Why to Be Surprised: The Power of Not Knowing

This weekend, on a flight out to Bend, Oregon to film am exciting project (coming soon), I clumsily dumped the manuscript for my upcoming book, Winning Well, on the lap of an older gentleman with sparkling eyes sitting beside me. We were about an hour into the flight, and up until then, neither of us had said a word–and quite frankly, we both seemed just fine with that. #thankgoodnesswegotpastthat

When I apologized and tried to recover the paper that was all over his feet and lap (#nexttimeuseabinderclip), he just seemed annoyed. Now, I know he was processing. A few minutes after my scramble, he said softly, “You writing a book?”

Now, as you can imagine, there’s nothing a woman like me wants to talk about more during this frantic final editing journey than my book.  In fact, when I check out at the grocery store and they say “paper or plastic,” I’m inclined to tell them “I like paper because it reminds me of my book which will also be available in Kindle, which I guess, is kind-of like plastic.”

I lit up past the embarrassment.

“Why, yes, I am. How could you tell?” I smiled, glad to have finally connected past the scramble.

“What’s it about?”  I launched into the Cliff’s notes version of Winning Well and getting results without losing your soul. (Hmmm… I wonder how I get Cliff to cover Winning Well. No, no, that would be a tragedy).

“Oh that’s awesome.” He shared. “I’m doing a talk at my daughter’s work next month. I’m trying to pick up everything I can about leadership. I’ve been watching TED talks. Trying to nail down my ideas.”

I jotted down his email, promised to send resources, and started to ask questions about the nature of his talk.

Imagine how surprised I was to find I was talking to  Frederick Gregory, astronaut and a NASA senior administrator who led the International management team responsible for the International Space Station (among other significant leadership feats and awards).

More to come on my new friend Fred. We’re connecting again later this week.

For now I’ll leave you with this piece of advice.

The biggest life and leadership lessons come when you’re surprised. 

Think about it. when you go on vacation, what stories do you tell when you get back home? The times when everything went just as planned? Or the more awkward moments, like when you had to ski down the blacks with your baby on your back because you made a wrong turn (been there), or followed your GPS only to find “You have arrived” put you deep into a dead-end of a National forest (#myweekend).

How we react, and what we do during the times of biggest surprise
are the moments that most shape us. 

Astronaut Gregory shared how surprised he was to find that the Russians he was working with during that tense time had some of the same childhood experiences as he, hearing a siren and being instructed to climb under the desk to practice in case the “bad guys” attacked. “Oh, we thought YOU were the bad guys.”

Being open to the surprise of common experiences helps us accelerate understanding and facilitate identification of a common goal.

When we’re so sure in what we know–when we let confidence trump humility–we lose the ability to learn from surprise. We can’t win well from that space.

Imagine the power of beginning each day looking forward to something that will surprise us, and expand our perspective.

Does Your Boss Have Your Back?

When I was fairly young in my HR career, I was walking by my boss’ boss’ office (let’s call him Eric) while visiting our corporate headquarters in Manhattan. Without leaving his desk, he called out:

Karin, can you please do me a favor? You see there’s this meeting that I’m unable to attend, and it would be great if you could attend it for me. Sally, the Senior VP of our call center division has an absence problem. She asked me to attend, but I’m busy. I think it would be great if you could go talk employee engagement. It’s starting in a few minutes so you should head down now.

Honored to be asked, and delighted for the exposure, I eagerly said “Yes!” and ran off to the meeting. As I entered the room (apparently late), all conversation stopped.

“Who are you?” Sally barked.

“Oh, I’m Karin, Eric couldn’t make it, but asked me to come instead.”

“This is an important issue, and needs to be handled at the senior level! Doesn’t Eric care enough here to show up? Why didn’t he let me know he was sending you? What’s your role? Don’t answer that. I’ll be right back.”

She slammed the door and called Eric.

“You can stay, she grumbled.”

Oh, wait for it. It gets worse.

The VPs around the room had all kinds of ideas for how to “fix those people;” none of which involved actually talking to them to understand root cause.

I piped in and told them so.

I was completely ignored and they went on with their planning.

Later that day…

I was on the elevator when the doors opened and Sally walked in. When was this day going to end?! I tried to get absorbed in the crowd, hoping she wouldn’t notice. When we stopped at her floor, she asked me to step off with her for a moment.

You’ve got great ideas, but you’re incredibly clumsy.  As a manager, you don’t tell a room full of VPs all of them are wrong in a meeting with their peers. You quietly take notes, and then talk with a few of them offline to stakeholder your ideas. You really ticked me off, so I couldn’t even process what you were saying. But I’ve been thinking about it and you’re right. I’d like you to lead the HR leg of this project. You help me fix my absence problem and I’ll help you learn how to navigate politically so you don’t sabotage what could be a promising career. Sound like a deal?

She smiled for the first time that day.

It was the start to a beautiful mentoring relationship. She always had my back.

Two VPs with position power: one with his back firmly against the wall, protecting himself. The other taking a risk on a naive but passionate kid. What a difference it makes when someone has your back.

How Do I Get My Peers to Trust Me?

Honestly, I wish I learned this sooner. Having a tight network of trusted peers is as vital (and often trumps) your relationship with your boss and your direct reports. Trust matters even more with your peers because it’s TECHNICALLY optional and therefore more meaningful and sticky. There’s no “official” accountability levers. It’s easy to put them last on your trust-building priority list.

Your peers aren’t evaluating you on an employee engagement survey, or writing your performance appraisal. Often they have competing agendas, and of course you know it’s you against them in the stack rank.

So many of us buckle down, approach our peers with cautious pleasantries, and watch our backs.

Real trust develops when no one is watching…when you’ve got something to lose, and choose to be vulnerable anyway.

5 Ways to Get Your Peers to Trust You

Building trusting peer relationships starts with you. Here’s how.

1. Get Naked

Well not all the way, but at least take off your parka and mittens. Let them know what scares you (yes, yes, I know getting naked scares you. Do it anyway.) People trust those they can see. Share a vulnerability or two, and then wait for it. It might not happen right away, but stay open and investing as trust grows.

2. Give More Than You Receive

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a company and seen two teams with the same objectives, doing the same work, both with best practices that they’re completely keeping to themselves. “I’ll show you mine if you show me yours” is old school. Show your great idea first without worrying about what comes next.

3. Take a Field Trip

I learned this from one of my direct reports in my sales exec role. His peers in the finance department were not approving contracts for a subset of our customers. My deeply southern district manager got in the car and drove three hours for an old-fashioned visit. They had some sweet tea, cleared up misconceptions, developed a streamlined communication protocol, and our acceptance rate for that market skyrocketed. These were qualified customers that “didn’t look good on paper.” But the paper didn’t do them justice.

4. Lose a Battle

You don’t care equally about every issue. Know what’s worth going to the mat for, and what isn’t. A few concessions can gain you the reputation of being “easy to work with.” When you really need something, they’ll be more likely to trust your motives.

5. Lift Them Up

As a customer service director, my friend Dan and I stumbled on this one by accident. We were peers (who were always stack ranked against one another), but we also realized we had different gifts. I’m embarrassed to admit, he went first. He rolled up his sleeves and helped me tremendously on the operations side. He even silently sat in on a few tough customer calls and privately messaged me with what to do while I was getting my sea legs.

I then came to his region and helped him attack his employee engagement issues.

In every operations review we genuinely credited one another with our success. A high-tide rises all boats.

Don’t overlook the importance of trust amongst peers. It’s harder, it makes a difference, the big guys notice, and the relationships last a lifetime.

Are you looking to take your team to the next level? Please give me a call at 443-750-1249 for a free consultation.

The Most Important Question to Ask When Facing a Big Decision

What if you could pre-screen a movie of your life to help guide you in making your most pivotal decisions? Can you imagine knowing how your screenplay unfolds would guide your answers to the biggies:

  • Should I follow my passion and shift careers?
  • Should I relocate my family for that promotion?
  • Should I take the risk and stand up for what I  believe in?
  • Who should I seek out as a mentor?
  • Should I marry him?
  • Should I move to part-time while my children are little?
  • Who should I groom to carry on my legacy?

I was talking with LGL subscriber, David Oddis (below) after giving a Winning Well workshop for his organization. He shared a game changing question his mentor asked when he was contemplating taking on a new role.

davidHis mentor simply asked, “Is this move part of your story?”

Can you see the power of that question?

In other words, what is the story you are looking to write with your life?

Who are the central characters?

What values does your story represent?

How will you feel about that decision when you’re playing back the trailer?

If you make this decision, what doors does that open and close for the next scene?

David shared, “That question made it so simple for me. It was clear that move was not part of my story.”

Not all opportunities (no matter how good look on paper) take our story in the direction we want.

Of course we can’t write the whole story. No one invites cancer into their story. No bride marries knowing that divorce is in the next chapter. But we DO hold the pen as we write our response.

What does our story say about how hard we fight? What does our story say about how we show up for our children in the midst of the angst? What does our story say about how we find a new beginning?

When faced with a difficult decision ask yourself, “Is this part of my story?”

The answer may surprise you.

Are you interested in booking a Winning Well Workshop for your organization? Please call me at 443-750-1249.

Excited vs. Excitable: The Real Secret to Executive Presence

The situation would have sent any leader who cared running for aspirin. I asked Mark, the Senior VP, “Are you okay? Are you stressed? What needs to happen next?” Mark responded, “Karin, I don’t get stressed. There’s no use in that. But as it turns out I’m a stress carrier.”

In humor lies the truth.

Mark had mastered executive presence. Mark had excited but not excitable nailed. Deeply passionate about the cause, nothing rattled him. He’d taken on each new scene as if he’d seen it a thousand times before. His actions were values-based, consistent, deliberate and timely. And yet he knew that his calm words didn’t always have a calming effect on his team. In fact sometimes, the more calm he appeared, the wilder his VPs became– as if to make up for his lack of excitable.

Stress was still rolling down hill, even though Mark had tried to stop it.

Excited Energizes, Excitable Freaks People Out

In almost every company I work with, I’ve noticed a consistent pattern– things are remarkably calmer on the executive “floor.” (Thank goodness, not always a real floor these days.)

The stakes are higher, the decisions graver, these folks have farther to fall, and yet when the going gets tough (for the execs who get it) the volume doesn’t amplify.

In full disclosure, I didn’t learn this early in my career. For a long time I believed my excitable nature proved I cared. I confused stress with passion. Fired up is a long way from freaked out. Know the difference in yourself, and in those you lead.

Your team longs for calm in you and in them. Don’t stop with you.

How to Encourage Excited vs. Excitable

So how do you grow leaders who emulate calm, in the midst of a frantic context?

1. Acknowledge Reality

More than anything your team needs to know you get it. Otherwise they think your head is in the sand. When you calmly state the issue and the implications, I promise that your team will breathe a sigh of relief. They’ll move from trying to prove that the fire is real, to trying to figure out how to extinguish it.

2. Stay Consistently True to Your Values

Great leaders stay true to their values when the going gets tough. If “customer service is #1” has been your rallying cry and you start short-cutting when budget (or boss) pressures loom, your team will be confused at best. Don’t change course. Instead ask, how do MAINTAIN OUR COMMITMENT to a great customer experience with these new parameters?

3. Encourage Wacky Solutions

Chances are that someone is sitting on an idea that is so crazy it might just work. Give them an opportunity to share. Then help them calm down, ask great questions, and consider how they could best execute.

4. Use Failure as Learning

When the going gets tough, our  tolerance for failing decreases, and in many well-intentioned leaders, disappears. Ironically, it’s in the toughest times that we need it most. The 18th failure is much harder than the second. Help your team stay calm and keep learning.

5. Stay Real

When the going gets really tough, your team wants the truth. Share what you can and help them to make informed decisions.

Leaders who win well are excited, but not excitable. They have a strong vision and a strong sense of where they are headed. They expect disruption and leverage chaos as an opportunity to engage creative solutions.

Stay excited. Resist excitable–for you and those who care enough to follow your lead.

Managing Millennials: What’s Really Different

A working student in my evening MBA program approached me to talk about a work situation that was driving her crazy.

She gave me the gory behind-the-scenes view: a few apathetic employees were fully taking advantage of a system that had let them get away with ridiculous performance for too long. She was a new supervisor and knew what was right. Apparently her instincts had been reinforced in our class that night. But the situation felt difficult to reverse. She shrugged and said, “It’s probably because they’re millennials.”

I laughed, “Uh…you do realize YOU are a millennial. right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she acknowledged, “but I’m a DIFFERENT kind of millennial.”

Of course she is. Every millennial is.

Whatever your generation, I’d bet money you don’t feel like you fully fit the stereotype.

Don’t let generational labels and stereotypes screw up your ability to build a winning team. 

What Every Employee Needs

All this talk of the millennial situation is aggravating the perceived “generation gap.” It happens every time a new crop of growing leaders gains traction.  The truth is, the problem she was describing was not generational. It was a hard-core, poster-child example of weak expectations, exacerbated by low-reinforcement and no consequences.

I had those same slippery characters working for me when I was 26. Oh sure their names and contexts were different, but I recognized the story. Back then, I was a gen-Xer trying to manage gen-Xers (I even had to take a course on managing gen-Xers before I could move into management). I recall telling the trainer I was a DIFFERENT kind of gen-Xer.

Yes, we need to understand and value the millennial generation. They bring insights and values we may not understand.

For example, I was all ears when my informal millennial coaches (employees in my organization at the front lines who I specifically put on my informal board of directors to tell me the truth) told me how to become more trusted and accessible to the front lines: Stop wearing a suit and heels to the call centers–it was too intimidating; bring my humor to the next corporate video; and for God’s sake watch some TV every now and then so I can chime in on the break room small talk. It worked. Sure there are few things you can do to be more relevant to the masses.

But the truth is, it didn’t work because they were millennial. It worked because it was a way to meet people where they are. That wisdom has worked for centuries.

Figure out the easy things you can change to connect better at a broad scale, but never forget that teams are built of unique human beings. 

The next time you’re faced with a “millennial” problem, I encourage you to resist the label and dig deeper. What’s really going on at the individual level? Do they get the big picture, so they have the skills to do the job, are they confident and competent…? You get the picture.

Are you struggling with a difficult employee engagement scene? Please call me at 443 750-1249 for a free consultation.

Managing Millennials: What's Really Different

A working student in my evening MBA program approached me to talk about a work situation that was driving her crazy.

She gave me the gory behind-the-scenes view: a few apathetic employees were fully taking advantage of a system that had let them get away with ridiculous performance for too long. She was a new supervisor and knew what was right. Apparently her instincts had been reinforced in our class that night. But the situation felt difficult to reverse. She shrugged and said, “It’s probably because they’re millennials.”

I laughed, “Uh…you do realize YOU are a millennial. right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” she acknowledged, “but I’m a DIFFERENT kind of millennial.”

Of course she is. Every millennial is.

Whatever your generation, I’d bet money you don’t feel like you fully fit the stereotype.

Don’t let generational labels and stereotypes screw up your ability to build a winning team. 

What Every Employee Needs

All this talk of the millennial situation is aggravating the perceived “generation gap.” It happens every time a new crop of growing leaders gains traction.  The truth is, the problem she was describing was not generational. It was a hard-core, poster-child example of weak expectations, exacerbated by low-reinforcement and no consequences.

I had those same slippery characters working for me when I was 26. Oh sure their names and contexts were different, but I recognized the story. Back then, I was a gen-Xer trying to manage gen-Xers (I even had to take a course on managing gen-Xers before I could move into management). I recall telling the trainer I was a DIFFERENT kind of gen-Xer.

Yes, we need to understand and value the millennial generation. They bring insights and values we may not understand.

For example, I was all ears when my informal millennial coaches (employees in my organization at the front lines who I specifically put on my informal board of directors to tell me the truth) told me how to become more trusted and accessible to the front lines: Stop wearing a suit and heels to the call centers–it was too intimidating; bring my humor to the next corporate video; and for God’s sake watch some TV every now and then so I can chime in on the break room small talk. It worked. Sure there are few things you can do to be more relevant to the masses.

But the truth is, it didn’t work because they were millennial. It worked because it was a way to meet people where they are. That wisdom has worked for centuries.

Figure out the easy things you can change to connect better at a broad scale, but never forget that teams are built of unique human beings. 

The next time you’re faced with a “millennial” problem, I encourage you to resist the label and dig deeper. What’s really going on at the individual level? Do they get the big picture, so they have the skills to do the job, are they confident and competent…? You get the picture.

Are you struggling with a difficult employee engagement scene? Please call me at 443 750-1249 for a free consultation.

What To Do When You’re Really Stuck

I received this email from subscriber (modified enough for anonymity). Let’s call him Guy.

Would you be up to offer a little free advice to beat down manager? I have been in some type of leadership position for over a decade now. Two years ago I took over as manager of the noted, “ really tough crowd” in our company. A slight understatement, but–I was up for the challenge.

In discussions with my boss, she informed me that I needed to win my team over and that I did not have their respect. I have never had anyone tell me anything like that with either of the previous teams that I oversaw. Dazed and confused, I moved forward.

I have worked beside them and did the same jobs that they were doing, and bought them breakfast or donuts when I held early morning meetings. I’ve taken some of them to lunch to get to know them. I championed for their needs for extra fabric, materials, and machines, and got them the resources they needed.

I have stood before them and asked them to tell me what they needed me to do to work better for them and make their work lives better–very few responses but at least a couple of them offered.

Today I was lambasted by my boss because of one individual who easily gets her feelings hurt when she is required to do more than she believes she should be doing. The epitome of, “ I’ll do what I want to.” Each time I have tried a new approach, and ease into conversations with this individual. I now have all but stopped trying to work with her. I only get in trouble when I do.

So, tell how you would proceed. I am at my wit’s end. I am giving up. It became painfully obvious to me when I began this email seeking advice from an unfamiliar, outside source.

Most of us have hit a wall like that.  We all have times in our careers where we feel stuck, lack confidence, or wonder why no one sees things our way.

If you’ve ever felt even a third of what Guy’s feeling, it’s easy to have similar sentiments like “Maybe I should just give up.”

When it gets that bad, the co-author of our upcoming book, David Dye, and I encourage you to start with three words.

“How Can I…”

With those three words you:

  • Return focus to your own power and ability to act
  • Tap into the energy of your prefrontal cortex–the part of your brain that problem-solves and plans
  • Vastly increase the odds of finding a solution
  • Take responsibility and ownership for the one thing you can control–yourself.

Let’s try some “How can I?” questions with Guy’s scene.

  • How can I better understand this employee’s resistance?
  • How can I get more input and feedback from my team?
  • How can I set clearer expectations?
  • How can I build deeper trust with my boss?

or maybe even…

  • How can I find a job that doesn’t make me so frustrated?

When you ask “How can I?” you might honestly respond with “I don’t know.” That’s okay. Try David’s bonus question,  “What might I do if I did know?”

Now watch what happens. It’s amazing how you can generate ideas when you give yourself permission.

Sometimes you’ll realize that you don’t have the information you need in order to craft solutions. Then the question becomes, “How can I get the information?”

Stuck sucks. But you can and will get through it. Start with the simple question, “How do I?” Then move to an even more powerful question, “How do we?”

Looking to get your team unstuck? Call me for a free consultation. 443-750-1249.

What To Do When You're Really Stuck

I received this email from subscriber (modified enough for anonymity). Let’s call him Guy.

Would you be up to offer a little free advice to beat down manager? I have been in some type of leadership position for over a decade now. Two years ago I took over as manager of the noted, “ really tough crowd” in our company. A slight understatement, but–I was up for the challenge.

In discussions with my boss, she informed me that I needed to win my team over and that I did not have their respect. I have never had anyone tell me anything like that with either of the previous teams that I oversaw. Dazed and confused, I moved forward.

I have worked beside them and did the same jobs that they were doing, and bought them breakfast or donuts when I held early morning meetings. I’ve taken some of them to lunch to get to know them. I championed for their needs for extra fabric, materials, and machines, and got them the resources they needed.

I have stood before them and asked them to tell me what they needed me to do to work better for them and make their work lives better–very few responses but at least a couple of them offered.

Today I was lambasted by my boss because of one individual who easily gets her feelings hurt when she is required to do more than she believes she should be doing. The epitome of, “ I’ll do what I want to.” Each time I have tried a new approach, and ease into conversations with this individual. I now have all but stopped trying to work with her. I only get in trouble when I do.

So, tell how you would proceed. I am at my wit’s end. I am giving up. It became painfully obvious to me when I began this email seeking advice from an unfamiliar, outside source.

Most of us have hit a wall like that.  We all have times in our careers where we feel stuck, lack confidence, or wonder why no one sees things our way.

If you’ve ever felt even a third of what Guy’s feeling, it’s easy to have similar sentiments like “Maybe I should just give up.”

When it gets that bad, the co-author of our upcoming book, David Dye, and I encourage you to start with three words.

“How Can I…”

With those three words you:

  • Return focus to your own power and ability to act
  • Tap into the energy of your prefrontal cortex–the part of your brain that problem-solves and plans
  • Vastly increase the odds of finding a solution
  • Take responsibility and ownership for the one thing you can control–yourself.

Let’s try some “How can I?” questions with Guy’s scene.

  • How can I better understand this employee’s resistance?
  • How can I get more input and feedback from my team?
  • How can I set clearer expectations?
  • How can I build deeper trust with my boss?

or maybe even…

  • How can I find a job that doesn’t make me so frustrated?

When you ask “How can I?” you might honestly respond with “I don’t know.” That’s okay. Try David’s bonus question,  “What might I do if I did know?”

Now watch what happens. It’s amazing how you can generate ideas when you give yourself permission.

Sometimes you’ll realize that you don’t have the information you need in order to craft solutions. Then the question becomes, “How can I get the information?”

Stuck sucks. But you can and will get through it. Start with the simple question, “How do I?” Then move to an even more powerful question, “How do we?”

Looking to get your team unstuck? Call me for a free consultation. 443-750-1249.

Lost in Translation: Communication Techniques for Middle Managers

You know your boss cares deeply about customers, employees, and doing the right thing for your business. And you’ve built a passionate team of customer advocates, who want to make a good living and feel good about coming to work every day.

And yet here you are, precariously squashed amidst the intensity of all this passion and good intentions.

At the core, everyone wants similar outcomes…you get it. But the cacophony of misunderstanding and misinterpretation can be deafening.

“Why don’t they understand why this is so important?”

“Why would she do THAT if she really cared about employees?”

“How can they be so out of touch with reality?”

“These executives don’t have a clue how annoyed our customers are about this decision.”

“This is just another sign the frontline is disengaged.”

Chances are no one put “translator” on your job description. But trust me, the managers with the best outcomes are masters of translation.

Great Managers are Translators

The very best managers are leaders with a keen ability translate:

Industry dynamics into pragmatic straight talk

They listen closely to what’s happen with competitors and strategic partners. They’re intrigued by the dynamics, and help their team to better understand their company’s proactive approaches and responses.

Organizational vision into meaningful work

They work hard to understand the big picture and have a keen ability to explain articulate specifically how the work their team is doing makes an impact on customers and to the world.

Executive urgency into tangible action

They don’t let stress roll downhill. They buffer negative executive emotion and translate the meaning into specific behaviors for the team to implement.

Questions into dialogue

They listen carefully to questions from executives, bosses, peers, and direct reports, to understand the deeper concern. They proactively work to bring the right people together to have meaningful conversation.

Employee angst into reasonable requests

They empathize with the stress and concerns of their team. They help employees frame their needs so they can be heard and addressed to get the resources and support they need.

Great middle managers take time to learn the languages of those around them, and listen well to hear the truths from multiple perspectives. Translating well saves time and is a vital step toward achieving breakthrough results.

A Powerful Way to Gain the Trust of Your Team

building trustThe Senior Vice President stood in front of my all hands meeting of 300 and said, “I was wrong.” I’ve never heard a group that size sit in such silence. I’m not even sure we were breathing.

You see, she had been a naysayer. She knew the mission our team had been given was necessary, but she didn’t believe it could be done. This stung twice as hard because she’d been a mentor of mine for years. In some ways the mission to prove her wrong by accomplishing “the impossible” became quite personal.

And we had.

She could have chosen lots of other words to open up her talk. Words that would have saved face, but none that could have given her more credibility. “I was wrong, I didn’t think it could be done. You did it. Congratulations, and thank you.”

5 Ways to Admit You’re Wrong

The ability to admit you’re wrong is the ultimate sign of confident humility. It takes guts to admit you’ve made a mistake. More importantly, being vulnerable enough to admit you’re wrong makes it safe for others to do so too. Imagine a world where more people were that honest with themselves and others.

Quite frankly, many leaders screw this up. They reinvent history to justify their actions (another wrong.) No matter how you spin it two wrongs don’t make a right.

Next time you screw up, follow these tips.

1. Be straightforward

The power of her statement was that it was so blunt. “I was wrong.” She could have said something much softer with less impact, “You did a solid job,” would have been easier on her ego.

2. Explain why

Share what you’ve learned or would do differently. Articulating the lesson helps everyone learn.

3. Take accountability

Don’t be a blamer. “I was wrong, but Joe gave me bad information” or “I was wrong, but my boss had me distracted with other things” is basically saying, “Even if I am wrong, it doesn’t count.”

4. Apologize if needed

In this case there was no apology necessary, she was a leader with an opinion doing her job by expressing it. In fact, I’ll admit that her skepticism fired us up. It’s quite possible in some wacky way working to prove her wrong helped us win. But, if being wrong hurt someone, “I’m wrong,” coupled with “I’m sorry,” can go even further.

4.Follow-through

Of course the most sincere way to apologize is to not do it again. I have a friend who cheated on his wife. He admitted he was wrong, apologized, owned it… and then did it again. She left him. Those words only worked once.

Bot Syndrome

The Bot Syndrome: 5 Symptoms Which Indicate Your Employee Feels Like a Bot

“The other day, a customer tweeted at me, ‘Are you a bot?’ At first I was really offended and wanted to tweet back ‘I AM NOT A BOT!’ But when I thought about it some more, I got kind-of sad. I realized that by following the scripts and all the rules, I sounded very robotic. That’s not what our customers want or need. They come to social media because they want some upbeat and friendly interaction. I could provide better service if they gave us a bit more freedom to do what we know is right.’”

– Customer Service Social Media Rep

It’s not just social media reps who feel that way. It happens across industries at all levels. I’ve met VPs whose fear has caused a dangerous bot-like trance. Bots leading bots is no way to change the game.

Sadly, it starts with good intentions: an effort to get everyone on the same page; a PR team who wants to ensure all employees share the same story; or efficiency studies that show the “right way” to do things saves much more time. I once had a boss tell me, “Karin, the truth is in that role, I want to take all the thinking out of it, make it as simple as possible so they can just execute efficiently.”

Sometimes your employees will tell you. But often, they just subtly lose their passion for your work and find meaning elsewhere.

5 Signs Your Employee Feels Like a Bot

1. They stop asking important questions.

The “Why?” “What’s next?” and “What if?” questions disappear.

2. But… they don’t make a move without asking obvious questions.

They need approval for everything, even if it means keeping a customer waiting. Most of your answers are “of course.”

3. They “follow the rules” even when they don’t make sense.

Of course they should have made an exception for the customer whose son just died. But the guidebook didn’t say, so they stuck by the rules. It’s impossible to predict and script every scenario. If an employee can’t function outside the playbook, check for bot-building policies.

4. Meetings are lifeless.

Your meetings look like a scene from an old zombie movie. It’s like pulling teeth to get everyone to talk. You feel like a cheerleader in an empty stadium.

5. Even well-thought out recognition, compensation, and employee engagement programs don’t make a dent.

If employees could double their hourly wage if they just “embraced the program” you first need a shift from bot gear, before any incentive overlay will work.

The guy I worked for was wrong. Because I’m not a bot, I ignored that advice, and results improved. You can’t grow a bot. You can’t motivate a bot. Bots will never deliver a best in class customer experience.

Bonus

After publishing this article, I was asked to share it in Malaysia for Leaderonomics. The fun part about that is they created an amazing PDF with other great thoughts on building your social media strategy.