The Effects of Bad Work Processes

I had the opportunity to observe the effects of bad work processes up close last night.

Yesterday, the fabulous redhead and I got one of those calls you’d rather not get: a close family member was being taken to the emergency room in an ambulance.  Was it a heart attack?  Stroke?  We didn’t know.  We just knew we needed to be there.  So we threw some clothes in a bag and headed for Tennessee, arriving just after 11:00 PM.

What happened over the next eight hours was a study in frustration.

How to Lead When Things Go Wrong

I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport, cooling my heels, while I wait for Delta Airlines to figure out how to get me home.  My partner Phillip Van Hooser and I have just come from a week on the road, working with Leaders Ought to Know client Helena Chemical. I was just trying to get home when one of those inevitable events happens that plague the life of a road warrior like me:  the flight was delayed for mechanical problems.  Apparently there is a little switch that is misbehaving, and maintenance is going to need some time to repair it.
I’ve come to accept these delays as a part of life on the road, but I was really impressed with the way the Captain of our crippled flight handled the situation.  Just as we teach in Leaders Ought To Know, I saw him demonstrating great leadership during our difficulties. It is easy to be a leader when things are going right.  The real test is how to lead when things go wrong, and Captain Steve Smith stepped up in a way that was a credit to himself and to Delta.


The big blizzard of 2016 taught me something about focus. The fabulous redhead and I live fairly far off the main road.  When it snows, even just a few inches, we’re likely to be snowed in until someone comes and plows us out.  Not that I mind, you understand.  I rather enjoy working, cozied up to the wood stove, when people assume I’m snowed in.

2016 Blizzard and Staying Focused

The blizzard of 2016 was big enough that we thought we’d better line up someone with a tractor to scrape our lane.  At some point we’d want to get out and mix with our fellow citizens.  Translation: we’d want to sit in front of the fireplace at Cracker Barrel and swap yarns with some of the locals.  So we called our friend Ricky.

2016 blizzardRicky is a prince of a man, willing to help anyone in need.  Besides, he has the best toys; he brought his new backhoe over.  But Ricky managed to get his backhoe stuck!  And, in the process of trying to extract himself — using some tricky maneuvers with the bucket and the backhoe arm at the same time — Ricky managed to run one of the tires off of the rim.  It was a frustrating day for Ricky, and I really empathized.

As we were waiting for help to come, Ricky admitted what had happened.  He had gotten a call on his cell phone and had answered it, just as he was approaching a culvert.  He lost just enough focus so that he ran the backhoe into a deep ditch.  And that’s when the troubles really got started.

When Your Mistakes Become Decisions

When do your mistakes become decisions? Does a mistake committed more than once become a decision?  In my last blog post I described how leaders who say they’re going to do something and then don’t do it lose their integrity.  Worse, they’re training their followers to ignore what they say, because they’ve shown they can’t be trusted to follow through.

David from Ohio let me know that he agreed with my assessment.  However, he asked, “You mentioned the word ‘mistake’ in your next to last paragraph.  Do you agree that a mistake committed more than once becomes a decision?” (more…)

How I Compromised My Integrity in Leadership — I’m Not Going to Tell You Again!

My wife and I were in the mall doing some Christmas shopping and we heard it again.  A child was fingering some merchandise and the child’s mother raised her voice.  “You heard what I said before!  I’m not going to tell you again.”  

Later, over coffee, my wife said, “I am growing to hate that phrase.”

“Oh?” I said, sipping my latte.  “What phrase is that?” (more…)

What do you think about risk? Are you someone who secretly enjoys risk? Or do you play it safe?

I don’t think we can ever eliminate risk. But, when it comes to business processes, we certainly can and should take steps to minimize it. For how to minimize risk, read on. (more…)

During our recent Leaders Ought to Know webinar, we briefly talked about team interviewing.  We didn’t have time to explore the concept in depth; perhaps we can do so in a future webinar. But let’s consider why team interviewing can be such a useful technique. (more…)

What’s an Interviewing Rubric?

In our recent webinar on employee interviewing and selection, I used a fancy word: rubric.  Sometimes fancy words just serve to confuse, but that isn’t the case here. Rubrics can be extremely useful in the hiring process. If you’re not familiar with using rubrics, read on.

The word rubric comes from the Latin word for “red ocher,” the color of red pigment used to highlight headings in medieval manuscripts.  That sense of the “red heading” evolved into a sense of the categories which those red headings described.  In the 1970s, academics further evolved the word rubric to include a way to measure or rate different categories of things that were important.  Thus the rubric became a tool for assessing a variety of categories, like the different elements that might be important when interviewing a job applicant. (more…)

One of my early career mentors called me this week.  I hadn’t heard from George, now retired, in over a year, so I feared something was amiss.  George was calling to tell me that a mutual colleague had passed away.

We were both saddened by the loss.  Sue was a larger-than-life consultant, a real dynamo who didn’t let a little thing like cancer keep her down.  Even though she was given only two months to live, she kept going for three years!

As people will do when receiving news like this, George and I started telling “Sue stories.” (more…)

Is Feedback Valuable?

A key aspect of the Leaders Ought To Know® initiative is the interaction that happens between participants.  We have lively discussions when we get together for our biannual on-site retreats.  But even on a weekly basis, the interaction using the Leaders Ought To Know® Learning System is excellent.

Recently I was doing an analysis of the interaction in the Discussion Forums between participants from one of our clients.  I was particularly impressed by the postings of one specific individual.  So as not to embarrass him, I’ll call him “Kyle.”  Kyle’s comments were always insightful, not necessarily long or wordy, but always adding a helpful insight or perspective.  Kyle weighed in on almost every topic open for discussion.  He was very generous with his comments.  And, on top of that, Kyle frequently responded to postings from his colleagues.  He would reinforce what had been said by someone else or offer a different way of looking at things.  Again and again, I found Kyle had been on a particular discussion thread, adding his helpful insights.  In a six month period, Kyle had posted 182 comments in the Leaders Ought To Know® Learning System discussion forums.

When we were at our mid year retreat with the group that Kyle is a part of, I took him aside and asked him about his participation.  His humility was refreshing.  He said, “I try to use it every day,” but Kyle was surprised that his interaction was higher than anyone else in his group.  He said he likes to use movie analogies to illustrate his points.  But then he said something that surprised me. Kyle said he will write something and post it and then say, “Oh, that was stupid.”  He admitted he has often wished he could “take it back.”  I thought that was interesting because I had found almost every posting from Kyle to contain a gem.  I told Kyle he should keep up the good work, and others in the group agreed: Kyle’s input was helpful.

The moral of Kyle’s story is simple: share your thoughts generously and give people the gift of your feedback. If you’re wondering, is my feedback valuable — what you have to say can help or encourage someone.  But they won’t know it, unless you give it away.  Kyle was lavish with his comments. Let’s all be more like Kyle.

This website is using cookies. More details