Reverse-Engineering Your Worst Management Disasters

reverseReverse engineering is taking apart an object to see how it works in order to duplicate or enhance the object.  – WhatIs.com

Reverse engineering our disasters means really examining them, rather than sweeping them under the rug in embarrassment.We may be leaders. We may be managers, even at a high level. But being human, we will blow it sometimes. Sometimes BIG TIME. Part of recovering from our failures is to determine to grow from them.

We grow when we learn to be honest, really reflect on our disasters and their repercussions and learn to ask ourselves good, hard questions. I recommend having your management coach, immediate supervisor or trusted colleague help by asking you good questions, too. Notice that none of them are “why” questions. They’re not off-limits but it is too tempting to do the parental “why did you break the lamp?” accusation for which there is no real answer.

For each question there are implied follow-up questions that for space’s sake I did not note here. For example: “Has this happened before?” should be followed up by “Give examples. Then what happened? How did you respond then? To what consequence, if any?”

Your answers lie in the follow-up questions. All of this takes courage and accountability to do well. Continue reading

Emotions at work: A great servant but a TERRIBLE master

Don't let your emotions rule youScenario: You wind up in the COO’s office for the umpteenth time for “the talk”. You are once again upbraided for your reactiveness at a recent team meeting. You know they’re right, but begin your defense with, “I know I shouldn’t have said that, but he just made me sooo (fill in the blank here)! Worse yet (the deign of every professional) we may even cry.

Emotions – our gut reactions to internal or external stimuli – keep the world, and life interesting. Unemotional bosses usually have unhappy staff who have checked out, having given up on getting a rise of any kind out of their fearless leader. Passionless leaders cease to be leading at all after a while. For many of us, however, our passions regularly, spontaneously spill out in ways that may make our colleagues and employees feel discomfort, confusion and even contempt.

Change your mindset, change your world

Alfred Adler, a neo-Freudian psychotherapist, stated, “I am convinced that a person’s behavior springs from his ideas.” Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “Men [People] are disturbed not by things, but the view which they take of them”. Continue reading

Prop or Drop? 7 Last- chance Fixes for Poor Performers



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Some employees do such poor work, have such miserable ethics and are so obviously misaligned with the values of a company that they are relatively easy to fire. There is no second guessing by HR or your management peers. The subordinate’s colleagues are saying, “What took you so long?!”

Most often, however, giving a series of poor evaluations presents another dilemma; while they may deserve to be fired it seems to final, too fast. You wonder if this would be a big mistake.

Here are 7 interim solutions: Mix and match and buy yourself time both to re-evaluate your position and give the employee a chance to make a turnaround. Continue reading

Gratitude – Humility that makes you Great

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I received an unexpected blessing today when a young woman cashier at a bakery called me “mom” and said, “And you are mom because you paved the way for young (African-American) women like me. Thank you.” I was blown away and humbled by her lovely sentiment, the graciousness and self-awareness she displayed and the simple, yet profound gratitude she showed to a complete stranger.

I am reminded of another young man (ok , young to me) who told me he got where he is because of the elderly folks on the job who showed him “where the sand traps were”; how to network before he even had a title, who to befriend and when to suck it up.

Looking at political races and business mega-giants today you’d think true gratitude went out of style. Everyone claims to be “self-made”.  All I had to start with was the 10 million my daddy left me….

But I don’t believe you ever become truly great without it. Continue reading

Power: Gollum couldn’t handle it; can you?

Lessons from the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) Trilogypower4 The enduring popularity of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fable trilogy, the Lord of the Rings (LOTR) is owed to brilliant writing combined with themes everyone can relate to, from camaraderie to courage to romance to the abuse of power. The basic plot was the attempt by an alliance for Frodo the Hobbit to forever destroy an all-powerful ring that would allow its wearer to dominate the world; a ring the evil “ringwraiths” sought after.

One helpful definition of power is influence plus enforcement

Power is the greatest benefit as well as the greatest danger for the executive on the ascent. There are many lessons from LOTR that can help give it perspective.

The ring was both a symbol of power and a source of power Having a title that starts with “chief”, or “executive” or “commissioner, etc., is itself both a symbol and a conveyor of power. As a former adjunct lecturer at a college where all instructors are called “professor” I became keenly aware of students’ desire to please me, even by agreeing with positions they thought I held, that they didn’t even believe in. It was understandable given the propensity of so many other authority figures in education to espouse their philosophies (Let’s get one thing straight, there is no God!) (Republicans are the party of progress). and penalize or humiliate students for disagreeing. Be mindful that just having a corner office, an assistant or a seat at the head of the conference table lets people know you wield power and influence without saying a word. Continue reading