Posts Tagged ‘mistakes’

Mistakes Smart People Make

October 2, 2011

Twyla Tharp

“The best failures are the private ones…” writes Twyla Tharp, renowned choreographer, in Creative Habit.

Our work places and our communities, however, are public social spaces. While learners don’t seek failure it can be an enormous source of new knowledge. A willingness to fail is certainly an essential element of learning.

Three Common Blunders

The human brain (and ego) is a remarkable asset, but it can be an obstacle to success. Sociologists, psychotherapists and anthropologists offer some vital insights to manager-leaders about the brain and behavior. There are three common mistakes smart people make:

Denial – a refusal to acknowledge an error.

Loss Chasing – the inability to “make peace” with an error which causes more damage in a pattern of additional mis-steps.

Hedonic Edits – revisions that either convince ourselves errors don’t matter or reinterpret errors as success.

We’re all guilty of these mistakes – sometimes. Great leaders have found intentional ways to minimize or even eliminate these common human blunders. Denial is avoided more often when we can separate errors from our self-worth. Loss-chasing is reduced if there’s self-awareness and adaptation. Hedonic edits occur less frequently if we  face the mirror with   clear recall and brutal candor. Humility is an antidote for all these quirks.

Get & Give

Regrettably, our capacity to revise our internal personal stories often becomes part of a public profile. Humans are social and so we massage, arrange and position material to manage image – for ourselves and others. While ruthless review, reflection and action towards self improvement is constructive, it may not be enough. Our inner critic can mislead or fail us.

For these reasons, honest advice has huge value.  Actively seek feedback from trusted resources. Tharp’s advice is “Challenge a status quo of your own making…All you need is people with good judgment in other parts of their lives who care about you and will give you honest opinion without strings.” In turn, after asking permission, offer caring, thoughtful feedback to help others develop.

Lisa Wyatt, Ed. D. is a strategy architect and partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems change with clients worldwide. Lisa has cross-sector and international experience. She is  an author and W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow. See : www.pwkinc.com

Crisis, Allies & Trust

June 20, 2011

Just three  months ago, Japan experienced unprecedented damage from an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. These three catastrophic events created enormous upheaval with many deaths and huge challenges for leaders in all sectors.

 Black Out Conditions

Japanese  Prime Minister  Kan  became wildly popular 20 years ago for  his ethics and mission focus.  As health minister he  exposed his own ministry’s use of HIV  tainted blood which caused illness and death. This corruption was  long known by others but conveniently ignored. A savvy man, for sure, but in the recent crisis, analysts now say  he was “acting in  near black-out conditions.”  Fortunately, Kan’s work history, his instincts and a handful of trusted co-workers  helped him navigate. During the  crisis and long after, the thick politics between primary stakeholders in the drama have been  obstructions.

In hindsight, deep mistrust was a key factor in this situation. It added delay when urgency was vital, and it cost credibility with both citizens and nations alike. Because Kan could not rely on people in key positions the severe implications from multiple disasters was not obvious for many days. In addition, advisers in important roles were unaware of the resources available to them. The right information was not shared quickly.

Find Capable , Ethical Allies

In an important confluence of events, the plant manager at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant bucked the system.  Despite the pressure of crisis, Mr. Yoshida, who had built a reputation for ethical choices and capable behavior, acted  fast. He allowed seawater to cool the nuclear core and defied orders  from his employer. Experts say this decision almost certainly prevented far more damage.  A day after the tsunami, Prime Minister Kan took a trip to the nuclear plant. Kan met Yoshida and was impressed by his candor. The Prime Minister recognized an ally who would “do the right thing” and was highly capable.

The bold moves of a few thoughtful people  in  the  Japanese crisis offer important leadership examples. It reminds us that credibility is tested in small ways  — daily. People are watching. They see patterns of behaviors. Dishonesty, avoidance, denial are errors that could derail your objectives. Display trustworthiness through transparency, facts, and  thoughtful analysis. Acknowledge mistakes. It underscores your credibility and creates essential trust.

Trust & Mission-Focus

Suspicion is not a hospitable environment for high performance. It can (and does) dramatically affect decisions. Quality information and consistent credible actions contribute to trust. Acting consistently on shared values offers encouragement. It shows a commitment to common good, mission, and to ideals that are bigger than self. Do all you can to squash petty politics for efforts on the “right work.” In the midst of the routine or calamity, build trust and keep a mission focus. These are a welcome refuge for your colleagues.

If you’re hoping people will follow you – act in worthy ways.

 –Lisa Wyatt Knowlton, Ed. D. is a partner in Phillip Wyatt Knowlton, Inc. PWK is a performance management resource for systems and social change with clients worldwide. She is also an author &  W.K. Kellogg Leadership Fellow.See:: www.pwkinc.com


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