective to say:  “It seems like we disagree about that.” Why? It’s a fact. Trying to out-talk them OR browbeat them into your point of view isn’t going to work. Raising your voice will be even less effective. The silent treatment can be deadly to ongoing relationships because they know you have refused to listen to their points of view. Often this behavior speaks loudly, and can be interpreted to mean you are less than professional in how your handle yourself and your business. Listen, learn and look for areas of agreement. Build upon these for a win-win solution.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Fight the Good Fight with Leverage

Leverage is required in many situations to win a good business fight. In some cases, you may automatically have leverage due to your position, title or power to make the ultimate decision. However, you need to be responsible about how and when you use this leverage; future repercussions are inevitable. As an employee, customer or vendor, you need others to help you leverage a win-win outcome. There are cost vs. benefit ratios that need to be considered for the company, others and your own career. Playing the ostrich and hoping the issue will go away rarely works well for everyone involved.

You may win this fight. But lose the war. Even though we don’t have crystal balls to look into the future, talk with a trusted colleague to weigh the pro and con of possible outcomes, now and for the future. If this is a policy or legal issue, talk with human resources director or vice president. If it relates to a customer or vendor, set up a meeting with your boss and the person in charge of these relationships. Be clear as to the purpose and desired outcome. Be more committed to resolving the issue than forcing your own ideas as the only solutions.

It’s not about you. It’s often hard to set aside your own ego in these situations. Particularly, if the issue is you vs. your boss. This will require you to think beyond the current upset or violation of your trust. When the issue involves your client, employee or vendor, ask them what they believe is the needed resolution to keep a positive business relationship. Steamrolling everyone to agree with your decisions or opinions will only create a backlash for you in the near future, particularly, if you are wrong or lied about the facts.

Share the challenge selectively. Share your challenge confidentially only with someone who can help you and is in a position to do so. Follow their advice, even if it doesn’t seem like it will work and stay in communication during and after the resolution. The lone-ranger approach and reliance upon your own mental monologue will limit your future in the company. The worst practice for a business professional to engage in is to talk with everyone else! That creates liability for you professionally and financially. Create a learning opportunity from the situation and look with your coach (or business mentor) to see what you need to do in the future to prevent these types of issues from occurring.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Does your company honor its core values?

Core values are a company’s internal compass of integrity, work ethic and reliability. They guide them in their pursuit of clients, financial rewards and attracting the right employees. These values are reflected in their interactions with customers (internal and external), process of arriving at decisions, following financial standards and honoring sales and marketing promises.

Have you ever had an employee or boss make a situation worse by lying about it? Then, perpetuate the lie to keep themselves out of trouble? This is an example of not honoring the policies, code of ethics and spirit of many companies. When we tell ourselves and bosses that lies don’t matter, it diminishes the reputation of our company. The truth comes out, eventually! 

In a survey recently conducted with people about telling lies in the workplace, we found that most did not have a problem telling their boss about lies if they felt it was the right thing to do or the untruth was negatively impacting their team’s effectiveness. However, when it came to retelling a lie, most felt it was expected to keep their job, client and continue moving up the career ladder, or they were afraid of the repercussions of telling the truth and exposing the lie.

How do you handle and prevent core value violations?

Keep talking. Lies can include the little ones people excuse as unimportant, or omission of the exact facts from your perspective. Unfortunately, being silent causes little lies to build up into big ones, which ultimately hurt the reputation of the company and individuals involved. It can also negatively impact financial solvency. The truth will swing back around to bite the people involved. Stop the perpetuation of a lie. Tell the truth about a situation or issue factually. To create a resolution, talk directly to the person(s) involved with a win-win mindset. Hear their version of the facts. If a mutual agreement cannot be reached, get upper management involved. While they may not recognize the core value being thwarted, be a parrot (aka keep talking). Eventually they will hear you; the same or similar issues are bound to come up again!

Respond with Urgency. A simple lie or unethical act can turn a situation from a molehill into a mountain of upset, grief and even legal action! When someone has done the wrong thing or done the right thing in the wrong manner, it needs to be handled quickly and diplomatically. Most importantly, create a win-win outcome. Remember, there are no absolutes methods for doing the right thing the right way. However, the key to whether your decisions work and make sense will depend upon the perceptions of your customers (internal and external), communities and your particular industry.

Apologize. Simply apologize for your role in the matter. It doesn’t mean you were wrong, or right. Simply acknowledge your role in the issue. Then, start the process of cleaning up the mistake or situation. It is critical that you are open to understanding the issue from their point of view. Be sure to ask the question, “What can we do that will resolve this for you?”  Remember, this is the starting question; truly listen to their response. (Hint, if you’re overly worried about litigation, do not be obtuse and defensive about the situation. That kind of attitude will do more to create the need for a lawsuit than the issue itself!)

Use mistakes as a come-down-to-reality opportunity. Many companies ignore their employees’ and bosses’ negative attitudes toward following the company’s systems, policies and practices until an issue arises that causes a key client to leave. Objectively review what worked and didn’t work in the situation. Stay away from blaming others for a lack of perceived integrity due to not following the systems; it’s a no-win hot button. Instead, describe the impact of the situation on customer, co-workers, management and the bottom line. If your employees are unable to understand the significance of their behaviors and make appropriate changes, it will require ongoing training or reassignment of job responsibilities.

Create a prevention mindset. We all live in a reactive workplace. Being proactive is not rewarded until the preventative measure averts a disaster or something serious. Thinking ahead is what will give your company (and people’s careers) the needed boost to achieve a competitive edge. Questions to get you started in this inquiry: What issue do we contend with often? How do we prevent these issues without reducing our customer effectiveness (internal and external)? What training is required to get everyone on the same page? How do we attract and hire the right people with core values that support our company? How do we hire the right top performers using job fit technology? [Find out more about core value assessments and job fit technology by contacting Jeannette @ OR visit]

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Do you provide unwanted advice?

First, realize this: people don’t really want advice. There is a false perception that if you don’t already know the answer, it’s not important! 

Many people – bosses and leaders, men and women -love to give advice. They love to fix things. Too often they do this without investigating the core issue. If the advice offered is based upon a misperception, the resolution or good feeling doesn’t last very long! When your employees disguise their requests as asking for advice, it’s simply a device to get themselves or their team off the hook. If you do not recognize these requests as ploys, it will hurt the same people in the near future when yet another similar – but bigger – issue arises. 

What Worked/Didn’t? Train yourself – and your employees – to look objectively at any issue. Describe what worked or benefitted the customer or project. It’s a great place to start. Follow up with objectivity looking at the specifics of what didn’t work. From this vantage point it’s easier to ascertain learning opportunities and/or changes required to move forward and resolve issues. 

Ain’t It Awful Trap. It’s a vicious cycle we fall into too many times. No one wants advice when operating in this modality. Most human beings love others’ drama since it takes their minds off their own job concerns. While it may the PC thing to do (e.g., blame game and finger-pointing), it rarely fosters opportunities to grow the project, resolve the client issue effectively, or help someone learn for future challenges. Remember, as their boss or coach, you are either part of the solution or part of the problem.

Listen Empathetically. Often it’s hard to listen to people’s upsets when logically they don’t make any sense. Remember, they are reliving past upsets that have not yet been resolved. When an employee, co-worker or customer needs to talk, listen without providing advice. Most times they simply need to vent. Without the venting process any offered resolution will be unheard. Limit the venting process. Ask permission to provide advice. Limit the ideas you provide to two.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

Got Leadership Credibility?

What happens when busy leaders fail to create credibility for themselves and their company? This failure impacts them personally and professionally. It influences the loyalty of internal and external customers. If the marketplace’s perception is that the business, their products or services are untrustworthy, this perception drives purchasing decisions whether the perception is accurate or not.

As a leader, your employees emulate you.  If you make poor business decisions or fail to develop good managerial skills, your employees will not have any incentive to act differently.

The key is to honor:

  • Your word. Follow through. “I’m too busy” is one of the biggest excuses busy professionals use to justify their behavior. Have you considered, if you’re too busy to follow-through, you’re probably too busy to provide the quality of products and services promised? Get yourself well-organized to keep track of your commitments. Find the money to hire necessary support. Develop a dependable system and follow it.
  • Your company’s vision and mission. Consistently make decisions that follow and support your company’s values. Implement them in a manner that promotes positivity.  Too often we follow our ego (aka as our own self-interests) and this quickly limits sustainable company growth. Others will shy away from doing business with you if they perceive association with you could limit their own success.
  • Your intentions. We judge others by their behavior and ourselves by our intentions. What are your intentions? Are you conscious of them when making decisions that impact others? Most people make decisions based upon the tiniest fragments of information. As a leader, this can be excruciating painful if you need to defend yourself against the facts! Apologize and admit when you are wrong. Encourage others to provide you with their opinions and fact-based solutions in the future. Make good decisions; your credibility hinges upon them.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2011

What do you do when someone reneges on a promise?

Have you ever worked with someone (e.g., boss, co-worker, customer or vendor) who promised to deliver by a certain time and date, and failed to do so? And, kept failing over and over to keep their word? Some may not even remember making the promise, relying upon a false memory. Worse? They may use their position (e.g., being the boss, government official, etc.) to exonerate their lie. You may even have the agreement in writing. Yet, that doesn’t help you achieve the results you need for your company or meet a critical project deadline. How do you handle this bad behavior (if ongoing)? How can you minimize or prevent future miscommunications?

Take notes. Too often we believe we’ll remember what someone else has said. The problem?  Most human beings are very poor listeners, including you! They’ll even excuse any written agreements or emails by saying, “I was too busy and simply skimmed it.” Or, “I was simply agreeing with you!” HUH? When we are negotiating and setting up any type of agreement with another person, we need to stop(!) multi-tasking and focus 100% on what is being said. Clearly establish the “By-When” date and time the product or project will be completed and delivered. Set up checkpoints to monitor progress at the beginning and make any necessary adjustments as you go along, together. Include any additional specifications or verbal agreements outside the original agreement. Review immediately with the other person before moving on to other topics or concluding the meeting. 

Talk it out. Too often when something is not working out as expected, there is apt to be a barrage of emails back and forth. This will rarely resolve an issue since most can be easily misinterpreted. Is there a concern that your client doesn’t feel comfortable expressing? Is there a consequence to them if they admit to a mistake? Is there an unreasonable expectation that simply cannot be fulfilled? You’ll never know unless you ask. Don’t be afraid to discuss and see what win-win outcome(s) can be created. After the project completed, meet face-to-face with the person to resolve any residual concerns. Simply blowing it off will rarely prevent it from happening again, with this person or another!

Our critical ego. Too often we label the other person when problems occur. We tell others the person(s) doesn’t have a high level of integrity, a value. Others may or may not agree with your assessment; however, if they act upon it, it can create a liability for your career or your company. Be careful using words like “integrity,” “ethics,” “need to forgive,” etc.  These are hot buttons today. If you push any one of them, there will probably be an explosion. Instead of playing this no-win game of finger pointing (remember every time you point a finger, there are three fingers pointed back at you), focus on the needs of the project. Work through the issues or concerns to resolve them in a win-win manner.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

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Are your best employees difficult to work with?

Difficult employees can be very competent, technically. Or, they might have great people-savvy but limited technical abilities. Due to this global market we operate within, they may have entirely different definitions of integrity, ethics, and other core values. They provide challenges to you as the boss.  Either they do not have a well-balanced approach to issue resolution, or worse, they refuse to develop these abilities. Although they may lack the interest to acquire these skills, they end up blaming you when problems arise! As the leader, you must be proactive. It may save your job.

Use scientifically validated assessments. Using an assessment tool will facilitate a better understanding of each person’s thinking style, core behaviors and occupational interests.  It will provide a bigger picture of their personality traits in comparison to the rest of the working population, which provides them with a better understanding of why they may have trouble working with different types of people. To receive the biggest ROI, have all your employees together when debriefing the results.

Require appropriate training.  Investing in areas where these employees require a stronger skill set may make all the difference. Enable highly technical people to develop the appropriate people skills. Develop project management skills for employees who have great people skills but show little interest or ability to manage processes and details. Remember to include training for setting goals and achieving results on-time and within budget. Ethics training for all employees is a great tool to get everyone on the same page.

Exploit strengths. If your employees are good either with the details or the bigger picture, have them review a current project with you and together determine why it is stalled or not working well. Listen for the gold; ask questions. See if these individuals can uncover the issue(s) themselves. Even if they have been the biggest nay-sayer, this process will bolster their own buy-in to the project.

Keep attitude positive. Too often we place blame on difficult employees and hold them responsible for our own negative attitude towards them. Unfortunately, you foster dissension that may spread to other employees when you do. Instead of creating this hostile working environment, teach your employees how to value others’ contributions, regardless of how they share their ideas  Be a better boss by conveying how to do this through your example. Your ROI will be evident as you watch your employees develop stronger interpersonal skills and build a cohesive team.

©Jeannette Seibly, 2011

The Art of Straight Talk

Effective leaders know how to elicit the best in others through communication. They have great listening skills and people feel great after conversing with them. Unfortunately, too many rely upon manipulative techniques or hide behind technology. The results are disastrous!

Many people fear talking with others. They attempt to hide their discomfort by using company lingo or business jargon. Others don’t readily understand what they are saying. Sometimes they are not clear themselves, and may use terms inappropriately in the hopes they sound important. They offer flippant opinions about how something should be resolved without taking into account details or perceiving nuances that might be present. They are very poor listeners. They allow their minds to wander and think about other issues, falsely believing they are saving time. They over use qualifiers (e.g., try, might, etc.) in a vain attempt to have others “feel good” about talking to them. Leaders must achieve results, not merely try!  Your team looks to you for motivation and direction. Do not disengage their efforts!

Use multiple mediums to convey your message!  Many workers have only a 6th grade reading level. To complicate it further, many don’t read for comprehension. They read just enough to get it done and be able to say they read it. When questioned about content, they clam up. They might share a few words they remember reading, or simply claim, “I don’t remember.” Time has been wasted and everyone is disengaged. To communicate well, write simplistically. Speak in a clear manner that readily helps the other person get on the same page with you. This is particularly necessary when sharing new ideas. Talk someone through a new policy or procedure. Take the time to provide opportunities for Q&A. Use visual examples. The keys to successful communication are consistency and repetition.

Listen. It saves time and money. We believe we can look into the whites of someone’s eyes and know whether or not they are telling the truth!  Then, we operate accordingly.  (Truth: statistically we are only 14% accurate about deception.) We need to learn how to ask the right questions. We need to learn how to listen not for the answers we want to hear, but to the answers actually provided.  If you truly listen, you’ll be amazed by what you can learn.

Move the conversation forward.  We believe if we can repeat back what someone has said, we listened!  Or worse, we are mind readers. In that case we don’t need to actively listen and just wait until it’s our turn to talk. Simply repeating back someone’s words does not mean you listened! Unless you build upon someone else’s information, to them it is like having a conversation with a wall!  Listening is the ability to hear the spoken and unspoken words.  Take what is said and move the conversation forward. Now that’s value added.

The bottom line is that a well-run company works to communicate in a manner that others readily understand: verbal, written and visual delivery of the message. Communication is consistent, simple, and when necessary, repetitive.

(c)Jeannette Seibly, 2011