Category Archives: Learning

Mistakes of Juniors

Standard

This week has been unique in that two of my juniors have managed to make mistakes on two consecutive days.

First it was Lucky. Actually we had to get 2 books printed on an urgent basis. So we made the specs and scope of work for inviting bids from advertising agencies. She prepared a draft note based on our discussions and mailed it to me for checking. She also sent draft letter that was to be sent to agencies after this note was approved. I read the note and found that she had got the two books confused and jumbled up the specs. I corrected the specs and asked her to make same changes in the letter. She got the approvals and sent the mail. Next day when all the sealed bids had been received from agencies, she said one agency guy had called and pointed out the error in specs, as she was telling him something different on phone. She was very hassled, so I told her to calm down and we will see what can be done. I thought over it for few minutes and decided to tell to our boss and ask for her directions. Now I could have gone alone and put the entire blame on her, but I did not do that. I took her along and told boss that there was a mistake and explained the thing to her. She understood did not make too fuss about it and asked us to invite fresh bids. We did so and the issue was resolved. Since Finance was also involved in initial bids, I called up finance guy and said- Lucky had sent mail by mistake and this was how we were tackling. He said ok. Though Lucky sits in front of me and she was not listening. I felt bad in taking her name in front of finance. I had not taken her name in front of our boss. Secondly, I was apprehensive she might have heard in the open hall, so I wanted to come out clear, and said to her- I told finance ur name., though I did not tell ur name to boss. She said-why not sir, when I have made a mistake. Then I realized that I had broken the unwritten code of good conduct by bragging about it. I felt ashamed.

Today, Bob made a blunder. A few thousands calendars had been printed. Bob had supervised the job and today someone pointed out that there was a mistake, so the whole cost was wasted. Bob came to me and told. I kept cool and asked him at what stage the mistake had occurred. He said from the beginning. Bychance boss was not in office and was in a meeting. We asked the printer if the calendars could be salvaged, he said not really. I don’t know why but I was not very perturbed. I told him to remain calm, we will tell boss. It so happened that till late evening boss was in a meeting. So we decided we will tell later. Because if boss comes to know from some other source, she will not like that. And I had learnt from an earlier boss Jim that give negative news to boss first, positive news can wait.

Now I was in fix as there was not much fault of mine. Bob had seen the proofs, sent the okays, checked the final version. I had even asked him if he wanted any help, he said confidently no it’s all in control. Knowing myself, if i go to boss with him, I will end up becoming equally guilty if not more for the fault due to my modesty and definition of leadership. I do not want to be seen as ditching my juniors when they are in trouble. I don’t want to be seen as saying-he made the mistake. He is the culprit, let us hang him. I would rather say-we made the mistake. Boss will automatically believe what I say and consider me equally guilty.

But if I ask Bob to go to boss alone, he will feel deserted and secondly he may say anything to save himself. But that way burden of proving his innocence will be on him. Then I won’t jump and claim role in the mistake. Besides, I always encourage my juniors to go to boss and take responsibility. So they have to go when they make mistakes also.

FInally I have decided that we will go together and I will be cautious in jumping to grab the blame. If boss asks why you did not check- I will tell the truth that I asked him all is well and if my help is required, and bob said no all is well. Besides if every time I save them by sharing the blame equally, they will not get the lesson and become casual. Bob had earlier also made a mistake and he did not learn the lesson since I protected him.

Let us see what boss says.

If the issue does not become too complex, I am also taking it as a learning experience. Since I will have to face many such situations in future. Delegating jobs to my juniors and trusting them. They will make mistakes and I will have to face the brunt. Let us see how Tina tackles this.

BTW, an aside, I told Tom about his profile of activator, and he was not very happy with my assessment and told me so. He though profile fitted Jim and not him.

 

Advertisements

Mentoring by Daniel Goleman

Standard

It was a small lesson, but one with lasting impact. As a high-profile, fast-track editor at a national magazine, she had a problem- I was prone to snap decisions, committing to projects in a moment of enthusiasm, then having to suffer through a torturous series of rewrites with authors that ended in their articles being killed. It was emotionally draining for me, and it created too much animosity and just plain pain.

But then she told me, my editor in chief taught me a phrase that has helped immensely.

What was that phrase?

“I will think about it.”

That simple bit of advice exemplifies coaching, which lies at the heart of developing others. Excellence in this competence is emerging as second only to team leadership among superior managers. For sales managers, developing others is even more important- the competence most frequently found among those at the top of the field.

This is a person-to-person art, the heart of coaching and developing is the act of counselling. And the effectiveness of counseling hinges on empathy and the ability to focus on our own feelings and share them.

Experience

Standard

As is said, experience comes from failure, and failure comes from experience.

But there is no denying that experience is valuable. One learns a lot with time.

But the extent of learning depends upon the frame of mind. If one observes things and people keenly with a positive frame of mind, learning is better. However if one considers every job as a burden, and is always in rush to finish the job at hand in a negative frame of mind, the learning will definitely be limited.

Then there is a level of general knowledge and subject knowledge, which determines how much and what one can learn. All other factors being same, two individuals with different knowledge levels will have different kind of experiential learning.

As I have mentioned in one of my earlier post about Daniel Goleman and emotional intelligence, intuition is nothing but expertise coupled with presence of mind. So experience can take many shapes and forms.

There can be honing of people skills or emotional intelligence. This will happen with those who take more interest in people either because the job demands or their inclination. For example, people in HR or Sales for that matter need to gain experience of this kind, else they will not attain heights of success.

Domain expertise is another kind of experience that comes with time. For example, in Finance, PR and other niche areas, after a few years, it’s all been there, done that kind of scenario. Such experience enables people to visualise possible scenarios in every situation. They will know what can go wrong in a particular situation. Of course they can not predict the future, but they can minimise the risk factors using their experience.

And if I may say so, experience can make people optimists/positive or pessimists/negative, depending upon their outlook. After going through a crisis, one person can decide to celebrate the success and look forward to newer challenges, whereas another person can curse his luck for being trapped in such a crisis and attribute success to luck. Latter kind of person will try to avoid facing such crisis situations in future.

I have seen experience making people sweeter or bitter, clearly an outcome of their filters and goggles. A simple analogy can explain this. Say, a heavy drinker has two sons.  It may so happen that one of them follows the footsteps of his father and becomes a heavy drinker like him. Another hates his father’s addiction having seen his pitiable condition, and pledges to never drink in his life. In this case, all conditions were same, but one son emulated and the other son did just the reverse, depending upon how they perceived their father’s actions.

I have friends and family members who are so rigid that you would never find them accepting their mistake. They think they are always right, and even if they realise they might be wrong, they behave as smart asses and try to fool others.  Such people will have very limited learning from any life experiences, because their minds are closed to experiential learning. On the other hand, there are people who keep on reading, discussing, observing and are always in learning mode. Such people learn a lot from all kinds of experiences.

Even in my team, I have seen a range of learners. When I pointed out mistake of one person, she did not take it positively. She even bitched about it to other colleagues, which I came to know. From then on I have stopped sharing whatever I know at least, and it is entirely her loss. So by her adamant behaviour she is losing out on experience that I could have shared with her. On the other hand, another colleague was more than receptive when I pointed out few errors. She pointedly asked me to let her know in future also, if some improvements are possible. So clearly she will gain more experience from me, at least to the extent of my limited knowledge.

Another factor that helps of hinders the learning experience is sincerity of the person at work. 1-2 of my team members take ages to complete a job, are not meticulous and are careless. So anytime I have a choice, I avoid giving them new assignments, because I can delegate the work, but responsibility and accountability is mine. So I would rather get the job done by a sincere, careful and methodical person. So careless person, even if he has inclination to learn and improve, will lose out on experience gathering.

That was my experience speaking, what is yours?