When you want to have new ideas: 12 things to do to get started

At the beginning of a new year, your slate can be blank to fill in with your goals, things you want to stop, start, accelerate, and slow down. This is also a time to generate new ideas, look at familiar problems from a new lens and find new ways to make an impact.

Lots of people say they have their best ideas in the shower. I am not sure where this came from. I have never had an idea in the shower except to not forget to condition my hair. However, the point about finding good ideas while doing mundane things is true. If our hands are doing something fairly rote, then our minds are free to wander and explore.

I baked a lot this past December and while I folded in the sifted flour, I had some interesting thoughts about what I could do differently this year. Unfortunately, when I find myself unable to fall back asleep at 3 am, I can have the ultimate brainwave. Why is that? I find this annoying but I also find I can’t stop it from happening. Our brains decide to start working when we wake up, which is why I can’t fall back asleep in the first place.

Ideas can come in the most unusual circumstances. Funny how they don’t always come when we have the time to think about them. They can be elusive. We can get stuck in certain circumstances and find it difficult to see new ways or how to overcome obstacles. So, how do we get unstuck? How is it possible to leave past baggage in the past and look at something familiar with new eyes?

According to Brain Science, several parts of our brain need to be stimulated for new ideas to form. We have always thought about being left-brained (and more logical) or right-brained (more creative). But, the truth is that many parts need to be sparking at the same time for us to have new ideas.

In order to engage the brain, we may need to do different things to get to a “new” place. Here are my tips for finding new ideas and new ways to approach work.

  1. Don’t think too hard about it. This may seem counterintuitive but I find innovating or having new ideas is a lot like trying to get back to sleep. If you chase it too much, think about it too much, it won’t happen. If you sit down with your notebook and force new ideas to come, it may not happen. Let your ideas come and go until something clicks. Giving yourself a timeline may work against you here as creativity and finding new ideas may take time.
  2. Carve time to brainstorm. Sometimes I can have new ideas all by my lonesome but, oftentimes, I have ideas while I am brainstorming with others. Free-form brainstorming where all ideas are welcomed is a good way to come up with something new. There are many tricks and formulas to brainstorming. If you search the internet for the keyword “brainstorming”, you will get inundated with ways to do this. Pick the best one for you. One of the simplest ways to brainstorm is to have everyone write down 3 ideas related to a topic and share. Or, you can have one person share one idea and ask the next person to build on that idea. Keep going around until all thoughts have been exhausted.
  3. Think about the opposite. I find thinking in the negative helps me find the positive. If I think about what hasn’t worked or what the situation may look like without finding a new idea, that leads me to see the positive or at least something new to try.
  4. Fold your laundry. As I said above, do a rote task to allow your mind to wander and think about something in a new way. For me, it is baking or folding laundry. For others, it can be knitting, doing Sudoku, cleaning a bathroom (my least favorite activity on the planet). Sometimes when we are engaged in mindless tasks, our minds can focus without us even knowing they are. I know…a little creepy but it works.
  5. Don’t let insomnia go to waste. For those of us who struggle to fall asleep or wake up and can’t get back to sleep, this is the time when, weirdly, new ideas come to us. I have solved many problems at 3 am but find that I forget them when I get up for my morning meeting. Trust me. You will not remember that awesome idea when 7 am rolls around. Having a little notepad on our phones or on our bedside table can help with this. Even the smallest little note can trigger our brains to remember what we were thinking.
  6. Take a break. Many of us took a break at the end of the year to rest, relax, laugh and take stock. But, I don’t advise taking a break only at the end of a year. Sometimes, taking a personal day or afternoon off is required to recharge. Taking a true lunch break, going for a walk, exercising, playing with your dog can help new ideas come to you.
  7. Doodle in a notebook. I can’t draw. If you ever play Pictionary with me, you don’t want me on your team. We will lose. But, even if you can’t draw, I recommend doodling in a notebook to spark your brain. While I don’t doodle, I do tend to re-trace my words I write down while I think. If a handwriting analyst ever looked at my notebook, they might tell me I am OCD. I really just keep my hands busy while my brain is chugging along. Since I don’t draw, I re-write words.
  8. Read. Yeah…makes sense, right? But, when I say read, I mean read a wide variety of things. I read brain science books, crime novels, the latest business book, self-help books, biographies and even popular magazines. I had one of my best organizational ideas for work come from a 100-word insert in Good Housekeeping!
  9. Daydream. When was the last time you just looked out a window or sat in your patio chair? While this helps us relax, it also gives our brains a mental break to conjure something. Again, don’t force it. Use this time to decompress; but, when we are relaxed, good ideas can come to us. I rarely find that I have awesome ideas under pressure.
  10. Ping off of others. While I recommend brainstorming up front with others, I also recommend sharing your ideas once they are crystallized. I may have great brainwaves at 3 am but they become even better when I share with others and get their thoughts. Collaborating and discussing ideas with others can only make them stronger. We always need others’ perspectives to validate our thinking, challenge it or flat out refute it. Whatever happens as a result of team discussion is a positive outcome.
  11. Try something. As I have written many times, try something out. Take action and see if it is a good idea. Like some dresses, they may look great on the hanger but when I try it on? Um…no! Why did I ever think that red sequin dress would flatter my curves? Conversely, maybe you try out a new idea and it excels; it changes things for the better. You never know until you try it out.
  12. Iterate. My favorite word today…iterate. We need to abandon the concept of perfect. No such thing. Try something out and iterate on it. I used to spend months and months behind the magic black curtain getting a new project just right and then release it with a bang. Ta-da! Only then did I find out that things had changed rendering this new project not valuable. To be agile and fast-paced, we must commit to pushing out ideas that are good enough, solicit feedback, note the current environment and make them better.

As we are thinking about new ideas and new ways of approaching our work, don’t force it. Do things that allow your brain to think freely. Pay attention to what you are thinking about when gardening, running or reading. Always have something near you to jot down an idea in your phone or on a notepad. Connect with others and give it a whirl. You never know what the outcome will be.

When you reflect on 2020: 9 lessons I am carrying into 2021

So much has been written and reported about 2020 that I can hardly add any more to the breadth of writing that has been published, pushed and posted this past year.

Everyone embraced 2020 as a shiny new decade. I remember back around 2005, there were many business articles and white papers published about what society and business would look like in 2020. This seemed to be a magic year — a turning point to become a more efficient, integrated, global society and we spent the last 15 years preparing for “something” to happen in 2020. I am not sure anyone, but a few experts, predicted what we experienced in 2020.

I recently listened to a podcast from Marie Forleo talking with Rha Goddess, an author and coach. Rha mentioned that 2020 was a “time-out” year — meaning we were put in time-out like a child who misbehaved. This really struck a cord with me. I hadn’t really thought about it that way.

Like many of you, I have been wondering why our lives took such radical and extreme turns this past year — everything from the pandemic to politics, violence, division, social justice, and protests. Thinking about this idea that we were put in a time-out really resonates with me. Perhaps we were moving so fast into the future that we neglected the present.

Any mindfulness journal or book focuses on being present and being in the present. Eckhart Tolle wrote a book called, The Power of Now, which I highly recommend, about this topic. Maybe this past year was a giant, universal…Hey! Pay Attention to Now! Whether this is the reason or not, I believe we were forced to look at ourselves, how we work, how we parent, how we manage our lives, communities and businesses more than any other time.

I focused my time differently as did many of us. I tried to make the most of a new routine. While I didn’t realize it, I took advantage of the universal time-out to think about what I had done, which I never did when I was punished as a child, what I was spending my time on, how I was acting and thinking, where I put my energy and passion, and, what triggered my anxiety. The word that comes to mind is “intentional”. Maybe this is an over-used word by now but whenever we are granted a time-out, whether we do this ourselves or the universe hands us one, it is best to take advantage of it. We can spend some time on our intentions and determine if our actions align to them.

I know many of us have hope for 2021, and we have a lot of reasons to be hopeful. There are some lessons, a-has, ideas, positive ju-ju and other random items I found in 2020 that I don’t want to forget —that I want to carry forth with me always.

  1. Maximize time. My lifetime excuse for not doing what I wanted to do is that I didn’t have enough time. 2020 removed an extensive commute for me and, therefore, gave me more time. Once I converted that time into other actions, I found I had even more time. 2020 took away my biggest excuse and allowed me to plan and spend my time on what matters to me. This was my biggest gift from 2020. There was nowhere to go and no distractions gnawing at me from the fringe. I had no choice but to use my time effectively.
  2. Be thankful. I have read many times about keeping a gratitude journal as a way of getting into a positive frame of mind. I have done that but have stopped many times. While I don’t keep a gratitude journal, I have spent time recognizing all that I have and now spend less time on what I don’t have. I have enough. This is something that has taken me years to realize. Not that I don’t have goals and other achievements to come in my life, but I don’t stew on those things that are missing. I maximize that newfound time to go get them.
  3. Realize the value of pets and relationships. I love my dog. 2020 showed me that I really love my dog. He is 85 pounds and serves as a body pillow from time to time. He is one of my biggest stress relievers. His unconditional love gives me great comfort. My partner, family and close friends do the same. Nothing has tested live-in relationships as 2020. I figured when this all started we would see stronger relationships or perhaps more divorces. I am pleased to say that I have heard more about relationships becoming stronger in these times than the opposite. We may take for granted those closest to us; 2020 showed us how grateful we need to be for those people. I admit that I have lost touch with some of my acquaintances. One of my goals for 2021 is to connect to more people.
  4. Appreciate technology. Even though we are all Zoom’ed out, I realize that I have taken technology for granted. Because of technology, I can work from home. I can be my most productive self using technology. Technology has helped push me to exercise and be healthy. Technology has allowed me to see my parents when I cannot be there in person. Technology has allowed me to write and share my experiences and tips with anyone who wants to read them. I have my bouts of yelling at my PC when Webex freezes or my VPN gets clogged but we are blessed if we have computers, devices and Wi-Fi when others may not.
  5. Allow for flexibility. I have written about this before as a manager. We need to have more compassion for people and their situations. Now, even when we get to the place of minimizing or even eliminating the pandemic, we should remember this sense of compassion for what others maybe going through. We have proven we can work from home effectively. We have proven that deadlines can be met even when someone isn’t at their desk in full view 8-9 hours/day. Keeping this sense of trust, compassion and allowing others to be flexible will be returned to us in terms of loyalty and productivity.
  6. Recognize that we rock. Managing change is so big that it has evolved into a discipline with frameworks mixed of strategy, process, technology and psychology. If nothing else, 2020 has proved that we can be resilient and we can change….on a dime as it turns out! Oftentimes, an external force is the greatest motivator to change. That is certainly true here. The key is maintaining that ability to change and stay motivated even when there isn’t a great external force at play. I plan to keep this mindset and ability to shift top of mind as I think we will continually evolve coming out of what we experienced in 2020.
  7. Live in the present. I am a huge planner. I have many lists, visuals, goals and a forward-thinking mentality to get me where I want to go. 2020 taught me to keep that but to also be in the now. Breathe, look around, appreciate the now, and don’t be too many steps ahead. Around April, I caught myself waiting…waiting for the pandemic to pass, waiting for restrictions to be lifted, waiting to go back to “normal”. Waiting for something to change is a waste. Living in the present means taking advantage of every moment we have to focus on what matters. I stopped waiting and started doing.
  8. Balance mind-body-spirit. I have always believed in balance. The saying that the body fuels the mind has always been true. 2020 has proven that we must balance this three-legged stool to be our most productive, satisfied, fulfilled selves. The role that sleep, exercise, food, water plays with how I show up at the Webex meeting with senior leaders at 8 am is huge. Squeezing in the 10-minute recharging meditation first thing in the morning truly shapes how my day will go. I never thought there was such a relationship here until I focused on this and saw results.
  9. Think about legacy. While being in the now and planning for my goals, I have thought more about my legacy more than ever. Maybe it is because I am getting older, but this year has forced me to think big, to think about what I want to be known for, and how I want people to describe me when I am gone. This is definitely NOT living in the present but it motivates how I will feel and what I will do in my present. When I look back when I am 80, what will have mattered, what will not have mattered. Thinking about this has shifted what I spend my energy on — emotional and physical.

I am sure you have your list. If you don’t have one, don’t let 2020 go by without reflecting on your lessons and deciding what to carry with you, and, conversely, what to leave behind. While I don’t have a huge list of what I will be leaving behind, I do have one very big thing — wasting emotional energy on things I cannot control.

This is what I will work on in the present in 2021. Things outside of our control, like a pandemic, choices of others, how others react to us, how others manage, should be items we recognize, feel and then let go. Here’s to carrying forth the positive lessons and leaving the bad ju ju behind.

When you want to do those things you never do: 12 tips to action: Part Two

Last week, I started to write about what helped me get unstuck and take action on the things I have always wanted to do. Taking the active steps I outlined: create a vision board, make a list, don’t hide the list, schedule what matters, maximize your time, find a partner in crime are real things you can do to get started.

One main aspect to consider is your mindset. I find doing the actions listed above helps me get into the right, motivated mindset. Mindset is tricky. There is no magic potion you can drink or pill you can swallow to give you internal motivation and a can-do/must-do mindset. But, if you engage in making a vision board or making a list, this will help get your brain jump-started.

Honestly, even daydreaming is a good start. If you can visualize in your head, you can record those feelings and thoughts as a means to move in a new direction. When was the last time you allowed yourself to look out the window and just let your mind wander? Maybe this is common in our current circumstance but let it happen and write down what comes to mind.

Talking to others can trigger something. No need to be all inside of your head. Bounce your thoughts off of others. Even if Whiskers, your cat, is the only one around, tell him. While he can’t give you advice (or, if he could, he would tell you to go back to sleep like him), he can be another being you can verbalize your thoughts to. Writing down ideas helps to crystallize. Vocalizing ideas out loud, even to your cat, can help spark other things.

I know my household probably thinks I am nuts because I talk to myself. I don’t hold conversations with myself (that would be more concerning) but I do vocalize certain things to help me get clear. I record myself on my phone as well because it helps me think of the next step or related thought.

Once you get your thoughts out of your head through writing or verbalizing, there are many other actions you can take to push yourself forward.

7. Knock out the first time. The first time doing anything is the hardest. There is no way around it. Cutting out sweets, beginning that resume, starting that project plan, exercising, remodeling the basement, minimizing TV — all of these are so hard to do. Why? Because we have been doing (or not doing) them for a long time. Staring at your vision board, having your list in front of you, using your partner to push you, all will help you start. If that doesn’t do it, think about what it will feel like if you don’t take this action. How will you feel then? Worse…I suspect. I finally told myself that if I spend one more year not writing, I will be so disappointed in myself. That did it for me. I couldn’t stand spending more of my life not doing what I wanted to do. I couldn’t think about planning for another year without actually doing something about it. I didn’t want to stare at any more old lists that didn’t have one checkmark on it.

8. Find the value in a checkmark. When you have that list in front of you, physically check things off. There is nothing more satisfying than completing a task. If you are a list maker, this is what you live for — the chance to cross something off or put a green checkmark by it. This sense of accomplishment is its own reward and helps push you to keep going. Even if you’re not a list maker, completing something feels good. It gives us a sense of purpose and some level of achievement. This can lead to other checkmarks. Pretty soon, a sea of checkmarks gets you to your goal. There is nothing more dissatisfying than seeing a list look pristine. Clearly written actions without a single checkmark. Checkmarks beget other checkmarks. Start crossing off your actions.

9. Build tasks into habits. Habits start with that first time. One of my secrets is to not just create a list for the first time you want to accomplish something. This is where I see a lot of people fall down. They get up the nerve to start but that action doesn’t become a habit. It ends up being one checkmark on a list but died after that one time. Create to-do lists for every week. If you want to do more hiking, have that on your list every week! If you want to find a new job, have that plan spread every single week until you achieve your goal of a new job. I find that after a month of doing something, I actually feel guilty when I don’t do it. Take exercise. When I skip kickboxing, I feel terrible. I know this is important to me. I let myself down when I don’t do it. When you reach this point, you know you are good. You have hit a stride and have formed a habit that will stick with you.

10. Cut yourself a break. Now, as I mentioned above, things happen. Schedules are not always 100% predictable or go as planned. So, while you may feel guilty about not starting that book, knitting that scarf for Aunt Rose or eating more vegetables, cut yourself some slack if you miss one time. If you didn’t start your resume on Monday as planned, then start it on another day that week. Likely, you have a good reason for not being able to do it. If you don’t have a good reason, then think about why you skipped it. Did you just not feel like it? I get it. Maybe Monday wasn’t the best day then. But, try for Tuesday. Have some grace for yourself but don’t let yourself off the hook for next time.

11. Celebrate success. Oftentimes, we forget that we did a lot of new things. We took action and we see results. We are with ourselves all day, everyday. It can be difficult to stop and think that we had some success. The checkmarks help but take breaks to reflect. Just like people who rarely see you can tell when you’ve lost weight when you can’t really see it. The same applies here. When you are in the middle of it, it is harder to see that we really did something pretty cool. Make time to be cool. Recognize you are cool and ask your partner to celebrate your coolness with you.

12. Create momentum. Doing all of these things can help create momentum. Don’t rest on your laurels. After patting ourselves on the back and basking in our coolness, keep moving. We don’t want to get caught in the trap of success and stop. Success breeds success. Action breeds action. Take a break but don’t let that break be permanent. Move on to the next thing. We all have many gifts to share and we must share them. Never stop planning, dreaming or creating visuals and lists to motivate ourselves.

I mentioned last time that I have read several personal motivation books over the last couple of years. They are sometimes called self-help books. Whatever the name of the genre, I believe reading or hearing others’ words can help us get out of our head and get inspired to act. Those books helped me get unstuck and realize that I had more to give, more to do than my job. Even though I love my job, I can do other things.

I hope you find what your “thing” is that must be done in 2021. Visualize it, write it down, share it with others and take action. Make the act of doing a habit. Cut yourself a break from time to time and celebrate your little wins. Every checkmark is a win. Checkmarks will help you build momentum to change your routine, change your life. Good luck!

When you want to do those things you never do: 12 tips to action: Part One

Many of us are rolling into a longer vacation stint because, let’s face it, we kept thinking the pandemic would break and we could actually go somewhere and wanted time to do it. Unfortunately, we find ourselves where we started in March….on our family room couch figuring out what to do with ourselves away from work.

If we are fortunate to live with our families, we can celebrate the holiday season together, which will bring some relief and joy. Some of us cannot see our family because that would involve travel and/or mixing households.

Aside from enjoying time off and the holiday season the best we can, one, two or more weeks off in December can allow us to focus on other facets of our life that we have been wanting to. I, like a lot of us, have taken up new projects and hobbies this year, which has been a very positive experience for me. Writing this weekly blog, working on a personal book about managing anxiety, working with my partner on a side hustle, letting my new Apple Watch tell me to breathe, stand and exercise. All of this has been a productive use of my time.

For years, I have wanted to do these things but never made time to do them. I made excuses for not having the time or energy to do things outside of my job. Granted, my job needs me to put in time and brain power on a daily basis but I never felt I could handle more. I thought that I needed any time outside of work to relax, read, watch TV and settle.

I still do those things but I also do a lot more with my time too. When I really stopped to think about it, I had more time than I knew. I don’t mean staying up until midnight or getting up a 4 am either. I mean I have time outside of work hours every day to work on what matters if I just found a bit more discipline.

So, I have been thinking about what finally broke my streak of inaction. I journaled for years and made lists of what I could and should do but I finally turned my wish list into an action list. I have been reflecting on what I did to make that happen.

Here are a few of my tips for shrugging off the “I don’t have the time, energy, or focus to do more” attitude.

  1. Create a vision board.
    Many of you may have heard of a vision board. I firmly believe in these. I tend to be in my head a bit and think that if I can imagine something, I can achieve it. While this is sometimes true, for the efforts that matter, I have created a vision board. I have done this two times in my life: 1) When I wanted to meet the right man. I captured images of what life would look like, feel like. I grabbed images of what we would be doing and put them in a single PowerPoint slide. 2) When I wanted to start writing more. Again, I found images online and compiled them into a PowerPoint slide. You can also print or cut out images and paste them on a board. Trust me. Having a visual of what you will look like, feel like, actions you will take, what success looks like is a huge motivator. This has worked in both instances for me. Actually, the vision board I created of the man I was supposed to meet is almost scary how closely our life resembles the images I picked a year before meeting him. Everything down to a picture of a yellow lab I grabbed 4 years before we got our Max, a yellow English Lab, is just crazy.
  2. Make a list.
    As I have written before, I am a chronic list-maker. I write (or type) everything. When you have your vision board, try and write goals next to them and actions you think you should take to achieve them. Listing your goals and supporting actions on a piece of paper or in a notepad app will help you get specific on how to spend your time to achieve your objectives. Try writing a small personal mission statement describing what you want to do at a high level above your to-do list. This will help direct your efforts and check whether they align to what you want to achieve.
  3. Don’t hide the list.
    This is an important point. In the past, I made lots of lists…lists of what I want to do, lists of action I will take, lists of accomplishments, lists of potential dates for actions, list after list. They were beautiful. The problem was they were always in a pretty notebook on a dark shelf out of sight and out of reach. I would re-visit them but only occasionally. Don’t put your lists away! Have them front and center on a clipboard, bulletin board, whiteboard, or even an open journal on your desk. Don’t let those lists of potential dreams get buried somewhere. Having the list in front of you all the time will make it hard to forget.
  4. Schedule what matters.
    I am drowning in ways to schedule my time and get reminders. I suspect you are too. Between my planner, my wall calendar, my phone, my tablet, my watch….I cannot hide. I have many devices – electronic and paper – where I cannot escape my schedule. Having time scheduled to exercise, write, knit, de-clutter the house, re-plan finances, whatever you want to achieve should be really easy today. Blocking time in the calendar and even setting a reminder, if you have a device, takes away any excuses. Now, like an alarm clock, you can always hit snooze or shut it off. Don’t do that. Keep to your schedule. That will help you achieve what you want. This is hard. I had plenty of times where I thought I just didn’t feel like doing kickboxing or nothing is coming to me when writing. Fight through it. Get it done. Ask yourself, if not now, then when?
  5. Maximize your time.
    I realize that some of us are juggling a lot if we have kids, a house, aging parents, a job, etc., etc. No doubt that some of us really don’t have a ton of time. But, think about what time do you have? 8-10 pm Wednesday nights? 6-8 am Saturday mornings? This is what I started to do; think of my days in terms of chunks of time and designate those chunks to various activities, including my job, exercise, walking the dog, writing, making a project plan for my side hustle and even watching any Food Network Baking Show. For some of you, this may be way too rigorous. You don’t think this leaves room for spontaneity or emergencies. I have had to miss a work-out because I injured my knee. I had to miss a blog when I traveled for my Dad’s health. These things come up. The key is to not let this become your permanent schedule. Resume your schedule next week. Don’t let the one-offs become excuses for why you can’t do something in the future.
  6. Get a partner in crime.
    I have to say that I am very fortunate to have a life partner who is a very motivated individual who owns his own business, raised three kids, coached little league, volunteered and managed to exercise and cook family meals. I am truly riding in his wake. When you are with people who are motivated, it is hard to not be motivated yourself. How do you feel when your best friend just lost 20 pounds? Don’t you start thinking about your own diet and exercise? When your brother just landed a huge promotion, don’t you start thinking about how to maximize your career? Your motivation partner could be a spouse, a sibling, a parent, a neighbor, a friend, a pastor. Whoever is in your life that you admire, connect with them and stay connected. Ask them to be your motivation partner to check in to keep you honest.

These are only half of the tips I have to share about being productive and meeting your goals. You may have your own. Write them down, post them on your wall and follow them. If you are stuck, read some self-help books to get inspired. Some of my favorites are written by Jen Sincero, Amber Rae, Kate Northrup, Martha Beck and Lara Casey. Any of their books are worth a read.

There is no magic pill to get what you want but putting the right structure in place for yourself makes all the difference. Spend time to do that and find a rhythm that works for you. More tips to come next week!

When someone puts the monkey on your back: 5 tips to help your team members solve problems

I used to have a boss that had a sign on her desk: “No monkeys accepted.” I would make a face every time I saw that sign as I wasn’t entirely sure what it meant. Finally, I asked her the meaning behind the sign. She told me that she will not allow anyone to transfer a problem from them to her. She is there to provide counsel, to listen, to ask questions, but she refuses to assume ownership over the problem. She refuses to allow someone to put the monkey on her back.

Ah! That did make sense. It wasn’t something I really thought about early in my career. I really didn’t understand the nuances between an employee, me, and a manager, her, and what roles we needed to play. Coming out of college, this was a foreign relationship to me. Sure…I had jobs working retail where I was told what to do and basically how to do it. I even interned and temped at a few organizations, all the while being told what to do.

Moving into the professional world, having my own processes and projects to manage with a manager giving oversight was new to me. In the past, if I had a problem, I would go to the supervisor and she would solve it for me. In the corporate world, some managers still do that but others, the good ones, help their team solve their own problems.

There have been a few times where I have had an employee come to me with a problem and I have had to fight the urge to take it on. Anyone with the “fixer” gene will have this issue. You know the fixers in your life. Maybe you are one too. You cannot listen to someone expressing their problems without jumping in and solving them immediately. We can’t have ambiguity or pain; we must get clarity and ease the pain.

Even in my personal life, I fix things. Be it a broken light switch or a situation with a family member. Nothing is beyond fixing. But, you must ask yourself, is it your problem to fix? Is the person actually asking you how to fix it? (A very important question!) And, even if they are, should you be the one to fix it?

These are tough questions for those who want to help. I don’t mean to compare managing adults to parenting but there are some similarities in that we are all working with human behavior and emotion….just at different ages. When your teenage daughter comes to you with a problem, do you just take care of it or do you help educate her on what to do and have her do it? The latter builds self-sufficiency. The same is true with adults. When your team member comes to you with a problem, wouldn’t it be better for his growth, success and self-sufficiency, if you helped him solve it instead of solving it yourself?

Below are five tips on how to help others solve their problems and keep the monkeys at bay.

  1. Be there. Yeah….sounds obvious. I have seen managers go the opposite direction of fixing all the way to not listening to problems. I had a challenging situation once with a peer higher than me. One senior manager told me to fix the problem myself. He wanted nothing to do with it. Ouch. Perhaps I was the one to fix it; maybe, I should have been able to do this myself. But, I didn’t feel confident enough to handle it. To not have him there to help me was challenging. I went to him for advice. As soon as he learned I had a “problem”, the door was slammed shut. Don’t accept monkeys but allow your team members to voice their concerns. Don’t slam the door.
  2. Ask if they want your help. This is a classic one to remember. Ask your team member if they want your help or are they just venting. Sometimes, people need an outlet to share frustration. Especially in these times, I let people do that. To do nothing but gripe and complain is not healthy. However, to vent about a particular situation is normal. I follow up with….is there a problem you need to solve here? Sometimes, the problem is finding a way to accept a decision or something they deem unfair. Before you jump in to even ask questions and help them solve the problem, find out what they want from you. Sometimes, it is just an empathetic ear.
  3. Solve it together. The key here is the word “together”. When someone does ask for my help, the first thing I ask (not tell) is what do they think about the situation? What do they think is the root cause? What have they tried already? (My hope with this question is they have already tried to solve this.) What do they think we can do to solve the problem? If you lead with questions, 9 times out 10, the person will have some inkling of what to do. They just needed to talk it out; they needed a sounding board to confirm the direction they want to go is a good one. If they are truly stumped, then work it through together. Ask more questions, offer suggestions, and work through scenarios.
  4. Keep actions with the problem holder. Working through it together is more helpful than diving in and solving the problem for them. Whatever you decide together to do, keep the actions with your team member unless there is something only you can do if the problem is severe. Create a mini-action plan or approach to solve the problem but ensure your team member has skin in the game and actually works to resolve it himself.
  5. Follow up. Another item that sometimes gets overlooked is to follow up to see if what you all decided worked. If it didn’t work out, you may not need to follow up. They may come to you proactively to get more advice. If something does work, it is also important to note that it did, what worked and to give praise for solving the problem. Positive reinforcement, at any age, helps to build self-sufficiently and confidence for the next time a problem arises.

Problems can be simple or tricky. Sometimes, we need to get involved if the problem is challenging enough or we may even need to escalate. Start with asking questions, working it together and have your team member try out some actions first. Provide guidance, empathy, and support but keep your back clear of monkeys.

When someone wants to leave: 5 steps to help them make the right decision

A manager’s job involves many aspects of helping team members through their entire lifecycle at an organization – hiring, onboarding, setting expectations, developing, performing, growing, promoting (perhaps), and even exiting.

It is tough news to hear when a team member wants to leave. Sometimes, it is expected and, sometimes, it is a complete surprise. We may think that we did something wrong or they didn’t see all the potential that could have been.

I have been in both situations where I was expecting the person to find another opportunity and when the person found another opportunity that was a complete shock. Whether you are prepared or not, it can be difficult. 1) You may be genuinely disappointed that the person is leaving 2) You may immediately turn to thinking about whether you can backfill this job 3) You may think will this spur others to start looking or wonder why someone was unhappy.

Most people are not comfortable having candid conversations about how unhappy they are and, especially, if they are getting ready to look outside or are entertaining another offer. There may be things you can do to help people make an informed decision about leaving an organization. The result might be the same but there are some things you can do to help your team member make a truly informed decision.

  1. Be transparent.
    I have worked for several organizations and a common practice among all of them is to “hide” talent planning information. Someone gets identified as a high-potential employee but they never know it. Someone may be flagged as a potential successor to a leader but they never hear a word about it. If someone is an outstanding employee, don’t let this be a secret. Tell them they are being considered as a successor and work with them on an action plan to close any gaps in knowledge, skills or experience to be ready to move into that new role. When you keep this information unshared, talented people may feel they have no path and may seek another opportunity without even knowing they were being groomed for something big at their current company.
  2. Provide feedback and help them grow.
    I have written about delivering and accepting feedback. This is a critical part of a manager-employee relationship. When it is missing, no one knows how they are doing, where they may need to grow or what they can do differently or keep doing to be viewed as a high-performing employee. To retain good employees, feedback and development are usually the reason why people say they leave. Top reasons people leave are lack of career path and their manager. These two elements go hand in hand. We may think that lack of career path is the organization’s fault. This is partially true but the manager plays a key role in helping people know where they stand and how they can grow.
  3. Proactively have career conversations.
    A close cousin to development conversations are actual career conversations. There are many tools and assessments to help people understand their strengths, values and interests to determine where they want to go. I firmly believe it is the employee’s responsibility to initiate and ask for these conversations. However, if this initiative isn’t taken, I believe the manager should ask the employee to start thinking about their career and ask thoughtful questions about where they want to go. I have read in many exit interviews that my manager never had a career conversation with me. While the employee should take the lead in driving their career, the manager should be ready to engage in those conversations and even open the door for a more timid employee to make it okay to talk about career options.
  4. Be a talent broker.
    Another important role a manager can play includes connecting employees to other opportunities if they feel like they have outgrown their role or want to try something new. Some managers feel their team is THEIR team. But, really, they are enterprise employees….working for and with the entire organization. As a manager, you should want to retain a good employee even if that means they move into a new group or department. Help your team connect to other employees and other groups to learn more about other possible paths. Sometimes, an employee may come forward and state that they love the company but feel they are ready for something new. This is your cue, as a manager, to help them figure this out. Losing someone to another company because the manager didn’t want to lose good talent from their team is what we call “a regrettable loss”.
  5. Keep lines of communication open.
    Above all, have frequent conversations about your team about their roles, attitudes, feelings toward the group, their places in it, what else they need to be engaged and support their career paths. When lines are shut down or an employee doesn’t seek to have a conversation could be a bad sign. Frequent contact should help a manager decipher feelings and indicate whether someone may be disengaged or looking.

Even when practicing all of the actions above, someone talented may still end up leaving the organization. If this happens, take this as a time to reflect. Reflect on what else could have been done to keep them. Reflect on whether the role is at the right level, with the right oversight and right level of authority. This is a chance to look at your team to make sure people and work is aligned correctly. There is a chance to see if you hired at the right level and worked to establish potential career paths for people.

It can be a crushing blow to lose someone but it can also yield a fresh perspective to improve the team and how you all work together.

When you feel burned out: 5 things to do to get re-energized

This can happen to most of us by the end of the year. We look forward to the holidays and time off but we crawl or limp into December with our brains overworked and our bodies tired. Even if we enjoy our work and our teams, we can feel plum exhausted.
This year has felt especially grueling balancing the stressors created by our current circumstances along with keeping a job let alone being fulfilled by it. I never would have thought that working from home full-time would be so tiring. Others have done this for years while most of us are easing into it for the first time.

I actually found commuting to work stressful and a huge time waster but replacing that commute time with work time was a quick path to burnout. That commute provided down time from thinking, meetings, emails and barking dogs. I do miss it on some level but I have moved away from replacing that commute time with work. Instead, I have replaced it with journaling, listening to podcasts (like I used to do on my commute) or, sometimes, meditation.

I do start my work day earlier than ever before but I have spent the last few months setting boundaries for myself. Boundaries are key to preventing burnout. Knowing when to start and stop something, knowing what you will blow off or fight for, just knowing….knowing yourself and your values and what is outside of those values. Setting boundaries helps combat stress and balance your day.

Think about what boundaries you need to set. Do you need a start and stop time for your work day? Do you need a physical boundary between home and work even if it is in the same living space? Do you need to block off the noon hour to walk the dog, do yoga or have lunch with your kids? Do you need to set a boundary that you will not look at or answer emails past 7 pm? This is my personal favorite. I know many of us, especially if we have global teams, are getting email notifications all the way up until bedtime and after. When there is no separation, no down time for the brain to re-charge, this leads to burn out. Unless there is an emergency, emails can wait until the next morning.

Think about where the lines are getting blurry and add some clarity to those sections of your life. Outside of setting boundaries, there are other actions you can take to turn burnout into new energy again.

  1. Take your vacation.
    How many of us are staring at weeks of vacation that we lose if we don’t take it by the end of the year? There should be many head nods and arms raised. Because we couldn’t travel, December will probably be the least productive December in most organizations this year. Everyone scrambling to take their vacation time all at once. Still, take your vacation. I took a few long weekends in the Summer but to have an entire week off has proven to be fabulous — a true break to re-charge, rest and spend time on other projects. I have a newfound energy to embrace work again. Vacation is critical. There should be no martyrs here. Everyone needs time off. The workplace will not fall apart without you. That shouldn’t make you nervous; it should make you feel good that the team in place can carry on without you for a week. It means, as a manager, you have done your job well.
  2. Engage in a side project or hobby.
    I have written about side hustles and hobbies before to help find your purpose. Efforts outside of work can also help calm nerves and engage your brain in a different way. I write. I also like true crime podcasts and documentaries. I watched one this week that I had DVR’ed months ago. I also have a side hustle that I am working on along with working on a book (slowly but still in progress). We are rarely just our jobs. Careers are certainly a huge part of our lives and who we are but we are more than our work. Find other things you love to do and do them. I hear knitting is a great tactical way to feel a sense of accomplishment without too much thinking. Exercise is an awesome way to build energy without too much thinking. Volunteering, singing, drawing, playing with your kids, attending virtual church, whatever your area of personal satisfaction, make time for it.
  3. Write down your accomplishments for the year.
    While this can be a bit of work, writing down your accomplishments for the year can be truly satisfying. This should include professional and personal. We often skip acknowledging personal achievements at work. I think celebrating both professional and personal accomplishments recognizes the whole person. After all, we usually bring our whole selves to work. When you document these, share them. Share them with your manager, your team; ask them to share theirs. Certainly performance conversations happen at the end of the year, but a great agenda for a team meeting is to share what people are most proud of and give them the choice of sharing professional or personal. Some of us may feel we don’t have a lot to be proud of this year. Maybe things went sideways or you lost a job. Focus on what did work. There is always something to be celebrated in our lives. Find those things, write them down and reflect.
  4. Set goals for next year early.
    It isn’t too early to set goals for 2021. December is near and coupled with reflection, which should make you feel good, we should be looking forward at the possibilities for next year. In addition to our day-to-day responsibilities, find a project or efforts that you love that no one else is working on. I get the most satisfaction if I lead something to fix a problem or help someone with their career or lead to a direct result. Find something related but not only in your set of responsibilities as a growth goal. Set only a few goals for next year. Oftentimes, we set too many goals. Achieving 10 goals is tough. Our attention is splintered and we burn out. Pick 3-5 goals and work action plans underneath each to help you get there.
  5. Use a purpose planner.
    A tool to help you look ahead into a new year is a planner. I am not talking about the planners of old where you record all of your daily appointments alongside your goals, tasks and activities. Today, there is a whole market of planners that help you reflect on the past year, think about the new year and really tie goals and actions to your purpose, your passion, your legacy you are trying to establish. I use a planner called Cultivate What Matters. This has revolutionized my day-to-day. I spend time every year and quarter thinking through my goals – Financial, Spiritual, Career, Community, Family, Relationships, Health, and hone in on what I want to achieve and how I will get there. These take work. A blank planner is a worthless planner. I highly recommend investing in a tool like this to help you think and take action on the things that are important to you. It holds you accountable if you review at the beginning and end of every month.

Finding energy in the midst of brain-fry can be difficult. It is important to recognize when we reach a point of fizzling out. Only when you recognize this, can you do something about it. If we are fried, do not continue forward. Don’t play the martyr; rest and re-charge. Turn your brain to something completely different to reset it. Take a break, take a walk; heck, take a vacation. We are not wired to go 24/7, 365. We need breaks and sleep to be productive.

There is always time for emails, work and career. Make time for other things in your life to find a balance that can be sustained. Be proactive in planning and recognize your accomplishments along the way. Both activities can be truly rewarding and help get us rebooted.

When you receive critical feedback: 5 things not to do

Giving feedback can be challenging but is a necessary part of being a manager to help your team grow and develop. But, what do you do when you are on the receiving end? Does it catch you off guard? Does it make you mad? Does it help you stop and reflect? Do you get down on yourself? Do you make course corrections and move on?

How we hear and take feedback can influence how we are seen by others and how we feel about our own abilities. Just as it may not be easy to deliver tough feedback, it may be equally difficult to receive it. No one wants to hear that they didn’t do something 100% right especially if they poured their heart and soul into a project or presentation.

However, no matter what level you are in an organization, you may receive feedback on how to do something differently. You may disagree with the feedback being given to you, or it may resonate with you and allow you to make adjustments.

As a kid, I would write for fun. Everything I wrote from essays in English class to articles for the school newspaper, I got very used to receiving my work back with red marks all over it. Granted, some papers looked hacked to pieces while some had an occasional mark but always in red.

In my early days, I would get disheartened but as I matured, I realized the red pen was meant to help me.  Nothing creates thicker skin than to see your art, your heart on the page ripped to shreds with red ink. The more red I saw, the more I improved my writing skills over time.

Feedback can be the same. The red pen may be intimidating or tough to see but it is meant to help us. Like with most skill development, we need to approach this with the right mindset. A fairly trite but true statement is that feedback is a gift. It can be hard to see it as a gift in the moment. When we see our papers bleeding with red ink or hear that our presentation could have been delivered better, it is tough to have a mindset where we are grateful to hear it could have been better. However, this is exactly the right mindset to have.

Here are five things to avoid when receiving critical feedback:

  1. Don’t put up your shields.
    I used to have a team member who would come to one-on-one conversations with folded arms and raised eyebrows….almost every time. I would ask for her input and feedback on how things were going. She would say: “Fine”. I would ask pointed questions about certain projects only to be met with silence. She put up her shields every time she came to see me because I gave her some constructive feedback once after I received several complaints about her. Unfortunately, she never was open to feedback that wasn’t 100% positive. In this case, she was overlooked for a promotion and was eventually let go during a down time while her colleagues were retained. This is an extreme example but being open to hearing feedback can matter a lot to how others view us as professionals.
  2. Don’t become defensive.
    I also had a team member who struggled to get her work done and meet deadlines. I would ask her if everything was okay first to see if there was something going on that contributed to her lack of performance. Instead, what I received were reasons why it was everyone else’s fault. When I probed into what she could have done differently, the answer was “nothing”. She always did everything right; everybody else was wrong. This level of defensiveness did not serve her well. Even if someone else did not help, there is always something we can take as feedback for ourselves.
  3. Don’t blow it off.
    A colleague of mine would tell me about a team member who would thank him for the feedback and then make no changes. His behavior never changed. He kept committing the same mistakes over and over again. Finally, he was asked if he heard the feedback and what he thought about it. He said he would listen but he was so busy that he didn’t think he needed to do anything about it. My colleague was giving constructive feedback and his team member only heard the “wah, wah, wah” like any adult on the Peanuts. He didn’t think it was important enough to heed and make changes. My colleague could have worked with him on an action plan instead of just saying the same thing over and over. This could have been a way to help him not dismiss the feedback so easily.
  4. Don’t beat yourself up.
    Some of us don’t get defensive or angry; some of us actually take it personally and decide to beat ourselves up over the fact that we could have done something differently. This is as unproductive as having your shields up or blaming others. Feedback does not mean you are a terrible employee. It does not mean you are inadequate or unskilled. It merely means you may have some adjustments to make to get to the next level. So, don’t blow it off, but don’t take it too hard either.
  5. Don’t skip reflection.
    Most important than not being too emotional about feedback is to not spend some time reflecting. What lesson could I learn here? What could I do differently next time? Is there something I should research or study more? Can I find someone to help coach or mentor me in a certain space? The team member who blew off the feedback did work on action plan with his manager, which yielded being paired with someone who was an expert in the area he needed to develop. This helped him grow and eventually get promoted.

Feedback can be tricky. Listening, processing it, and maybe taking small steps to action it are signs of a true professional. Even if someone else isn’t cooperating with you or you don’t like your manager, take the feedback for what it is — a tool to help you. Find some nugget in the feedback to reflect on and make a change, even if it is small.

When you need to give critical feedback: 7 tips to keep in mind

Despite our current situation, work moves forward. We need to understand needs, produce solutions, manage processes, provide customer service or make the next sale. Throughout our work lives, we will give and receive praise. We also may receive feedback that indicates we could have done something better. This happens at all levels regardless of where you sit in the organization.

When we receive feedback that is not 100% sunshine and puppy dogs, we might feel bad about it. We may even beat ourselves up about it. In order for us to grow and develop as adults, we need feedback. As the person delivering the feedback, it may be extremely uncomfortable. As the person hearing the feedback, it can be equally challenging.

Once, I inherited a team member who only received glowing praise and high-percentage salary increases. When he came to me, he was taking on a higher level role that required him to stretch. I started to see areas where he could do better, areas where he simply needed to receive some coaching. When I asked his former manager if he saw any of these opportunities, the answer was: “Yes. He really isn’t too good at enrolling people in his ideas. He tends to pout when things don’t go his way.” Ugh! I asked if at any time he gave the employee that feedback. “Oh no. I didn’t want to discourage him or make him feel bad.”

So, let me share this with all of the managers out there. As uncomfortable as it is, you have a responsibility to help a team member improve, grow and develop. If you work in an organization where people have opportunities to move around (which is wonderful!), you owe it to not only the employee but the next manager to help that person be successful.

I was very disheartened to hear that this person had displayed these areas to grow for years but his manager was too afraid to give the feedback needed to help him do it.

Even after a fair number of years in the workplace, I still receive feedback. I take it for what it is….well intentioned assistance to help me become better.  In fact, I would say, even as a learning and development professional, that feedback is one of the best ways to learn. It is personal coming from someone who wants us to succeed.

As managers, we shouldn’t shy away from delivering feedback. It is our obligation to do so. In my example above, this employee really struggled when I actually did deliver constructive feedback. He was so upset because he had never been told anything but how awesome he was. The truth is, he was awesome, but he had some areas to recognize and some habits to unlearn. This does not make someone “bad”. It makes him human. I actually did feel badly about the feedback as he was truly shaken. If only he had heard the feedback years ago when it would have meant something. Instead, the other manager’s fear did not set him up for success.

Delivering critical feedback can be hard. I don’t want to dismiss this. When I was a new manager, I think I actually was shaking when I had to put my first employee on a performance improvement plan because she was being flat out insubordinate in very explicit ways. This is not easy but here are some things to keep in mind when you need to help someone.

  1. Have a mindset of helpfulness. When I was shaking during my first performance improvement plan (PIP), it was because I was thinking about that as a punishment. I wasn’t comfortable being a disciplinarian; I just wanted to do good and have a team who performed well without any hiccups. If I would have had a mindset that feedback, even a PIP, is a means to help the employee, I don’t think I would have been as unnerved. A PIP is not a short exit ramp out of the company; it is truly meant to help the employee get back on track. We need to have the same approach to feedback. You want to help the person be successful. Feedback is one of the best ways to do that.
  2. Be specific. When giving feedback, it is best to have examples. You may have learned this in any manager training class. While it is one of the biggest tips shared with managers, I still see that many managers don’t do it. No doubt it takes effort to document or note examples. It is easier to just give sweeping statements. But, to truly learn and apply the feedback, you have to give context and context comes from specific examples.
  3. Be direct. Sometimes when we have to deliver feedback, we can squirm or dance all around the issue. Try and resist this. Being direct and succinct is the best way. If you are a “pull the bandaid slowly” person, resist that. Be direct and pull off the bandaid. It may sting a little bit but for a much shorter timeframe. The best way to do this (and I have done this!) is to write down what you want to say. I often have bullet points in front of me. I share that I have bullet points and why I write them down — to be clear so the team member knows what I am saying.
  4. Be confident. Confidence will also help with being specific and direct. Practicing can build confidence. Have the right mindset, write it down and say it out loud. If you waiver on what you are saying, that will send a mixed message and create uncertainty for your team member.
  5. Be kind. While you are being specific and direct, you can be kind. Acknowledge that this might be tough to hear. Acknowledge that you are trying to help them. Being direct doesn’t not mean being void of empathy.
  6. Ask for their input. A great way to deliver feedback is to actually have a conversation instead of delivering one-way statements. Ask your team member how he felt about the situation or his skills. Oftentimes, your team member knows he can be better and may even have ideas on how to improve. It is always better if he comes to this realization on his own. You can lead him there with examples and questions.
  7. Don’t serve Oreos. Oreos were invented in 1912 — so was the “Oreo cookie” approach to delivering feedback. Don’t deliver a “sandwich” of a positive, a negative and a positive. This takes away from the feedback that the employee needs to hear. Now, this doesn’t mean you can’t be kind or can’t end on a positive note. But, slipping in the critical feedback amongst glowing feedback can be missed and send mixed messages. Be clear and separate feedback you are delivering so the message is understood.

It can be uncomfortable delivering feedback. I know. I have felt that way. By having feedback be a conversation with a clear point and clear examples can only help your team member be successful in his current role and in future roles within the organization. We can’t be afraid of feedback. We need to embrace it and consider it one of our main strategies for helping people grow and develop.

When you have to admit you made a mistake: 7 actions to take

We are in unprecedented times. We are juggling more than ever and in new ways we haven’t had to do before. There are times where I can focus intently and times where I cannot. Whether it be tuning out the landscaper down the street, my barking dog who alerts us every times someone gets a package delivered, endless meeting requests that pack my calendar or news from a friend or family member when something terrible happens. From the ordinary to the extraordinary, interruptions and stress can come from any direction.

Mistakes can happen when you are not focusing or they can happen because we make a wrong decision. When we have lost our focus, try these things to get back on track:

  • Stop what you are doing. If you are multi-tasking, definitely stop. I question those who say they can multi-task effectively. With the millions of little things pinging our attention at one time, just stop and re-collect your thoughts. Make time to think.
  • Make lists. I know some may be list-makers and some prefer to just wing it because they have an incredible memory. I have a terrible memory. The more post-its, Outlook task lists and notepads I have around, the better. Items with due dates that I review on a regular basis helps me keep my focus.
  • Focus on your physical well-being. Sleep, exercise and water can help you keep your focus. While I am not a health expert, I believe that all three are essential. I know this because when I skip one or more of this triangle, my energy, mood, and sharpness fade.

Sometimes, we make an error not due to lack of focus but because we made a bad decision. First, no one is perfect. Please accept this. Even if your colleague has the company’s longest wining streak, just know that person made a mistake somewhere along the way. We just haven’t seen it.

Sometimes, we don’t have all the information we need to make a good decision. Sometimes, we have to make a decision before we are ready. Whatever the cause, it is okay. Now, some mistakes have steeper results than others. Some mistakes mean we don’t release a product or service on time; others could result in lost money.

While we need to be present as much as possible in our jobs, things happen. Managers and leaders alike need to cut people some slack. Now, repeated mistakes, absent-mindedness, etc. is a different story. This needs to be addressed head on to prevent further mistakes but even the highest performers can let something slip or let something go they should not.

Here are some things you can do and not do when you find yourself audibly gasping after making a mistake.

1. Face it.
Don’t hide it. I have known colleagues in the past who tried to cover it up or distract the leader. Like every mystery or true crime show you have ever watched, they will find out! Admit it; own up to it. This actually displays awareness and integrity, which should matter to your leadership as well.

2. Don’t beat yourself up.
If you suffer from a bit of perfectionism, this could eat you up. Don’t let it. If you made the best decision at the time with the information you had and it turned out to be wrong, it is okay. Don’t second guess yourself. Accept it and move on. Beating yourself up will not make you look like a better employee. It will only hurt you and steal energy away from you and direct it toward bad feelings, which is extremely unproductive.

3. Document root cause.
If you flub something, take time to figure out what happened. We skip this all the time – be it a success or a stumbling. We rarely sit down and document what we did, what proved to be good or not so good. When you make a mistake, think about the circumstance, who was involved (or not involved), what was going on in your personal life, what other pressure s or deadlines were looming, what situations were in flux, what information did you have or not have. All of this can help you get to root cause…the crux as to why it was not the right way to go. If the root cause ends up being that I had five deadlines, a sick spouse and dogs whining at me, that’s okay. Remember: During these times people need compassion more than ever.

4. Involve others.
If appropriate, ask others their take on what happened and why it happened. Ask for advice on how they would handle the situation differently. Or, would they handle it differently? Sometimes you may get some validation on how you handled a situation even if it turned out to be a mistake. If you don’t haves a mentor, this is a good time to find one. having someone as your coach and go-to person when mistakes happen can be very productive. This person could help you work through what happened, why and how to either correct it or move on.

5. Try to correct it.
Some mistakes can actually be corrected. If this is the situation, correction could be a high priority. First, determine if you can correct the mistake. Second, determine how important it is to correct it. Some mistakes are minor. They may not feel minor to us because we had the responsibility to act and we made the mistake. But, sometimes spending the time to correct a mistake may not be worth it. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Try and identify if we can correct and then will it make a material difference if I correct it.

6. Learn a lesson.
Determine how the mistake could be prevented. Document what you will do differently next time. Even if the mistake was due to being overwhelmed or too many items coming at you at home, where we work, figure out how to minimize distractions and how you could do this differently. We have all made mistakes in our day. I certainly have. The important thing is we need to figure out how not to make the same mistake again. This is the foundation of learning and growing. Sometimes the best, most impactful learning comes from making a mistake.

7. Pass on your wisdom.
If appropriate, share your story. Help others. If you learned a valuable lesson on what not to do, share it others. It may help them. You would be surprised how many people are in the same boat. If you share your lessons, then the mistake become a learning opportunity for more than just you.

When we make a mistake, it can be devastating especially if it is a mistake that could have been easily prevented. This happens to the best of us. Find the root cause, make a note, share your story and shrug it off. You can always do better tomorrow.