Learn From Mistakes

The best companies allow employees to experiment and make mistakes. In many organizational cultures, innovation is discouraged when leadership doesn’t encourage risk taking. Making mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Managers who do not empower employees to take risks to avoid consequences of their actions will depress learning and development. Many people avoid taking risks because they don’t want to experiences consequences. Others make mistakes and don’t learn when they look to avoid consequences.

The same principle applies in our personal lives. I haven’t always made great decisions, though I accept responsibility for and learn from my mistakes. At one point, I started a business without doing my due diligence or consulting my wife, who wisely was against the idea. Four years later, we had depleted our savings and our home was in foreclosure. In the end, we were forced to give it back to the bank. This was devastating. I changed direction with my business, we found a nice rental house, and life continued. It was not the bank or the government that caused me to lose our home. It was a consequence of my choices and actions. Experiencing the consequences of our actions can be a catalyst for change.

Failing to take responsibility and ownership for our decisions can be very costly. We lose the opportunity to learn and grow. I had a friend who was losing his home a couple of years ago. In his case, he decided to stop paying his mortgage when the value of his home fell below what he owed. Many people did this expecting a bailout from the government. When he was complaining about why the president wasn’t doing enough to help him, I interrupted him and told him his blaming was preventing him from finding another solution. He was being a victim. Experiencing the consequences of our actions is incentive to quickly learn and change course. I know first-hand how painful it is to lose a home. But blaming others for our predicaments only hurts us….we give away our power to change. If we believe our problems are generated externally, we may think we have no choice. If we think nothing we do will matter, we may choose to do nothing. When we take personal responsibility, we change our behavior and our outcomes, creating opportunities to learn, grow, and change. It all starts with choosing our response, and learning from the consequences of our choices.

The author Spencer Horn is the President of Spencer Horn Solutions, LLC. Additional articles which may interest you: How To Create Success From Failure; Leadership Is About Impact Not IntentionHow To Prepare Your Next Generation Of LeadersIncrease Your Effectiveness As A Leader With Perception Science;  How To Get Your People To Change TodayCure For The CEO DiseaseThe Importance of Values

How to Defeat the ‘Fog of War’ in Business

5 Steps To Overcome The Challenges And Setbacks We Experience in Business

There is a phenomenon in battle called the “fog of war’. What it means is when individuals who are fighting in a war perceive they are losing. They may act according to the perception and retreat when in fact the unit or army they are part of is winning the war. The fog of war creates a challenge for generals and their armies. If individuals and individual units feel they are losing from their perspective, they may give up which prolongs the victory. The same phenomenon can happen in business.

In our daily fight to be successful in our roles, we will have defeats. Perhaps we have a disagreement with a co-worker or supervisor. Perhaps we lose out on a sale we were expecting to win. Perhaps a client has a poor experience with our service or product, etc. Sometimes these events can cause us to think and feel our isolated experience is a sign of enterprise wide problems. This can cause discouragement and discontent with some members of our team and can spread to others.

I have fought feelings of discouragement many times. I have experienced personal losses in a business sense and was tempted to think, we must be ‘losing the war’ as a company and maybe I should give up or move on. I also know from experience, we get what we focus on. We will find evidence of our predominant thoughts. When I focused on challenges and failings, I would feel discouraged and questioned whether we could achieve our goals. Conversely, as I began to focus my thoughts and energy around the successful outcomes I desired, my results inevitably changed and my perception of where we were as a company changed. That perception increased my confidence and satisfaction with my company.

The ‘fog of war’ in my experience seemed to happen when our business was in what Bruce Tuckman called the storming phase of team development.  Tuckman proposed his model of team development called forming, storming, norming and performing in 1965. Forming is where we set goals. This can happen at when a company is new or when changes occur. It can happen when we lose or add new people. Storming is where we feel comfortable enough with each other to express discontent and challenge each other. It can be uncomfortable and unpleasant. Norming is where we start to give up our own personal crusades and agree with others to make the team function. This phase is not about avoiding conflict, it is about coming together. The final phase, performing, is where the team is achieving goals and things are running smoothly. A company can be in one of the four phases as whole and individual teams may be in different phases. Individuals on teams can be in different phases as well.

It is easy for employees who are in the storming phase to experience the ‘fog of war’ phenomenon. If a team or company stays in the storming phase for a prolonged period, they have a greater chance of not emerging leading to business failure. If you are a leader of a company or team in the storming phase, have hope. Most companies go through similar phases. The following suggestions can help shorten the storming phase and remind team members that even though they may experience setbacks from time to time, they will ultimately succeed.

  1. Challenges Are Temporary:

    Let your team members know that the challenges of this phase are temporary. Educate your team that all companies go through similar phases. Just naming this phase of team development will help give the team hope things will get better keeping the, positively engaged.

  2. Focus On Outcomes:

    Keep your team focused on positive outcomes desired. It is easy to get fixated on failures. Remember, we tend to manifest the results of our predominant thoughts. Keeping the team focused on positive outcomes will help dissipate negative energy.

  3. Be A Role Model:

    Make sure you as the leader and your team leaders model the attitude that the team will emerge victorious. Team members must be able to look to the leadership for how to act in times of challenge and difficulty. A negative team leader will multiply the ‘fog of war’ dynamics if not addressed by discipline or replacement.

  4. Demonstrate Confidence:

    Show your team you have faith in them. Team members can lose hope and exhibit behaviors that hurt the team. Let them know they are a valued member of the team. Help them understand the impact of their performance and behavior on the success of the team.

  5. Celebrate Success:

    Encourage the team by sharing any team successes no matter how small. Celebrating successes will lift morale and give hope the team and organization is moving in the right direction.

Cure For The CEO Disease

4 Steps To Overcome CEO Behaviors That Erode Culture

Do you know a CEO or top executive that is unaware of their impact or overestimates their abilities? Leaders who are out of touch with the truth about how they “show up” is all too common. This phenomenon is what Daniel Goleman calls the “CEO disease”. Goleman reports…”the higher up the ladder a leader climbs, the less accurate his self-assessment is likely to be.” (Primal Leadership, Pg. 92, Daniel Goleman (2002)).  The problem is that as a leader climbs the organization, the less feedback he or she receives. According to James Conway and Allen Huffcutt, who analyzed 177 separate studies that assessed more than 28,000 managers, found these managers were not receiving consistent feedback on their performance. The lack of feedback problem is reported to be more acute for leaders who are women or belong to a minority. (See Peggy Stuart, “What Does the Glass Ceiling Cost You?” Personnel Journal 71, no. 11 (1992): 70-80).

The predominance of the CEO disease has a large negative impact on cultures of businesses all over the world. When leaders drive negative emotions within their organization, they erode the foundation of a culture that enables people to excel. Leaders who are aware of their impact and work to drive positive emotions will conversely strengthen the culture that enables people to excel.

Four steps to cure the CEO disease:

  1. Recognize That You Can Change:

    Many leaders have the mistaken opinion that they need to be accepted for who they are, because after years of habits and behavior they can’t change. The latest neuroscience has destroyed the myth that we can’t change. We maintain neuroplasticity until we die, meaning, we can make changes to how we think and behave. American author and futurist, Alvin Toffler, says “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”

  2. Create A Safe Environment:

    Create an environment where it is safe to give and receive feedback. Some people fail to give feedback because they fear punishment or the leader’s wrath if they dissent. Some only give positive feedback because they do not want to be labeled negative or going against the party line. Some are afraid to give feedback because they don’t want to upset others or hurt their feelings. By creating this environment, CEO’s and managers will get a more accurate finger on the pulse of their organization. Understand that all feedback you receive is subjective. Each leader gets to determine what to do with the feedback they receive. Knowing what people really think is always better than ignorance.

  3. Increase Self-Awareness:

    Be willing to take a 100% honest look at yourself. Many executives work with coaches to improve their self-awareness. Consider participating in a 360 review. This can provide a valuable roadmap for behavior change. Work with great training and development organizations who will provide you with a safe environment to strengthen your leadership competencies. These environments should push you out of your comfort zone to learn and grow. When we are out of comfort zone, our most challenging leadership behaviors surface and a skilled facilitator will help accelerate awareness and behavior change.

  4. Persist:

    Recognize the process of becoming an effective leader is a lifelong pursuit. Even the most effective leaders recognize they can make improvements. For the best leaders, making minor adjustments and behavior improvements sets a powerful example for the team and will pay dividends on the emotional and cultural health of the organization which will translate to better financial results.

For more information on how to cure your CEO disease, call Spencer Horn Solutions today 702-807-4698 www.spencerhornsolutions.com

Is Happiness A Choice?

I have heard that events that happen to us in life are neither “good” nor “bad”. These are only titles we choose to assign to how we feel about things that happen to us. Further, I have learned that our happiness depends on our assignment of the “good”or “bad” titles we apply to these events in our lives. Do you believe that?

It is my opinion and experience that our happiness absolutely depends on how we decide to feel about the events in our lives and consequently the actions we take or don’t take in response to those feelings. This is not to say that I do not believe in good or bad, I do. I believe there is great good in the world and I believe there is terrible evil. What I have learned is that our happiness does not depend upon only good things happening to us all the time. Thank goodness for that, because I do not know of a single person that has what most would interpret as good things happen to them all the time. Since we all don’t have good things happen to us all the time, why are there happy people in the world? Why aren’t we all unhappy since bad things happen to all of us? The answer is choice!

You Hold Your Happiness in Your Hands
You Hold Your Happiness in Your Hands

Let me illustrate by using one personal example: My father had a very successful business. He provided a specialized color separation service for the printing industry for over 20 years. He was looking for a new accountant. At the time, I was seventeen and I knew that one of my church leaders was an accountant. I told my dad that this man was an accountant and he must be a good man because he was a member of our church. It turned out that this man saw an opportunity in my father’s trust and worked to take control of the company. Because of the stress of the situation, my father had a massive stroke at age 59. He was in intensive care for a month. He lost his business, his home, his wife and almost all his earthly possessions. We were devastated as a family. There were some members of the family that criticized my father for his poor decision to hire this accountant after he began recovering from the stroke. Personally, I was devastated because I lost the father I knew who loved life and loved being active. I lost the future opportunity to run the business and reap the rewards of family succession. Our family felt by all accounts, these events were bad and we had reason to be unhappy. My father certainly had reason to be depressed and feel sorry for himself. Instead, he taught me a very valuable lesson.

My father chose to look at these events as good. He recognized that he could be angry at the person who defrauded him. However, that would just make him miserable. Instead, he decided to forgive the person. This took a huge burden off his shoulders. No longer did he waste precious thoughts on revenge or anger. My father had worked very hard his entire life. He rarely took time for himself. Now, he had time to study and learn. He took time to do much of what he had not done up until now. After these events, my father was almost always happy friendly and outgoing to people he met. Even though he was partially paralyzed from the stroke, he chose to laugh at his awkwardness and slurred speech. He chose to look at every day as a gift.

I believe this is an example of an event that could definitely be interpreted as bad. However, since my father decided to look at the event in a positive light, he took the opportunity to use his time in ways that he never did before his stroke and loss off business. Because of his choice, he was happy until the day he died at age 79 on February 16, 2008. I miss my father, and I am grateful for the valuable lesson he taught me about choosing happiness. There are some members of my family who have decided to look at these events as negative. To this day, they hold resentment and frustration that robs them of happiness. How can the same event produce such different attitudes and feelings of happiness? It has nothing to do with whether the events are good or bad and 100 percent to do with how we choose to interpret if events are good or bad. In fact, I believe that events that many would interpret as bad can have the biggest opportunity for good and even happiness in our life. The choice is ours.I Choose to Be Happy