How to Make the Right Mistakes

Mistakes happen. The only people who never seem to make a mistake are the ones who refuse to try. They will eventually figure out that not trying is the biggest mistake of all.

Of course, their excuse for not trying is often that they are afraid of making a mistake. It’s kind of a vicious cycle. 

Successful people make mistakes and lots of them. They fix a lot of mistakes too and they seldom make the same mistake twice. Now I’m not so optimistic as to say there is such a thing as a “good mistake.” Given the choice I would never recommend anyone purposely make a mistake. 

If a mistake can be avoided it should be. All mistakes have one thing is common: they eat resources. Mistakes cost either time or money and oftentimes both. Throw in the fact that they can disrupt momentum and it’s clear that mistakes should be avoided if possible.

If possible! There’s the rub, if you’re going to try new things, if you’re going to push your limits then you are almost certainly going to make mistakes. Just make sure you’re making the right ones.

A right mistake is one made from honest effort. It’s a mistake made in the pursuit of a known objective. If you have no objective, goal, or desired outcome for whatever it is you’re doing then pretty much every mistake is the wrong one.

Most of all, a right mistake is one you learn from. It’s a mistake you learn enough from that you won’t repeat the mistake. It’s a mistake that at minimum shows you how some thing won’t work. A right mistake is one that’s made only once.

When you make a mistake the first thing to do is pause for a bit. The bigger the mistake the longer the pause. Do a bit of self-assessment to be sure that the mistake is not skewing your sense of self worth. Remember, making a mistake does not make you a mistake.

Analyze where you got off track and how exactly the mistake was made. Back track a bit because the real cause of the mistake could have been several steps back in your process. One of the main reasons that mistakes are repeated is that people fail to identify the root cause of the mistake.

Make a plan to avoid the mistake in the future. I love the saying “if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” The only problem with that saying is that it has caused more mistakes than any other single piece of advice. DON’T just try again, try again with a new and different plan. If you’ve really learned from your mistake the plan may not always be a better plan but it darn well better be a different plan. 

I really don’t believe it’s mistakes that cause ultimate failure. It is a person’s or team’s response to the mistake. I also don’t believe that a mistake can’t be fixed, some take more effort than others but nothing is impossible. 

So get busy, take some risks, try new things, make some mistakes and succeed! 

Read this Today!

We have a minor league baseball in my home city, (NO Yankees fans, I’m not talking about the Twins) called the St. Paul Saints. It’s owned by Mike Veeck, son of Hall Of Famer, Bill Veeck, who planted the famous (or infamous?) ivy at Wrigley Field. His co-owner is Bill Murray, yes, that Bill Murray.

The motto at the ballpark is “Fun is Good” and whether you’re a baseball fan or not, you’ll find something to enjoy at every game. There is a lot of “stuff” going on between innings, massages from nuns and a few years ago even haircuts in the stands. 

The beer vendors all wear bright colored t-shirts which advertise “Free Beer Tomorrow.” Now before you start planning your summer trip to St. Paul for baseball and free beer remember this: the free beer is tomorrow. As a matter of fact, the free beer is ALWAYS tomorrow. 

I can only imagine the utter disappointment of the first time fan who returns the following day to discover that they must wait another day for tomorrow to come.

Here’s the amazing thing about tomorrow, it never actually arrives. You’ll never see it on a calendar and nothing ever gets done tomorrow. 

Successful people do things today. They schedule their activities only on days that end in “y” not “w.” Successful people don’t think in terms of tomorrow or someday, (you won’t find someday on a calendar either) they think of specific days whose names and dates are on a calendar. 

Tomorrow is a put off, it is a delaying tactic used by people without enough commitment or ambition to succeed. Tomorrow is a long way off, it’s years away for some people. The day after tomorrow is even worse. 

If you hope to truly accomplish anything important then don’t wait, do it today, do it now and be on your way to success. 

When to Take a Mulligan in Life

I’m tempted to begin this post with a sentence saying that I play golf. That might be a bit of an overstatement. I spend time on golf courses hitting a small white ball. I hit it too often to call what I do playing golf. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson play golf, I play a round. 

My regular golf buddies and I fully understand the rules of golf and we mostly follow them completely. We play for large amounts of money, I once had a very good day and won almost 6 bucks! Even with the high stakes the weekly game is always friendly, and forgiving. On the first hole of a round we “allow” a mulligan. A mulligan is a “do-over” with no penalty. If your first shot is less than you had hoped for you just hit another one. No harm, no penalty!

It’s too bad life doesn’t offer mulligans. In golf there is no consequence for a bad first shot when you take a mulligan. When we mess up a part of our life there frequently are consequences. We, or someone, generally pays for our mistakes.

Just because there are consequences however doesn’t mean we don’t get a do-over. If your life isn’t heading in the direction you would like then by any and all means possible, change direction. 

If a change of direction isn’t enough then take a life mulligan. Start over. 

The starting point for your do-over is wherever you are today. Take from the past only the experiences which will help you in the future. Leave behind your regrets, mistakes, and failures. Above all, leave behind the fear that causes so much hesitation and doubt.

You may also need to leave behind those things and sadly, people who do not provide you with the positive influence you need to succeed. It’s not easy to start over, but most successful people have done it once, twice, or even several times before they found their ultimate success.

In golf when you take a mulligan you (at least I) rarely try something different. You just tee up another ball and hope for a better result. Sometimes it works and most times it doesn’t.

In life, doing the same thing and expecting a different result is a pretty good definition of insanity. If you’re taking a life mulligan only to do the same things the same way then just skip it. You’ll only end up at exactly the same place you started. 

Set new goals, make new plans, get a mentor, educate yourself, and leave much of the old you behind. You’re never too young to begin again and you’re never too old to become the person you’ve always wanted to be. 

I’ll take a mulligan! 

Are You a Significant Person?

Everyone wants and needs to feel worthwhile. They need to feel as if they somehow matter.

Of course, everyone does matter. Everyone is significant. Everyone is special and brings value into the world. The problem is, sometimes we forget just how significant we are.

The world at times beats us up. We work and live around people who may sometimes take us for granted. Worse, they may sometimes tell us that we are insignificant, that we don’t matter. They may try to bring us down, they may injure our morale as a way of making themselves feel superior. 

They make our little shortcomings seem insurmountable and treat us as a failure. 

As a leader you must realize that your people live in the same world you do. You should take steps to ensure your people’s need for significance is fed. You must go out of your way to make certain they know that they matter and because they may have doubts, you must tell them why they matter.

Telling them that they matter is good, showing them that they matter is better. As a leader I’d bet that you would be quick to say that your people are your organization’s greatest asset. 

When was the last time you went further then just saying it and actually showed it? 

Leaders get busy and they forget the absolute importance of engaged team members. They get busy and figure that their people “just know” how important they are. Even people who have high self-confidence need to hear they are valuable once in a while. They need confirmation that other people see their value and significance. They need to know, without a doubt, that they are not being taken for granted. 

Authentic leaders are intentional in feeding their team members’ need for significance. They are careful to never go too long without verbalizing how important each individual is to the organization. They periodically put that importance on display so everyone can see their individual significance.

What have you, as an authentic leader, done recently to ensure your people have no doubts about their value? The key word in that question is “recently;” your kind words in 2011 hold no water today. 

Helping your people feel worthwhile is an ongoing and unending process. If you’ve fallen short in this vital aspect of leadership then the sooner you start the better!

How to Avoid Unproductive Meetings

A few weeks ago a meeting invite popped up on my outlook calendar. Despite the long meeting description I had no idea what the meeting was about or why I was invited.

I went in search of the meeting organizer to get more information. I asked about the objective of the meeting and was told that the meeting was so important “there was no time to mess with objectives.” I was almost honored for a moment since I had never before been invited to such an important meeting. 

The moment was short lived because when I pressed this person for an objective it became clear he truly didn’t have one. He just knew it was important and that “something had to be done.” 

I applaud people with a strong bias for action. What they often fail to understand is that bias for action does not equate to bias for purpose. They lose sight of the important because urgent is staring them in the face. 

The person who sent me the meeting invite was attempting to organize an unproductive meeting.

He was also not the first person to make that mistake.

According to Get a Klu, a consulting firm that provides corporate coaching and training, professionals lose 31 hours per month to unproductive meetings. That’s four work days each month.

That’s not all. Wolf Management Consultants asserts that 73 percent of professionals admit to doing unrelated work in meetings and 39 percent even dozed off in meetings.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average corporate manager spends at LEAST 25% of their time in meetings. 50% or MORE of these meetings are considered to be a waste or completely unnecessary. 

How big a deal is that? Well consider this; even small businesses paying their employees $14-$25 per hour are estimated to lose over $600,000 a year to unproductive meetings. Large businesses lose millions, literally millions of dollars of productivity. Every year! 

If you find that hard to believe then invest 99Β’ and try MeetingCalc, an iPhone app that lets you specify how many people are in the room and what the average hourly rate is of the attendees. Be warned, the numbers will absolutely horrify you. 

I’m fortunate to attend productive meetings, sometimes. I attend a monthly sales meeting that always has an agenda, we know going in exactly what’s happening. The objective is reviewed to begin the meeting. The agenda is followed, information is shared, tasks are sometimes assigned and at the end of it, you feel as if you needed to be there and that something was accomplished

I also attend a periodic meeting to plan for a large trade show, the person who organizes it knows what she’s doing. Once again, there is always an agenda that gets followed. She keeps the meeting on track and after it’s completed progress has been made.

Well organized and well run meetings can be productive. The problem is that so few meetings are well organized or well run.  

Well managed meetings begin with a process, great thought is given to who should attend and why they need to be there. Whole departments are never invited when one or two people would do. 

Successful meetings always, always, always, always have a meeting agenda. Without an agenda the meeting is usually doomed from the start and tends to just fill up the time allotted, whether anything is accomplished or not.

The best meetings have a clearly stated objective, it is specific and measurable. This most basic of successful meeting requirements is also the most frequently forgotten.

Productive meetings have a pre-set follow up scheduled. People are accountable to the follow up and any associated due dates. Most failed meetings skip the meeting follow up, except to schedule another meeting.

No meeting agenda or objectives lead to disengaged participants; people whose minds wander and who spend the bulk of the meeting messing with their phone or tablet. With any luck they ARE doing something productive, it just has nothing to do with the meeting they are in.

But here’s the worst part, nobody seems to care. Companies that don’t require meeting objectives and agendas guarantee lost productivity. People who schedule meetings with little consideration regarding who NEEDS to be there and who refuse to prepare an agenda steal time from the other meeting participants. 

Successful, productive meetings are not rocket science. They are the result of thoughtful planning, due consideration of the investment, both the time and money investment and effective follow up to the objectives were met.

There is no question that anyone can run a productive meeting. The question is why don’t they? 

I think it’s a case of laziness. What do you think? 

Do You Have a Life Map?

Where would you like to be in five years? What would you like to be doing? Who would you like to be doing it with? How will you get there and how will you do that?

If you can’t answer any of those questions it just might be because you have no goals. 

Before you proudly announce that you have goals let me point out that there is a major difference between dreams and goals. Dreams are just thoughts and mostly abstract ones at that. Goals are much more concrete; the process of setting them informs you where you want to be and provides you with a plan to get there. Goals are like a roadmap for your life. 

Successful people set goals in many areas of their life. They have professional goals and personal goals. They have a daily plan to get closer to at least one goal EVERY day. Yes EVERY day!

Successful people know the huge difference between busy and productive. They understand that if they didn’t get closer to a goal it may have been a busy day but it wasn’t a productive day. If you believe that then you must also believe this: if you don’t have goals to get closer to then no matter how busy you are, you are never productive.

I could write for hours on the importance of goals and several hours more on methods for effective goal setting AND goal attaining. 

In the interest of time I’m simply going to suggest that you Google “goal setting and achieving”. There is a wealth of information available to anyone who desires to take control of their life with the help of goals. 

Don’t wait for someone or something to give you a better life, set some goals and give it to yourself.

Does Trust Really Matter?

I was asked by a friend of mine, someone recently promoted to a leadership position, just how much trust mattered in a leadership role.

For those of you who read this blog often my answer may surprise you.

I said it depends. I believe that’s true. 

It depends on whether you merely want to occupy a leadership position or if you really want to lead. 

You can manage your way through a leadership position and keep the organizational ship afloat. You can keep the organization together and depending on what your competition does, you may even slowly grow it.

If however, your goal is to actually lead, to make a difference in the lives of your people and truly grow and strengthen your organization, then you must lead. If you want to lead then trust is absolutely vital. Absent trust, there simply is no leadership. 

Here’s why.

To grow any type of organization you must grow it’s people. Better computers, a better process, and better systems will all help you sustain a business. If you want to grow it you’ll need better people. People get better when a leader helps them get better.

A leader can’t help their people until their people trust them enough to try new things.

Let me give you an example. I once worked for a guy who on his first day said he would much prefer that his people make a wrong decision rather than no decision at all. He promised that he wouldn’t be upset with a bad decision and he would help his people work through it.

Now I have no way of knowing if he actually meant that when he said it but the first person who made a bad decision was just hammered by this guy. No one trusted him again. All risk taking stopped, all decision making stopped, all commitment stopped, and nearly all growth stopped along with it. 

This guy was smart, he was well educated and he knew the business inside and out. He also greatly underestimated the importance of trust and it’s role in earning the commitment of his people. Despite his education, his experience, and his knowledge of the business he failed in his leadership role. The lack of trust, as much as any other single thing, did him in.

Here is an absolute leadership fact: if your people can’t trust you then your people can’t follow you. 

If they can’t follow you they can’t commit to you. If you don’t have their commitment then your influence with them will be great reduced. With reduced influence comes a reduced ability to lead.

Trust is the foundation of leadership. You can build your leadership with all the proper skills, tools and techniques but without a foundation of trust, your leadership will fail.

So, what do you think, does trust really matter to a leader?