Archives For mistakes

Over a decade ago I received a DVD of a past Chick-fil-A franchisee seminar. As I watched, the late founder Truett Cathy took the stage to deliver his opening remarks. They weren’t what I expected. He opened by saying, “If any of you has something against someone in this room, I want you to make it right.” Then he promptly left the stage and approached someone in the audience for a conversation. After an initial silence, almost every person in the audience got up and found someone to talk to. Soon the whole place was abuzz for quite sometime.

Watching the seminar footage, I couldn’t help but muse, “You just don’t see that every day….” It was just so… different. Contrast this with a scenario that played out a few years back on my team. I had received some feedback on a project that I didn’t agree with and had defended myself a little too aggressively. The next day, I decided I owed my team an apology. Even so, I remember pacing in my cubical for several minutes before I could muster up the will to admit I’d been wrong.

What is it about apologizing that is so difficult? And what makes it so important – in terms of cultural capital, influence and effectiveness?

Here are my observations.

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Just about all of us are Monday morning quarterbacks when it comes to leadership. Everyone has an opinion. But how grounded are those opinions, especially if we’ve never been there before?

Here’s the thing: if you wait until you receive a leadership role to get a leadership education, you may not last long. We all need a leadership development plan that includes work experiences, formal training, networking and self-study. But don’t overlook the easiest, cheapest and most accessible one of all: observation.

Here are eight observations to make of the leaders around you.

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As an individual, it doesn’t take long to realize Alexander Pope’s timeless line “to err is human.” As a leader, it can be downright frustrating dealing with the errors of those we lead. But it’s how we respond to those mistakes that sets great leaders apart.

If someone on your team has fouled things up, why don’t you try some of these responses?


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Adversity is no respecter of persons. Our experiences are usually different, but each of us gets our turn. Our organizations do too, for that matter.

So what happens when adversity strikes? How can we climb our way our of it? This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here are some thinking patterns that have helped me maintain a sense of sanity and clarity over the years.



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When you were growing up, you probably spent hours sitting in a classroom listening to teachers deliver lecture after lecture in school. Now, as an adult employee, the thought of sitting through company training seems boring, unproductive, pointless and wasteful compared to actual work you could be doing. And if that’s what you think, your colleagues are likely thinking the same thing. The great news is that learning organizations are shifting their methods. But tactics aren’t the best place to start. They never are. First, your organization needs a new learning mindset. Here’s how you can get one.

Adult Learning ClassFollowing are six specific ways many organizations have traditionally thought about training – with a culture “shift” for each one.

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“Good morning, this is Nathan,” I greeted the caller on my cubicle phone several years ago.

“Yes, this is Bill. I’m a Vice President at First Big Bank. I need to know where our $77 million is.”


“Uh, yes,” I gulped. “Well… do you have an account number?” I was working in the investor reporting department of a major financial institution at my first job out of college. A large commercial property had paid off that week and the payment was split between two separate beneficiaries. As I had entered the $77 million wire into the electronic payment system, I was already preparing my braggadocio about the large amounts of cash I routinely handled in my job (even though this was a special circumstance and was only “electronic” money). But now it looked as though my day was about to be ruined. As I checked the account, my fears were confirmed.

“Um, I think I’m going to have to call you back…” I mustered. Epic. Fail.

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I’m a sucker for leadership philosophies embraced by successful athletics coaches. Whether it’s Coack K on teamwork or Coach Burton on developing high school kids, I always come away with something powerful and enriching. I think the reason is that athletics provides one of the greatest leadership development opportunities out there because players learn to work as a team toward a common goal in a competitive environment. In short, it’s leadership development training for life.

Coach Bill Snyder

If you follow college football at all, you might have been surprised when Kansas State University climbed to #1 in the BCS Poll at one point this football season. Continue Reading…