July 25, 2012 | Barb Carr

Mistakes, Yes; Encores, No!

[Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted with permission from the author, Captain George Burk. Learn more about the author on his website: www.georgeburk.com.]

Be persistent and work hard. Success is a marathon, not a sprint. Never give up.

You can’t succeed over the long haul without learning from your mistakes is something F.J. Lennon, and lots of others, have spent years doing.

“I’ve always learned more from my failures than from any successes,” Lennon wrote in “Every Mistake in the Book” which he blends equal amounts of humor with advice aimed at chief executives, business owners, managers and employees.

Lennon is an interactive producer, designer, writer and executive coach who succeeded by learning to sidestep pitfalls. Here a few of Lennon’s’ tips, based on the lessons he’s learned.

Whatever you don’t know learn. The best way to increase your value at work and in the workplace is to keep acquiring new skills, even if it means investing your own time and money. “Read, learn new software programs, take continuing education courses, absorb your industry’s trade journals and magazine, stay on top of every new advancement,” Lennon says.

“Before everything else, getting prepared is the secret of success.”
Henry Ford, car executive

Arm yourself with the facts. Document important meetings and oral agreements, log key telephone conversations and save pertinent email, Lennon suggests. “When or if it’s your word against someone else’s being well-armed with dated facts gives you a distinct advantage.” In a separate journal, log your mistakes and what you’ve learned from them. Then make it a point to refer back to it every so often; it could be the best textbook you ever read, he says.

Always have a Plan B. Don’t ever think your company can’t survive without you. Stay positive and always do your best, but always have a contingency plan or two at arm’s reach. Keep your resume updated and available, no matter where you go and have a plan of action if something negative should happen.

Let the team leaders lead. The last thing a composer needs is a painter with van Gogh’s ear for music telling him how to write ditties, Lennon says. The same is true for your team members. They don’t need advice from people in other departments who lack their experience and expertise. Give the team leaders the training and authority to lead, the team members the freedom to act, then get out of their way.

“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.” Larry Bossidy, executive

Get teams to self-motivate. Lennon had little success motivating teams until he tried a different approach. First, he linked employee bonuses to team production, “not individual completion of job tasks,” he said. “Everyone got a bonus or no one did.” Second, he made the entire team aware of each other’s schedules by posting them in a hallway by the restrooms, a place everyone had to walk past at least once or twice a day. The result was motivated team members’ lit “fires” under the slackers.”

“It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.” Anne Lamott, novelist

Focus on the present. You can’t accomplish your vision and reach your goals without taking the daily steps to get you there. “Create realistic, manageable schedules and timelines and always be on top of the next milestone. Once you begin to let important deadlines slip, you’re digging your own grave.”

Don’t be fooled by the view. Don’t stop doing what got you there. People, like too many organizations become complacent and get sloppy; they stop doing what made them successful. If you think you have finally arrived, you are merely fooling yourself and perhaps even paying too much attention to what those around you are saying. Enjoy the ride, but stay focused on where you’re going, how you will get there and who’s on your team.

“Be vigilant, for nothing one achieves lasts forever.” Tahar Ben Jelloun, poet

Stay lean (professionally and personally) and grow wisely. The most common mistakes new business and employees make? Expanding too rapidly and moving to lavish or overly large quarters to make a statement, and trying to keep up with the Joneses’. Grow a step at a time; hire new talent only when necessary and stay focused on your core business and core abilities.

“Most companies die from indigestion rather than starvation i.e. companies suffer from doing too many things at the same time rather than doing a few things very well.”
Naveen Jain, entrepreneur

“The only one who can beat me is me.” Michael Johnson, Olympic track star

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