As most of you probably know from Twitter, I’m a stay at home father of two. If you’ve read this blog a lot you probably know that many of my epiphanies, if you can call them that, come from interacting with my kids, in particular my son, known on social media as Vader (here’s why). Recently, Vader was spending the weekend with my mom, attending a family get together with her wife’s family. Vader was on a floating dock with some other kids when one of them jumped in. This threw off the balance of the dock, which threw off the balance of Vader, which threw him into a lake. He was wearing water wings and is pretty experienced in the water so he popped up pretty quickly and announced to everyone within toddler yelling distance that he had “jumped into the lake.”
Later in the day, he told my mom that he didn’t mind when he “fell into the lake” and when she called him on it, he corrected himself and reiterated his previous assertion that he had Evil Knieveled his way into the lake. He argued back and forth with her for a while about until she eventually said, “ok, so you got wet.”
Too often we focus on the past and what has happened rather than dealing with where we are. I find this to be a real stumbling blocks for a lot of businesses and a lot of people. While I understand the importance of debriefing and understanding what we’ve done so that we can either repeat or avoid this in the future, this isn’t what most people are doing. Most people are just rehashing in an attempt to make sure that the blame never falls on them. I’ve dealt with this time and time again. I once had a college roommate try to explain to all of our other roommates why he was not responsible for a student visa that was covered in his beer, in the room he was in, when no one else was there. I don’t care anymore. At this point, there’s a student visa covered in beer. Let’s go from there.
We’re afraid. We’re afraid of taking the blame. We’re afraid that people will know that we made a mistake. But here’s the thing. When it comes down to it, nobody cares that you messed up or how you messed up. You’re wet. What now?
This is the eye-opening realization that I came to when my son fell into a lake and my mother didn’t really care about the details. I realized that we spend all of this time and energy trying to explain ourselves out of these corners that we’re backed into. Don’t play rope-a-dope, don’t come out swinging. Don’t back down, but don’t get your back up. Each of these tendencies has a tendency to result in failure. The question that you should ALWAYS be asking yourself is what now?
However, one of the issues with this system is that while you’re trying to move forward, too many managers are focused on what happened. In my experience, there is nothing more detrimental to the success of an organization than poor management. So, now I’m reaching out to THOSE people. If you’re managing a team that makes a mistake, don’t dwell. Don’t forget. Don’t ignore. But don’t dwell. Focus on how your team is going to make things right. Think about it. I’d rather manage a team where I know what they do when push comes to shove than a group that slips and slides and avoids the issue every time something happens.
So how can you manage better? Focus your attention on making things right. When you empower your team to make things right, they’ll start to do things right the first time. When they’re less worried about coming up with excuses than coming up with results, the results will be exciting. This is not about ignoring incompetence. When someone can’t do the job they have to do, you need to address it. But when you give people the opportunity to do great things without fear, they will do great things more often than not. It doesn’t matter if your team jumped or fell. They’re wet, what’s next?