BY ANDI GRAYDilemma: We expect things to go wrong and they do—a lot! It’s such a struggle. What should we be doing to lead our company in a better direction, where doing it right is the norm and we can reward true excellence? Our expectations are so low that we celebrate whenever anything goes off without a hitch, or even when an employee does his job correctly.
Thoughts of the Day: Celebrating when things go right is good—it’s the standard of excellence that needs work. Be certain that people want to be given decision-making power. Know that you can’t save someone who won’t try to save themselves. Things can get so much easier.
I happen to think that most businesses need more celebrating, not less. It’s even possible to celebrate when you fall flat on your face, as failure can be a valuable experience to help you to discover how to operate better. It’s a problem when there’s no attempt to learn, adapt, or change when things keep going wrong, and the same mistakes are repeated.
Some people think that ringing a bell, handing out gift cards, or sending around certificates are a waste of time or too silly for a professional environment. Think about how it felt when your efforts were recognized and everyone around you knew that you did a good job. For most people, if they’re honest, it feels pretty good to be recognized. You can do the same for your employees without much extra effort.
When things go wrong, it’s tempting to focus on the bad stuff—what’s it going to cost, how it affects other areas of your business, the disruptions. Instead, challenge your team to think past the immediate breakdown to see where they are trying to get to, and then ask them to find a different route to success.
Here’s One Place to Start
Following a misstep, pull everyone together and encourage them to diagnose the problem. Ask them how to approach the issue differently and then let them try to find the best solution.
When things go wrong, check if it’s an attitude, behavior, or skill problem. Internal attitudes and behaviors born of “I don’t care,” “I’ll just do the minimum,” “It doesn’t matter,” and “It’s not my fault” are absolutely fatal to any organization. Deal with poor attitudes and behaviors swiftly. Tell people to check their attitudes at the door. Be sure they follow your direction and lead by example.
On the other hand, lack of skill is not a reason to jump on someone, especially if they’re new to a role or task. Make sure you have the right person for the job. If employees get something wrong because they lack the skills, work with them to ensure they can be properly the taught job, and then assign someone to take the lead.
It’s a problem when there’s no attempt to learn, adapt, or change when things keep going wrong and the same mistakes are repeated."
When you pull people together to discuss why things went wrong and what to do next, be prepared to step out of the way and let the group lead. You want people who are engaged; don’t hold them back by telling them how to do it. Everyone learns best when asked to solve the problems they’ve created.
Watch how your employees respond. Make it clear that ignoring problems and making the same mistakes is unacceptable. Find out if they will step up and take action to fix things. If they don’t, ask them why. If they just don’t know what to do, or they don’t have time or energy to get to the problem, call them out. Think about whether you need to make a change.
Don’t let a bad attitude pollute your workforce.
When you pull together a team of people who are committed to getting better and better, your life will get so much easier. You will have less need to step in, your employees will be happier, and you can all focus on celebrating all the wins together. [CD1016] Looking for a good book?
Turn the Ship Around! A True Story of Turning Followers into Leaders by L. David Marquet and Stephen R. Covey.
Andi Gray is the Founder of the business consulting firm Strategy Leaders. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.