The last time you heard, “Got a minute,” it took an hour and you nearly got fired.
Magnifying glasses come out when things goes wrong.
Sherlocking what’s wrong:
Leaders become Sherlock Holmes when things go wrong.
Fixing what’s wrong matters because your butt’s on the line.
Deal with what’s wrong or your gone!
12 things successful leaders do when things go wrong:
- Call “what went wrong” meetings. Find out why.
- Make calls and send emails to the boss.
- Instill urgency.
- Explain what matters now.
- Make decisions quickly.
- Identify and resolve bottlenecks and failure-points.
- Assign responsibility.
- Devise plans to prevent it from happening again.
- Elevate accountability.
- Punish if it’s happened before.
- Have tough conversations. After all, your butt’s on the line.
- Take action quickly and persistently until it’s fixed. Don’t ease up.
Sherlocking what’s right:
The next time something goes right, run around the office asking, “Got a minute?”
Lousy leaders use magnifying glasses when things go wrong and wear blindfolds when things go right.
12 things remarkable leaders do when things go right:
- Call “what went right” meetings.
- Send emails to higher ups bragging about the team.
- Instill urgency.
- Identify behaviors that produce achievement and create success.
- Make decisions quickly. Action follows decisions. When leaders don’t decide, everyone waits.
- Identify expediters, multipliers, and progress makers.
- Assign responsibility for useful behaviors. Keep doing…
- Devise plans to keep success happening.
- Elevate accountability. “Let’s review our success plan next week.”
- Reward if it’s happened before.
- Have tough conversations. What needs to continue? How could we be better?
- Take action quickly and persistently until the next milestone is reached. Don’t ease up.
Warning: Don’t give trophies for participation.
Success requires fixing failure. But, along the way, celebrate imperfect progress.
Results and behaviors gain meaning when someone notices.
How can leaders “Sherlock” what’s right without creating complacency?
The book “American Icon” describes how CEO Alan Mulalley, who Bill Ford recruited from Boeing to be CEO, led the turnaround of that company in an environment that saw GM and Chrysler founder into bankruptcy. It’s a real world example of a leader doing exactly what Dan has described so well in this post – figuring out exactly what was going wrong (in the case of Ford it was a lot) and then focusing on fixing it.
Thanks Joe. Sounds like a book I should read.
One word Dan ” Communicate” has been around for years, seems to be discussed yet projects still fail because lack of communication in many instances! People hearing “not paying attention”, caring, “not my job”, your fault, my fault! We as Leaders or workers just have to Communicate in the most simplest form to the highest and lowest levels possible and proceed to a successful solution, which does exist in most instances.
Thanks Tim. I think I understand. 🙂
Now if I just execute. Cheers
it’s true – this phrase always turns my blood to water: “The last time you heard, ‘Got a minute,’ it took an hour and you nearly got fired.”
Thanks Roy. I hate saying it, too.
Thanks for the the great article. As a super positive individual and very people oriented, what is the danger of only focusing on what went right?
Thanks Daniel. Great question. Ignoring what went wrong means suggest it may happen again. Plus, the people upstairs expect us to solve problems and deal with failures. What do you think?
Dan, this was awesome. I don’t think it is just me, but I feel the meaning embedded in your articles has gotten better and better.
This is a such a true description of today’s managers. So many manage reactionary to adverse circumstances. However, you are spot on in that we should also manage what’s going right, and celebrate and reward those responsible. In so many jobs, this can be difficult, as it may be difficult to see how right things are going, unless you look at how few things are going wrong.
As a leader though, I do want to mention some of the consequences you can face if you do only manage to the adverse circumstance:
– poor engagement
– A players will feel stuck
– people will work to not upset the boss, not to do the best they can
– “instilled urgency” when things are going wrong will be more of “let’s just do this so he/she leaves us alone.”
– Awesome feats and accomplishments won’t receive more than a thank you, opening the door to bitterness and frustration.
So what are some of the benefits of also celebrating what’s right and acknowledging success:
– Engaged, happy workers
– drive for greater achievements
– respect for you – you’ll find what you have to say will be heard and understood much easier
– desire to stay – lower employee turnover 🙂
– makes corrections easier as people feel held to a higher standard
– feats and accomplishments are celebrated, and those that receive them are more satisfied with their work. many who don’t feel the drive to strive for that recognition
Thanks John. Practical and powerful comments. “A” players will feel stuck resonates with me. I can think of times in my past career that I felt stuck because nothing was ever good enough. I sat down with my boss one day and asked if she thought I could excel in my position. I had my resignation in my pocket. I was tired of being tweaked all the time.
Excellent post, Dan, with its emphasis on reviewing all actions, good or bad, in order to learn from them. There is a tendency to celebrate victories without analyzing causes, and to do “post mortems” when things go wrong. The latter are especially popular with Monday morning quarterbacks who stayed away from the game but are quick to comment on it.
A better approach is one suggested by the authors of “Learning to Fly”. It is the After Action Review, modeled after the practice of the U.S. armed forces. After every event, good or bad, they ask the following questions:
1) What was supposed to happen?
2) What happened?
3) Why was there a difference?
4) What did we learn that we should continue to apply?
5) What can be done to improve training?
These reviews are ideally carried immediately after the event, by people who participated in it. Data can be analyzed later in more depth by experts as it becomes available, but is not central to the review.
The benefits of the After Action Review model are:
1) It happens every time, so is not biased towards good or bad events.
2) It is done by those involved, so is not subject to commentary by unengaged parties.
3) It is done immediately, while memories are fresh. This is as far removed from annual performance reviews as possible, and far more effective.
4) The questions are centered around how to accomplish the mission in a better way, centered on neither praise nor blame.
Thanks Marc. Another practical and powerful comment. The military after action report is a great tool for all leaders and organizations.
Funny! And useful.
Funny, because I illustrated this somewhat yesterday with my Square Wheels and LEGO images, so I just did another one and posted that up, with a link to this blog of yours, at
I have been playing with “Susan” as a disruptive, positive challenger to the status quo, someone who looks at things differently.
We could simply choose to do so much more with engagement and ideas in so many workplaces…
Thanks Dr. Scott. I enjoy the synergy of your comment!
Dan – I remain convinced that there are just too many roadblocks (real and perceived) that get in the way of supervisors and managers really engaging with their people. They are task-overloaded, tightly managed and controlled, and their people have little time for meetings and team building.
I have been looking around for data for a long time but find none. There are lots of surveys on engagement but nothing that I can see (like the old time and motion studies) that reflect on what supervisors do in any real way.
We keep HOPING for change, but I am not sure that we are really DRIVING much in the way of improvements.
Anyone got data? And what do you think about this roadblocking of improvement?
Change by itself is hard enough. Toss in environmental restrictions and how could it possibly get better?
“Call a meeting?” I really do NOT think it is that easy anymore. That meeting costs all sorts of time and results and causes all kinds of issues of coverage and service…
“We ain’t got no stinking time for meetings…” – The mantra of today’s managers.
Thanks Dr. Scott. I agree that time pressure is a major issue. Developing people takes time, lots of it! The combined duties of managers prevents them from doing some of the truly important tasks. They’re too busy doing the work to actually work on their environment, for example.
A wonderful post with good leave behind messages.
I liked your saying ‘Lousy leaders use magnifying glasses when things go wrong and wear blindfolds when things go right’.
I really appreciate the list of 12 things what good leaders usually do when things go wrong in particular. Hope, there is an appreciation for the courageous acts of leaders in pin-pointing the weaker areas with readiness to correct things with refined responsibilities and accountability.
It’s more about what you do before there is a problem that dictates how well your team will handle the problem. If you have created a culture of inclusion, empowerment and accountability your team will likely survive the challenges they face.
An useful tool is the pre-mortem – a discussion beforehand about what could go wrong, and if so, what will the team do about it. Post-mortems are good, pre-mortems are better.
It’s also helpful to focus much more on process and what you are doing to create results (even good results) than focusing on the result itself. I want repeatable results – and so does the team. By focusing on what we are doing great times it allows us to have a better mindset to deal with challenging times.
People fall down. We need to help them up and not push them further down.