"The opposite of love is not hate... but indifference..."
This past week I had a rather heated argument with my long-time general manager Lourdes.
Anyone who might have happened to stop by our offices that afternoon would have heard shouting and screaming emanating from my office as well as some choice cussing and swearing.
In the end they would have heard doors slamming... followed by even more shouting but now with a door between us.
Other employees at our office know better than to wander into the fray during these brief spats... as it would have just escalated the situation and put them in an uncomfortable position taking one side or another.
Now some managers reading this account might have their own solution to these little "episodes".
They might simply put their foot down and rid themselves of this problem once and for all. Their philosophy is the time worn, "my way or the highway".
By employing this type of control, a manager instills a sense of discipline and control over their realm.
These managers tend to rule by fear; in that if you are too out-spoken or too disagreeable, then you are simply not a team-player and should be replaced with someone who is...
The great irony is that most of these same managers wonder why they don’t get more employee participation and creativity. They tell their subordinates that they want them to be problem solvers and work autonomously... but their actions and deeds run contrary to their words.
When someone does speak up... management looks at this as a sign of dissension and insubordination.
Lourdes and I have been working together now for almost 20 years and have been friends for nearly 30 years. We have shared the good times, the bad times, and the times when we thought it was all over... time to turn off the lights for good.
At the end of the day, we might have strong disagreements... but we’ve never broken the trust of not caring about each other.
Throughout our friendship, we’ve both made some good decisions and bad decisions... we’ve both had some good ideas and bad ideas... we’ve both been right... and we’ve both been wrong...
The scariest thing I have to do each day as a leader is to allow the people I care deeply about, the freedom to make decisions that I believe in my heart are wrong and would never make for myself...
Sometimes things turn out great and other times not so great...
It’s not that though I have all the answers mind you... because I don’t. Frankly, I make more mistakes than anyone at OptiFuse... mainly because I’m charged with making more decisions than anyone (but that’s why I get the big office).
Strong leaders understand that making mistakes are a part of the growing process. If and when a mistake is made, a good leader takes the opportunity to make the mistake a valuable lesson.
There are four valuable outcomes from making mistakes:
- There is the opportunity to learn from the mistake. What went wrong? What was a potential alternative that could have been implemented that would have prevented the mistake?
- Did someone take ownership of the mistake? We all make errors in judgment but do we stand up and say... "yeah... this is on me" or do we quickly try to cast blame on others? Good teams members acknowledge their mistake as their own. Owning up to mistakes revels a lot about one’s character and mental makeup.
- Can the mistake be fixed? Having someone acknowledge that they made a mistake is just the first step... the second step is to try and have that person do something to fix the problem. Doing nothing, or trying to hide the mistake often just compounds the problem. When I think about some of my worst customer service experiences, I don’t think about what initially went wrong... I think about the non-caring attitude by the person who was responsible for the mistake in the first place. Had they tried to do their best to remedy the problem, I most likely would have been accepting of their honest efforts to atone.
- What can be done as to safeguard against making the same mistake again? One sure thing about life is that we will continue to make repeat tuition payments to the "school of hard knocks" until we finally learn our lesson and stop doing what caused the problem in the first place. There is also an opportunity in this way for others to learn from our mistakes as well.
The reason Lourdes was so angry at me that day was because she saw that I was about to make the same mistake again and wanted to stop me. I, on the other hand, believed that the parameters had significantly changed so that this new idea was unlike any other that I had made in the past.
The more she protested... the more I wanted to move forward with my idea.
Many times this happens within an organization... two forces believe in their hearts that they are right. They aren’t thinking about themselves... they are trying to do what they believe is right for the organization.
This is what is currently happening in Washington, DC. There are two factions that truly believe in their hearts that they are doing what is right and just for America.
Maybe I’m just being naïve by saying that I believe that our last two presidents... being as different politically as can possibly be... both feel a great love for America and believed that they were doing everything in their power to make our country a better place to live... same goals... just a different path.
Lourdes and I weren’t vehemently arguing because we just wanted to be right and prove our point... but rather because we both felt a great passion for our company that we’ve work so hard to grow over the years.
In the end, we both wanted to only do what we felt was best course of action for the greatest probability for success...
Leadership sometimes means that you need to listen when others speak.
When you speak you are only repeating what you already know... when you listen you might actually learn something new.
After a short time, Lourdes and I allowed our emotions to simmer down. It was then we were both finally ready to listen rather than try to force our will upon each other.
In the end, a compromise was reached where we both believe that our company would be best served.
Our entire team loves what we are building together at OptiFuse... and it doesn’t scare me when we fight for what we believe in even if it means that we are angry with one another for a moment...
I’m far more fearful of the day when we run from the battle because we simply don’t care any longer...
When we give up... the game is over.
Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where hopefully you are the beneficiary of the battles being waged on your behalf...
Jim Kalb President
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter - @OptiFuse
Website - www.optifuse.com
Blog - www.optifuse.blogspot.com