We are all familiar with the term “don’t shoot the messenger,” including what it means. In short, never blame the bearer of bad news.
For those of you who are history buffs, you will undoubtedly recognize the validity of the saying as the messenger rarely, if ever, had any direct involvement with the bad news they were delivering.
However, and in terms of taking personal ownership or responsibility in today’s world, there is a general belief that this saying now invokes a certain level of excusability in which one is almost encouraged to deflect as opposed to face, a difficult situation. In short, bad news of any kind or the hint of failure, is hastily submerged in a flurry of explanations and defensive justifications. This unfortunately offers little in the way of providing meaningful insight into what went wrong, and how it can be addressed going forward.
I think it is important at this point to highlight the fact that in our lives, we have all failed or missed the mark at one time or another. In fact, I would confidently predict that there are going to be more than one or two missteps in everyone’s future.
Similar to what Aristotle had to say about avoiding criticism, the only way to avoid making a mistake is to do nothing, say nothing and be nothing. This of course is not an option.
Now that we have all agreed that failure like success, is inevitable at different times in your life, the question shifts from avoiding the admission that you made a mistake, to dealing with it.
In this regard, there are three very important rules for admitting a mistake and responding to it in a proactive and professional manner.
1. Stay In The Kitchen
Harry S. Truman once said “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen!”
This is the first, and most important rule of being able to admit that you made a mistake . . . you have to stay in the kitchen and take the heat.
I can remember very early in my career being given some important advice by my then boss. He said that the surest way to get fired if you make a mistake, is to “beat around the bush in terms of telling me about something you did wrong.”
His reasoning was fairly straight forward . . . “I can respect someone who is willing to admit they made a mistake and take ownership of it. While I may be upset – even angry, I know that when a person is willing to take the heat for something they did, they will also work doubly hard to find a solution.”
“Conversely,” he went on to say “someone who attempts to hide or minimize a mistake – including blaming it on circumstance or worse – someone else, will also dodge the responsibility associated with making it right.”
2. Be Factual And To The Point
Far too often you might find yourself tempted to frame or package the admission of making an error with a superfluous explanation of why or how something happened. This is for the most part a natural human tendency in which we are all, to varying degrees, vulnerable.
My only advice is to fight this inclination.
With the same conviction that is associated with the encouragement to “let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No!” you need to tell it like it is, in a direct and succinct manner.
What this demonstrates is that you are more focused on getting it right, than being right.
When you want to be right, your inclination might be to explain or defend your actions. However, when you want to get it right, the focus shifts from what you did, to what needs to be done to rectify the mistake.
While this might seem like a subtle distinction, it is nonetheless a telling demonstration of both your character and your values.
3. Offer A Solution Versus An Excuse
Following-up on the previous two points, when you decide to take the heat and openly acknowledge your mistake, you will then be free to make things right.
In essence you will make that all important transition from giving an excuse to providing a solution, turning what is at first a setback, into a moment of real victory.
To do this however, you have to have a clear plan of action in mind. This includes knowing where you went wrong, demonstrating how you will get it back on track and, what you will do going forward to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
By doing this, you will have empowered yourself to take control of the situation, as opposed to the situation taking control of you.
Don’t Be Defined By Your Mistakes?
One final word of advice . . . do not be defined by the mistakes you have made.
Instead, be known for your ability to admit when you have missed the mark, and your determination to make it right.
In the end, and to borrow a powerful statement from a commencement speech that Denzel Washington gave a few years ago . . . always fall forward!
Over the years I have had the privilege of coaching both men and women on how they can increase their personal presence and build an enduring brand.
Needless to say, there has been a great deal of discussion surrounding job interviews and how to go about getting that promotion or landing that new position.
What has been most interesting is that I have noticed a trend in which men are more apt to go for a position even if they do not possess all of the prerequisite skill sets to do the job. Conversely, women are more inclined to line up their ducks in terms of acquiring all of the necessary skill sets before they seek a position.
“Don’t take action if you have only enough information to give you less than a 40 percent chance of being right, but don’t wait until you have enough facts to be 100 percent sure, because by then it is almost always too late” – Colin Powell Leadership Lessons
While I am certain that there are no shortages of scientific studies and related articles that explain why this is the case, one thing is clear . . . men are willing to take on the challenge of mastering a new position regardless of their ability to do the job in the here and now.
Some would call this confidence, while others have referred to it has possessing the “fake it until you make it” mindset.
Just to be clear, I am not suggesting that men are being dishonest in any way by adopting this “just win the position first and worry about the details later” approach. At worst they might be overconfident in their ability to master the position while on the job but, they are getting in the game with an attitude that they will ultimately succeed.
This being said is the “fake it until you make it” mindset a good think or a bad thing? After all there is a world of difference between presenting yourself as someone you are not and, someone who truly believes that they can deliver on their promise.
I often tell my clients to honor their authentic self but encourage them to step outside of their comfort zone to stand out and be noticed, but never at the expense of appearing fake and disingenuous.
In the context of today’s post, this means that if you truly believe that you can do the job even though you don’t possess 100 percent of the required skill sets, you should go for it.
The question then becomes why more women don’t follow a similar line of thinking?
This is perhaps where the impostor syndrome comes in to play, particularly with women in the business world.
In her June 3rd, 2013 Entrepreneur article “Fake It Until You Make It: How To believe In Yourself When You Don’t Feel Worthy“, Nadia Goodman writes; “The impostor syndrome is especially common among people who become successful quickly or early, and among outsiders, such as women in male-dominated industries. They explain away their success as luck or timing,” Young says. “They feel this sense of waiting for the other shoe to drop.”
Goodman then goes on to add that this fear “is stressful, and often leads people to hold back instead of pushing for bigger clients or more challenging opportunities”.
One of the suggested remedies is to “see faking as a skill”.
In reflecting upon this skill Valerie Young, an expert on impostor syndrome and, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women asserts, “knowing how to appear confident is a valuable asset in any job. It’s a skill to be able to walk in and act like you know what you’re doing even if you don’t”. The important caveat is that you conduct yourself in a manner that doesn’t cause “intentional harm or deceit”.
By adopting this view of faking it until you make it will, according to Young, help you to feel credible even when you’re out of your comfort zone.
This brings us back to my earlier point; if you honor your authentic self, then you are not really faking it but demonstrating your confidence in your ability to do whatever is necessary to get the job done no matter what you may face in the future.
“You don’t know what you can get away with until you try”
Colin Powell Leadership Lessons
. . . his short and simple definition of a lady or a gentleman is, someone who always tries to make sure the people around him or her are as comfortable as possible.
I was reminded of the above definition of a lady or a gentleman last week when I read the news of how Google’s Senior Strategist Scott Jenson walked out of a conference before delivering his keynote because he thought that the audience for his presentation was too small.
Of course rather than focus on what Mr. Jenson should or should not have done, both before he left and then afterwards in response to the public outrage over his actions, I thought that it would be a much better idea to share my own experiences as a speaker.
To start, and having traveled the world over many times, it is safe to say that I have had the privilege to address audiences of all sizes. Whether it be delivering a keynote address, giving a seminar or making an appearance at a book signing, the attitude that I have always maintained is one of gratitude.
Does this mean that there have not been times in which I was disappointed? Absolutely not.
In fact, I can remember years back when I was attending my first book launch. Eight people showed up at the Borders store; one guy in the front row was reading about Voodoo, another about medicine and the treatment of diseases and another was emailing while I was talking.
This is hardly the warm and enthusiastic embrace an author would hope for or want, especially for their first book. However I believed that the “show must go on” and focused my attention on the people who were there to meet me and hear what I had to say. In other words, my role was that of a host in that I was there for them and their benefit rather than being there for myself. This is part of what I call the host mindset.
Of course the host mindset is not only applicable to public speaking. It also applies to your relationship with clients, co-workers and in general your role as an employee regardless of your position or responsibilities.
This doesn’t mean that you assume a subservient position or perceive yourself to be less than those around you. What it does mean is that you have the confidence to look beyond yourself to seek ways to add value to the people with whom you come in contact. Specifically, you are considering their comfort in the context of why they have taken the time to be with you and seek your input. It is really nothing more complex than understanding and addressing their needs in much the same way that a good host will tend to the needs of his or her guests.
And Ladies and Gentlemen, this is what I believe is the key point that we can all take away from what happened at the conference last week.
“These executives were true pioneers. Surely some CIOs today are CEO material, Boushy says, but they may not be positioning themselves well. He had his sights set on being CEO early on in his career. “Things didn’t just happen to me. I managed them to happen to me,” he says.”
I recently came across a September 25th, 2013 article in CIO magazine from which the above excerpt was taken.
Even though I had read it when it was first published, in reading the article today, I was again reminded of how important it is to adopt a CEO mindset regardless of whether you are working in a Fortune 500 company or are an entrepreneur running a small enterprise.
In my book The Future of You! I talk about this at some length. Specifically, that it is critical to have an entrepreneurial mindset in which you act like your “own CEO.” This is a key realization because as the individual referenced in the opening paragraph put it, Things don’t just happen to you. You have to manage them to happen to you.
So how do you manage to success? Here are just a few of my essential tips for becoming the CEO of your own destiny:
- To start, it means that you will listen to what your “customers” are saying, and then position your unique capabilities to meet their interests and needs, all the while being true to your personal mission statement.
- As the CEO of your own company or brand, you also have to recognize that you are the manager and owner of your PR strategy. When you deliver tangible value and outcomes for others, you have to be able to talk about what you have accomplished in a manner that promotes your personal brand.
- Besides having a strategic vision and a meticulous plan, the best CEOs also know there is an unbreakable link between their personal brand and their management style. In essence and as two-time Mr. Universe winner Nordine Zouareg once told me, “how you live your life is how you live your brand.” The two must always be in sync with one another for you to be seen as genuine and trustworthy, as well as maintaining a personal sense of being grounded.
- Finally, you have to be both honest and direct, and not just with others but with yourself. In my March 4th post “What makes YOU amazing?,” I talked about discovering your unique ability or abilities that make you amazing and, asked if you are using them in your present position? If you are congratulations. If not, perhaps it is time to take a step back and have a heart-to-heart with yourself regarding your definition of success and how to align yourself to better achieve the outcome your gifts or talents warrant.
You have heard of the Art of War, the Art of The Deal but what about the Art of Fear?
What is the Art of Fear you ask?
Like your values and goals, your beliefs are at the heart of what makes you your authentic self.
And just as a portrait reveals the artist’s vision, our internal assessment shows the strengths, weaknesses, boldness, and subtlety of our personality. All combined, this creates the canvas from which we carve out our authentic self. Of course, no one trait determines who we are any more than a single brushstroke defines the entire painting. It is in the blending and the contrast on canvas that the intricacy and depth of the portrait is conveyed.
In essence, beliefs are at the core of our foundation and influence our desire to change or move or try something else. This is a principle that I covered at length in my first book, entitled Customize Your Career (2004). Beliefs or “perceptions of self” determine your values and ultimately the goals you both set and work toward achieving in terms of your future success.
Given the above, upon what are your beliefs based?
In painting your self-portrait, do you believe that you can and will succeed, even when faced with the inevitable challenges and setbacks we have all encountered at different points in our lives?
As the artist of your own success, do you focus on perceived weaknesses and obstacles, or do you consider your strengths and seek out the pathways to success?
The fact is that each and every one of us is a beautifully unique work of art in the making. If we work in shaded tones of greys and blacks or what I call the colors of fear, that is the image we will portray and ultimately the portrait we will become.
However, if the brush that we put to canvas is bursting with an optimistic palette of golds and blues and bright tones of unlimited possibilities, then our portraits will stand out and positively move those with whom we come in contact.
From which belief palette do you work?
Values under pressure: Is there a way to keep your job without compromising your values? by Roz Usheroff
“Personal Values as well as Corporate Values are critical . . . how many people have personal mission statements such as Merlin Olsen to serve as a reference point and guide during periods of crisis or as you called it pressure. Remember Charlie Sheen’s Wall Street character, and his moment of truth (or departure from truth) when he was faced with Gekko’s ultimatum to do that which he knew was wrong or walk away, and he chose to turn his back on who he really was with the word’s “okay Mr. Gekko, you got me.” We all do have a choice . . . we are not mere victims of circumstance. Here is the link to a post by Roz Usheroff that captures perfectly the essence of my position; Aligning Your Brand with Your Personal Values Equals True Success“
I have as of late been both honored and humbled by the increasing frequency in which I find my blog posts, articles and even my new book, the subject of discussion in the social media world.
One such example is the above referenced comment that was made by an individual in response to an article that appeared in LinkedIn titled “Bullied into cheating” by Bernard Marr.
The Marr article was certainly controversial as it touched on the subject of a hospital that “falsified official cancer care records to meet performance targets.” Besides “putting the lives of cancer patients at risk,” the bigger question posed by Marr was one of “imposing targets onto staff and bullying them into delivering them.” More specifically, are organizations establishing performance targets that inadvertently “drive unintended behaviors.”
While it is certainly easier to pass judgment on the hospital workers as an outsider looking in, I could not help but wonder what we might all do under similar circumstances when there is pressure from multiple sides to do that which we either know or suspect is wrong. My initial response, which is based on personal experience as well as the varied experiences of my many clients from around the world, is that when confronted with a moral dilemma it is better to stand-up for what you believe as opposed to compromising your values . . . even if it means losing your job. (I guess I just answered the question posed in the title of today’s post.)
I am not suggesting that such a decision is easy or rendered without pain. I have no doubt that there will be a difficult period through which you will have to navigate, especially if you lose your job.
This being said, I believe that the manner in which we handle a difficult situation as it is happening – including how we arrive at a plan of action – is as important as our eventual decision in terms of becoming a dissenting voice.
For those of you who follow this blog and/or have read my book, you will undoubtedly recall my many references to the adept manner in which Johnson & Johnson handled the Tylenol tampering crisis as opposed to the fashion in which Exxon mismanaged the Valdez oil spill in Alaska.
While both experienced a good deal of distress as each crisis occurred, the manner in which they responded to the challenge established their future outcome. In other words, and even though Johnson & Johnson saw their market share drop significantly in the short term, the fact that they stood their ground and remained true to the values that were established in their mission statement, ultimately led to their rebound to an even stronger market position than they had prior to the crisis.
Exxon on the other hand did not respond in accordance with a previously established set of values, and has a result made decisions that were based on the immediate pain without any contemplation as to long term implications. To this day, the company’s reputation and brand remains tarnished by the spill.
This of course is my point. Do not get stuck in the moment but step back and rely upon the values around which you have built your personal mission statement to guide your actions. After all, this is the primary purpose for having a mission statement.
While your courage to take a stand may be challenging in the short-term, the long-term benefits will far outweigh any immediate pain.
In my new book The Future of You! Creating Your Enduring Brand, I explain in detail how to create your own personal Mission Statement.