When I arrived at my destination to conduct a recent in-person training, Sui was in the parking spot next to me. She greeted me warmly and stood at my hatchback while I unloaded my cart, lunch, flip chart, and other materials.
As I was checking to make sure that I had removed all the right things – and left my workout clothes, grocery bags, and other personal items in the car – Sui was overloaded holding all of my aforementioned items. When I said strongly, “Sui, thank you, but you can’t carry all of that! Please give some of it back to me!” Sui graciously said, “I want to make your morning easier because your class is so helpful to me.”
What a way to start my morning! I mean, the assistance in getting from my car to the building was truly a help, and the compliment gave me even more energy and validation. I went from “happy to be here” to “THRILLED to be here!” Sui acted as though she didn’t have her own pressing assignments, and she stayed with me and assisted by setting up the room for all the participants.
As we were chatting, I said, “Sui, what in particular have you found valuable. What has stuck with you?” I was curious since we were about to start module four of a 12-module leadership program. Sui was quick to answer. She said, “Oh, when you said that we are paid not for the information and knowledge in our brain, but for how we act on that information.”
I had told the managers, as I tell many groups, that while it’s critical for employees at all levels to have knowledge, education, and training – that alone is not enough. If managers have deep knowledge in their field of expertise, but they don’t use that knowledge to impact projects, ask insightful questions, and suggest alternatives, then truly that knowledge is of little value to the organization. I continued by saying that some of the time employees are included in a meeting to gain useful information, but most of the time when an employee or leader is included it is because the organization is hopeful that the person can and will contribute in a meaningful way.
Sui said she had never considered that and now, as a result, she is contributing more. She also said that she can see how her contributions are actually making a difference. This is a “win” for Sui, and a “win” for her organization as well!
And what I found most interesting about this whole encounter with Sui is that this key takeaway for her may not have been as significant for all of the other participants. But hopefully each one of them experiences their own aha moments, and I hope they will share them with me!
I sometimes comment to colleagues and clients that mistakes are inevitable, and recently I’ve experienced that in my own work. A few weeks ago I posted a short article to an online group, and sharp-eyed readers were quick to point out a spelling error. I referred to a state capitol building, but inadvertently wrote it as capital. Wonderful Mrs. Bersch, my third grade teacher, would have been disappointed that I didn’t remember the mnemonic she taught us – “the capitol in DC has a large dOme. Remember the O.”
The following week I wrote a blog titled “It’s Always Someone’s First Job.” The article was very well received, but the moment it was sent, I realized I’d made a big mistake. I failed to mention my dear friend Kristin and her wonderful husband Peter. When I lived in Boston, they went 15 minutes out of their way, every day, to give me a ride to and from work. We laughed our way down Storrow Drive, enjoying each other’s company. Often those rides were the highlight of my day. They did so many wonderful things for me during those two years that I couldn’t decide which to write about, and somehow I unwittingly left them out entirely.
When I noticed, I called Kristin immediately. She was as gracious as ever.
A spelling error is just a spelling error, but failing to acknowledge those who are kind to us is a bigger deal. All of us make mistakes at home and at work. When costly gaffes happen repeatedly, how do we correct them? When the same employee makes the same error over and over, how do we help? Learning from our mistakes is an important life skill, and helping others learn from theirs can be powerful. I look forward to hearing how you recover from yours.
I am that boss. The one who darts from good idea to good idea until there are so many ideas that nothing is accomplished. I am just back from the Influence Conference, and as usual had a great time learning and growing with colleagues. Even before I left, I knew I would come back to my office with too much information and too many things to implement.
During our Monday Morning Meeting a couple weeks ago, I literally said to my staff, Keri and Mary, “Watch out! I am going to the NSA conference so I will be emailing and texting you nonstop with things we should do. You should probably keep a running list and we can figure out what is truly important and reasonable when I return.”
And then, as though Alexa was listening, I saw this article:
If you work with a passionate, creative and oftentimes scattered boss, I think the ideas in this article are better than just making a list. If you would like coaching on this topic, I suggest that Keri and Mary help you, as in this case, I am a “do as I say, not as I do” boss – the very worst kind.