Master the Art of Making Mistakes

anxietyToday was an embarrassing day.  I was on the radio being interviewed by phone and I accidentally hung up right in the middle of a sentence.  I was mortified!  Fortunately, I had entered the phone number in my speed dial so I was able to get back on quickly.  The problem was, my heart was racing and I felt like such a fool and I had to continue with the rest of the interview.

How do you maintain your composure when you make a huge mistake in front of lots of people?  That is the situation good leaders must be able to handle.  We all make mistakes from time to time.  How we handle them differentiates the seasoned leader from the less experienced.

Every leader I have ever interviewed has said they have made numerous mistakes to get to where they are.  And I’m not just saying this to make myself feel better.  Research supports this, as does testimony from the most powerful leaders in the world.  Warren Buffet, for example forgave one of his leaders for making a $360 million mistake, saying “we all make mistakes.  If you can’t make mistakes, you can’t make decisions.  I’ve made a lot bigger mistakes myself.”

“It’s dangerous to be safe” said the president of a large Chicago-based construction company in Bill Treasurer’s book, Leaders Open Doors.  Treasurer tells leaders creating purposeful discomfort is a way to develop future leaders.  In other words, they must learn how to handle uncomfortable situations to grow.

Ironically, in the radio interview, I was talking about my book, Flying without a Helicopter, and how important it is for leaders to be resilient.  I was saying how younger people are getting fewer opportunities in their childhood to build resilience.  And there I was—sink or swim.  I had to be resilient in the moment to not only save face, but be a good role model to my listeners.

It wasn’t my best interview ever, but I got through it and live to tell about it.  It wasn’t fun at the time or for several hours afterward, but it turned into a learning opportunity.  And so it will for you when you make a big mistake in front of lots of people.  At least it will give you a good story to tell.

Women Leaders: Master the Art of Emotional Intelligence!

three-girls-1057194-1279x852Women leaders are scrutinized at work for how they handle emotional situations.  To be successful, follow these five tips to improve your emotional finesse.

  1. Be emotionally flexible

One of the biggest challenges for women leaders is to navigate the fine line between being “too strong and decisive” (a.k.a. masculine) and “too friendly and nice” (a.k.a. feminine).  Eagly and Carli call this the “double bind” in their book, Through the Labyrinth: The truth about how women become leaders.  In other words, it’s important to be able to flex your leadership style and hence your emotional expression.  Learn the contexts in which expressing warmth is beneficial and when stern would be a better approach.  Learn which people need friendliness and have earned your trust and which people would do better with a firm handshake.  Practice being able to move in and out of these modalities so people respect you as both a leader and a woman.

  1. Acknowledge the limitations of rational thinking

“But it’s a rational decision!”  “Why don’t they see it’s clear from the data?”  Even rational, data-driven decisions involve emotions.  Data can be disappointing and saving face might be important.  Emotions are there whether we like it or not.  Assuming people will check their emotions at the door is like wearing blinders into the workplace.  By acknowledging that emotions are present, you are taking more information into consideration when you plan your strategy and make decisions.  The book Emotional Intelligence 2.0 is a great resource.

  1. Look for signs of emotions

As a leader, it is particularly important to take note of where others in the room are coming from.  Are they in agreement?  Are two team members not getting along?  Does your team suffer from a lack of motivation?  Use your senses to “feel the temperature in the room.”  The first sense is sight.  Use your eyes to see how are people are sitting.  Are they slumped back, facing away from each other (or you), avoiding eye contact, crossing their arms, or frowning?  This is valuable information for you to use as you try to influence the team.  If there’s a lot of negativity in the room, you’ll need to start from a different place than if people are in alignment.  Too many leaders skip this step and find themselves floundering in deep water without understanding why.

  1. Learn how to talk about emotions

It’s hard to talk about emotions and most of us aren’t very good at it.  Moreover, as women leaders, we may fight the temptation to talk about emotions to avoid being negatively stereotyped.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Women (and men) who are able to articulate their own and others’ feelings tend to be effective leaders because they connect with people and manage difficult situations.  Talking about emotions doesn’t have to sound soft.  Look at these examples.  “That sounds frustrating.”  “I’m anxious about the upcoming deadline.”  “I’m really glad you’re back. We missed you while you were gone.”  “It’s crushing to lose a sale that big. How are you handling it?”

  1. Allow people to express emotions

Have you ever been in a meeting where nothing got done because there was an underlying tension that kept people from being productive?  Sometimes it helps to start a meeting with a 10-minute check-in or vent.  If you give people a chance to let it out, they can get it out of their system and move on and stay focused.  The key to success in this situation is to close the vent or celebration session and tell people it’s time to get down to business.  Usually, people are calmer and can move on.  If someone is holding on, however, you may need to invite them to take a break and come back when they’re ready or offer to set up a one-on-one after the meeting.

What Does a Bad Hire Cost You? 3 Tips for Hiring Good People

working-with-laptopWhat does a bad hire cost you?

Research shows a bad hire can cost your company at least 30% of their salary, but there’s more than just money at stake.  Your personal success is on the line too.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Are you working too many hours because you’re covering for an ineffective employee?
  • Is a single employee dragging your whole team down?
  • Are you getting pressure from above to deliver more than your team can accomplish?
  • Are other teams performing better than yours?
  • Is your boss telling you to be tougher on your employees?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, you should consider what action to take.  Whether you choose to give the person a chance or let them go depends on a number of factors.  However, you can learn how to avoid this situation in the future by following a better hiring process.

No one is perfect, so the key is to hire someone who has or is able to develop the necessary skills and characteristics to succeed at the job.  Determining that requires a systematic, objective process.

It’s worth investing time and money into a solid assessment of job candidates.  It pays for itself when you have a successful employee and it avoids much greater costs when you don’t.  Plus, it helps protect you against unfair hiring practices that could bring about even costlier litigation.

3 Tips for Hiring Good People

1.      Create a detailed job description

A good assessment process starts with a detailed job description that includes specific behaviors and characteristics necessary to be successful at the job.  For example, an engineering job description might include: “operates computer-assisted engineering or design software or equipment.”  A logistics manager’s job description might include: “maintains metrics, reports, process documentation, customer service logs, and training or safety records.”

2.      Choose predictive assessment methods

Whether you conduct interviews, tests, or job trials, it’s important to do them in a systematic and objective way.  For example, structured interviews with job-relevant questions are better predictors of performance than casual interviews that differ between candidates.  A test of emotional intelligence might be a good fit for candidates for a team leader position.  With tests, however, it’s important to have a qualified person read and interpret the results.

3.      Train people how to assess candidates

Invest in assessment training for those involved in the hiring process.  Teach employees and managers how to interview and how to rate candidates.  Help them understand what questions are good and which ones are either ineffective or illegal.  Walk through the job description with them so they know what they’re looking for in a successful candidate and make sure they ask the same questions to all candidates.

Alternatively…

If your team is strapped for time or just not interested in learning this skill, hire an outside firm to do the assessment for you.  It doesn’t cost that much and it can save you a bundle in the long run.

The Art of REAL Life: Interview with Rose Hagan

Symphony by Rose Hagan, sunset painting
Symphony by Rose Hagan

Have you ever thought about scrapping your traditional career and following your passion in art or something crazy like that? It sounds impossible, but it’s not. What it takes is courage, resilience, flexibility, and independence.

Rose Hagan began her career as a lawyer before pivoting to pursue her love of art.  Listen to her story as Joanie Connell interviews her on Women Lead Radio.

Letting Your Babies Fly the Nest: Reducing the Temptation of Helicopter Parenting

Helicopter-affinite magIn the spring, baby birds are born. Within a couple of weeks, they grow feathers and fly the nest. People raise babies to grow up and be able to fly the nest too. At least they used to. Due to the rise in “helicopter parenting,” many of today’s grown children stay tethered to the nest, move back home as adults, or never leave at all.

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