The Possibility of Being Wrong

possibility of being wrongWe all make mistakes at one time or another – even if we are sure we did everything right. Recently, I was involved in a situation where a package was sent to me that I didn’t receive. I was sure I didn’t have it, and the person that delivered it was sure that I did.

So how was the issue resolved? The person doing the delivery went through step by step to figure out where the package went. As it turns out, he delivered the package to the wrong place by accident. The person who got it didn’t pay attention and kept it. Ultimately, it was retrieved and returned to me.

At points along the way, I became concerned that the effort to resolve the situation wasn’t being taken seriously, that there was a view I had it and didn’t pay attention when I got it. The assumption was, I had made the mistake and not the folks who had delivered the package. It could have just as easily been me who made the mistake in the whole adventure. But in this case, it wasn’t.

Part of exceptional service is not casting blame, but allowing for the possibility of being wrong or making a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes at some point. Jumping to a conclusion on who is to blame isn’t helpful or productive. Figuring out why the mistake happened and making sure it doesn’t happen again does. At the end of the day, the customer will remember how the situation was handled as much as the final resolution. How do you allow for the possibility of being wrong?

Why Partner?

Why Partner?Over the last few days, several folks I’ve had conversations with have talked about being in a partnership or have been thinking about starting a partnership. When asked why, the response is typically something to the effect of they like each other and think that there may be a service offering that may meet a perceived market need. Then usually there is some expression of frustration about how the other doesn’t see their perspective.

Partnerships can be great when people are aligned on the intention of partnership. In these cases, the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. More can be accomplished together than alone. The challenge with partnerships comes when folks jump in before discussing why, the intention of getting into the partnership and what they want out of it. At times, the goals can be incompatible and create problems that can be easily averted. It may be the best solution is to work together on a specific project with a checkpoint at the end to see if a more formal long-term arrangement makes sense. How do you ensure alignment before getting into partnerships?

Raising the bar

Hard workGoing to the gym is one of my favorite things. It’s a little social and a lot physical. Before class, people typically gather in front of the exercise studio to catch up before working out. The conversations run the gambit. And periodically someone walks up and asks about the class that is about to start. It always surprises me the number of people who choose not to attend the class at all, or choose not to come back because it was too hard. Time after time, instructors advise how to modify a movement or the appropriate level of weight for beginners. The point is, just get started. You may not be able to do everything that day, but if you stick to it, you eventually will.

Doing something hard challenges you to get better. It raises the bar on your potential. It makes you think about the possibilities. How are you challenging yourself and your business to get better?

The sweet sound of your name

sweet sound of your nameThe doors of the elevator opened to the executive floor where I had a meeting with my boss to review the project progress. Like many would, I was thinking about the key points to cover, timelines, progress, etc. as I walked down the hall. And as I looked up, walking down the hall was my boss’ boss. I had never met him before. He was responsible for billions of dollars in revenue, thousands of people, hundreds of projects all over the world – and was on the road a lot. As he passed by, he said “Hi Heidi. How’s the risk project you are working on going?” I was stunned. He knew my name and what I was working on. Wow! That was more than a decade and a half ago and I still remember it.

What a powerful lesson in leadership. Knowing who your people are and how they are contributing. Being able to greet them by name, in some cases without having met them before. Business is all about people – how well you engage them, focus them on objectives and create success. How are you connecting with yours?

The Snapshot

snapshotIt’s another gorgeous day and the volcanoes with their snow-covered peaks are magnificent against the blue sky. Who wouldn’t want to capture the sight with a snapshot? The thing is, many attempts over time never seem to capture what I’m actually seeing. Even with zooming in, the perspective is off. The slight haze makes the sky seem not quite as brilliant and a bit grainy. The snapshot doesn’t capture the splendor of nature in front of me.

The days I want to take pictures of the scenery are the one or two days out of weeks where the weather is nice – not indicative of the trends in the weather. Capturing the right snapshot of a business is tough too. Many times KPIs or reports are developed that don’t reflect what is actually going on in the company, and can be at a point in time rather than a trend. How are you making sure you capture what is really going on in your company?

When incentives are not aligned

incentive alignmentA friend was describing a situation in his business. The region is struggling with a 50% vacancy rate – a real issue given that it is a service business. Just getting enough staff to meet contractual obligations is time consuming and difficult. So when the head of business development talked about the need to expand the business, he about fell over. They can’t meet the current obligations, how can they possibly grow? I asked if the business development head is incentivized based on growth in the region, the answer was yes. No wonder! The incentives were not aligned, so sales was out drumming up business while operations was struggling to keep up. It was a fantastic reminder to ensure that all parties are incentivized to row in the same direction to make the business successful. How do you ensure incentives are designed in a way that you get the results you want?

Making It Work

Making it workThe snow and ice kept the bulk of the people away for the day. The unusual quiet presented an opportunity to talk, not something that was typically possible given the busy nature of her work. And what a gift it was. She talked about her retirement that is close at hand and reflected upon her life. Forty-three years with her husband. She smiled when she spoke of their adventures together, the trips they had taken, the struggles they had shared. The pride was evident in her smile when she spoke of raising their son. It wasn’t easy – they didn’t have much money at the time. She worked during the day and her husband worked at night so they could make it work. And she was clearly proud of how her son turned out, the grandchild they now have and the road ahead that she and her husband will share in retirement. They took stock of what they had and they made it work.

Its funny how life sometimes unfolds in a way that requires dedication and commitment to making it work. These situations play out time and again in work and in life. People assess the approaches available and figure out how to make it work. Are you using all of the tools in your arsenal to make it work?

The Bull in the China Shop

bull in china shopShe has been crashing around for about a week now. The huge plastic cone was a necessity after surgery. And while she is used to wearing it now, my yellow lab hasn’t become accustomed to the additional space needed to navigate the house. The scrape of the plastic against the wall as she runs around a corner, or the brute force of pushing the cone through the door before it is all the way open has become common place. Luckily, there has been only one casualty – a vase fell over from one particular exuberant collision with a table.

It has been hard not to imagine a bull in a china shop as she crashes around from one place to another. It is not intentional, it is her nature. She doesn’t realize the damage she is doing, she is just trying to navigate the space using the same approach as the past, not recognizing the need to change her approach given her new reality.

By now, you may be thinking about a person you have encountered at some point in the past. The bull in the china shop. The intentions may be good, but the damage is real. Highlighting the issues in a way that allows the person to save face, while understanding the impact of their actions is important. How do you handle the bull in the china shop in your organization?

The Plan

Business PlanIts that time of the year. For some, it is wrapped up. For others, it is still in the works. The Plan. It is the thing that consumes enormous amounts of time in many organizations, with no real return for the effort put in. In others, there is absolutely no thought at all. In too few, it is a thoughtful, efficient process that gives the organization the right level of focus on achieving key objectives in the coming year.

Over the years, my thinking on the most effective approach to planning has shifted away from the annual plan in favor of a five-quarter rolling forecast. By keeping an eye on the markets and continuing to evolve based on new information, the organization is utilizing the best forward looking information (and history) to achieve objectives. That doesn’t mean flopping around in the wind. It means executing against long range objectives based on current market conditions. How does your organization approach planning? Are you as effective as you can be?

What are you missing by not looking around?

what are you missing?What a stunning day! The rain finally disappeared after what seemed like an eternity. The sky was bright blue and the rain left behind a stunning green landscape. How could I not take my dog out for a long walk on a day like today? We wandered through the WSU Vancouver campus. The brick buildings framed a snow capped Mt. St. Helens in the distance. Mt. Hood framed by tall trees and rolling grass was stunning from the other end. It was surprising to see how many people were missing the stunning sight by focusing on their phones. For me, it was the highlight of the day. I loved the sights and my wandering mind came up with a number of ideas for my business.

This type of situation happens frequently in business. People become so focused on the task of the moment and miss the larger picture around, or don’t have space to think and innovate. How are you creating an environment in your business where people have the time to see the larger picture and innovate?