Do you miss your old knee, Grandpa?

children running

It’s been four months now since I had total knee replacement surgery. The entire experience has not been pleasant, but, overall, the recovery has been better than I expected and my knee is doing very well. I’m pleased.

My wife and I have the privilege of getting to spend time with our 4-year old grandson several days during the week while his parents work. He is a high energy boy that also has a sensitive, inquisitive side to him. In essence, I am his playmate. We spend the days building spaceships and buildings, playing ball, hide-n-go-seek, wrestling, fishing, etc. He wants to stay busy every minute. He has observed the process with my recovery from knee surgery… from being almost totally immobile through all the stages to now. The other day, he asked me, “Do you miss your old knee, Grandpa?” I know that he was simply asking me in his own way if my knee was better now than before. He was wondering if I was glad that I had the surgery. But, his question made me think… do I miss that old knee?

In a number of ways, I do miss that old knee… especially when it wasn’t that old. I miss it carrying the “fastest runner in the school” in my youth. I miss the knee that allowed me to catch both games of a doubleheader in the heat of the summer baseball season (in retrospect, maybe that is why the knee wore out in the first place). I miss the knee that I never had to think about because it was always just there, doing its job. I don’t miss the pain that old knee caused during its last few years… the increasingly regular cortisone shots, the struggle to climb even a short flight of stairs, the inability to get it comfortable in bed at night.

You see, each new day brings it own set of good and bad. As with my old knee, each day brought me closer to the day when it would completely fail and need replacement. On the other hand, each day brings us more experience and a step closer to those goals we set for ourselves. It would be nice to have that young, healthy knee back. But, with that knee, I didn’t have these days of fun and enjoyment with my grandson (or my other six grandchildren). With my new knee has come the fulfillment of retiring with the love of my life, being able to travel and enjoy the freedom of summers on the lake.

I view this new knee as a symbol of experience gained, victories won, burdens carried, and progressing to this wonderful chapter of my life. This new almost pain-free knee represents a fresh start… a fresh new outlook on whatever time remains. This new knee still has work to do and I’m thankful that we get to do it together. So, do I miss that old knee? Sure, I miss the good old days with it, but I don’t regret leaving it behind for the new. These are the best of days.

Take a moment today to pause and be thankful for what you have. Do something impulsive. Eat an ice cream cone. Do something crazy. Be intentional and create a memory that your family will be talking about twenty years from now. Lend someone a hand that is in a spiral. Be a light in a dark place. Share a smile, a kind word, or an act of love. Be positive. There are people all around us every day that are struggling with their health. Others are worrying about their children, their finances, or their aging parents. Still others are just disappointed with how things have turned out. Look around for a way to put a smile on someone’s face, a song in their heart, or hope where there seems to be none. Help someone else turn the page on the past and look forward with optimism to tomorrow. We all have the potential to make a difference for someone else, if we’ll just choose to do it.

Have a great day!

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Can you afford to give a second chance? Can you afford not to?

second chances

Today, let’s begin by looking at a true story conveyed to me early in my working career:

A True Story

A number of years ago, I recall a member of senior management telling about an event occurring at another plant. During the final inspection of a lot of glass-syringe injectable product, an error in the labeling was detected. A decimal point was in the wrong place. Instead of stating the dosage as 0.2 mg/mL, it stated 2.0 mg/mL. This was a potentially fatal mislabeling error with no opportunity for rework. The lot disposition was determined to be “reject.” 

This labeling error was expensive with a total cost of $2Million. As expected, this was a significant error that was felt across the company. So, the Vice-President, Operations with responsibility for that plant made a visit to the site. Upon meeting with the Plant Manager, the VP said, “I would like to speak with the individual responsible for this error. I want to know who stole $2Million from the company!” (Apparently, the investigation determined that multiple systems and procedural failures had occurred, but there was one individual that had the greatest role in failing to detect and prevent the error.) The Plant Manager asked, “So, you want to speak with this individual because you are going to personally fire him?” The VP responded, “No, I want to speak with him first.”

After speaking with the individual, the VP told the Plant Manager and Head of HR, “No, I’m not planning to fire him. This individual is extremely remorseful. What I did, after hearing his explanation, was to to encourage him. You see, there is probably no one that feels worse about this than him. These last few days have been horrible for him. So, I wanted him to know that we’ll support him in the future. Do you know why I feel this way?” The Plant and Manager was stunned, but stated, “No, I don’t really understand.” The VP said, “This guy will never make this mistake again. I guarantee you that he will become our most diligent and most competent individual in the future. Sometimes, a leader needs to use the heart as much as the brain. In this case, my heart tells me that firing him would be a mistake and we would lose an opportunity to gain a more trusted and skilled employee.”

The individual that made this mistake went on to become one of that company’s best employees rising in responsibility to eventually serve as Director, Manufacturing in charge of that very plant.

Often, when we are in a position to implement actions to prevent a recurrence of an issue, our response is to think only of the short-term situation we face. Taking definitive and direct action to address an issue gives “closure” and satisfies the need to send a message. However, when we fail to take a long-term view of the situation, we may miss an opportunity to do greater good.

When dealing with people, first of all, we must determine if the error was an honest mistake or an intentional one. For example, an individual that intentionally seeks to harm someone, lie, deceive, commit a moral failure, or willfully inflict damage, pain, or injury may not deserve a second chance. However, an error in judgment, or due to poor systems others control, or due to distraction/fatigue/illness, or due to something other than moral failure may merit a second chance. I usually consider heavily the motivation and demeanor of the individual when interviewed after-the-fact. When you see a deep sense of regret or remorse, I tend to look more favorably at mercy. The ultimate decision is difficult. Unless I clearly see the root cause being intentional or willful failure, I would often look at offering a second chance.

As you can see from the story above, it is important to consider the long-term impact of offering a second chance. In the story, the mistake made was a turning point in the career of the individual involved. He used this event as a catalyst for a successful future of growth and leadership. If he had been dismissed at the time, it might have been devastating for the individual AND the company would have lost a significant talent. The short-term gain of make a point, satisfying a need to “fix the problem”, and creating an example for others may have been overwhelming overshadowed by demonstrating a humane and merciful approach.

In short, when faced with a decision about whether you should offer an individual a second chance, ensure that you consider all factors, including the long-term benefit to the individual and organization. Ultimately, you’ll want to apply the the measure of mercy to the individual(s) involved that you would want shown to you, if you would find yourself in a similar circumstance. The final test should always be… how would I want to be treated if the roles were reversed? When you apply this as the standard, you will rarely make the wrong decision.

I am thankful for the second chances I have been given in life. When we have a chance to learn from our mistakes and apply the learnings to our future, we become better. Demonstrating forgiveness can result in benefits and relationships far richer than may ever have occurred otherwise. Is there someone in your life today that deserves that second chance?

Have a great and rewarding day!

The Margaritaville Model for Accountability

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If you are like me, you are tired of hearing individuals blame others for their mistakes and failures. It seems that every day, we see a news story in which some individual attempts to deflect responsibility to someone else for something they should have or could have handled personally. In fact, individuals that fail, in these cases, often try to completely flip to situation to make themselves look like a victim.

Accountability is one of those “key attributes” that employers always list when they seek key leaders. Yet, as we have all experienced, it is the rare individual that will step up and assume their share of responsibility. Someone once said, “A good leader always assumes responsibility when things go wrong, but highlights the team when things go well.” Too often, today’s leaders would do just the opposite.

We have probably all heard Jimmy Buffet’s hit song “Margaritaville”. We probably know most of the lyrics and could sing the song in our sleep. However, have you ever really listened to the lyrics carefully? Did you realize that this song actually includes a good model for assuming accountability? Let’s take a look today and see if there is anything we can apply to our own lives or convey to our teams:

  • “It’s nobody’s fault” – One of the first things that people tend to do when things go wrong is to say that it was unavoidable… nobody is to blame. Or, worse yet, it was his/her fault. The problem with this approach is that when we think something is unavoidable, we tend to believe that there is nothing we can do in the future to avoid a similar problem. When no one is to blame – when we turn away from the real cause for the problem – the problem will likely recur over and over. Or, when we blame others, we risk ruining relationships and damaging future opportunities to collaborate. Here is what the song says about this approach:

Nibblin’ on sponge cake,
Watchin’ the sun bake;
All of those tourists covered with oil.
Strummin’ my six string on my front porch swing.
Smell those shrimp-
They’re beginnin’ to boil.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
But I know it’s nobody’s fault.

  • “It could be my fault” – One step of progress in this accountability model is to accept the possibility that you could have some of the blame or responsibility for the issue. Realizing that you at least share the responsibility is an admission that you at least had a role in the outcome. When you begin accepting some remnant of responsibility, you are admitting that there is some action you might have taken that could have resulted in a better result. Now,  you have something to work on before this occurs again. Let’s see what Jimmy Buffet says about this:

Don’t know the reason,
Stayed here all season
With nothing to show but this brand new tattoo.
But it’s a real beauty,
A Mexican cutie, how it got here
I haven’t a clue.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville,
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
Now I think, – hell it could be my fault.

  • “I know it’s my own fault” – Ultimately, assuming full responsibility for events under your direct control is the definition of accountability. And, when you do, you have the opportunity to both learn from your mistakes and identify actions that might prevent a recurrence of the problem. Many individuals never get to this point of maturity. Instead, they become caught in the cycle of either blaming others or deflecting their role in the outcome (unless it was all positive, of course) and running from the event as fast as possible. Thus, the cycle will soon repeat. We see in the song that the singer eventually accepts responsibility for his fate.

I blew out my flip flop,
Stepped on a pop top;
Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home.
But there’s booze in the blender,
And soon it will render
That frozen concoction that helps me hang on.

Wasted away again in Margaritaville
Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt.
Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame,
But I know, it’s my own darn fault.
Yes, and some people claim that there’s a woman to blame, And I know it’s my own darn fault

Accountability is an important concept that parents often fail to teach their children. Too many parents, these days, believe that their children can do no wrong and jump to the conclusion that any issue with their kids is the fault of someone else (teachers, coaches, etc.). This teaches just the opposite of accountability… this teaches the art of blaming others. This teaches kids to be victims. We need to help others understand that we must all be willing to give an accounting for our actions, whether good or bad. There is always someone that we must answer to. As leaders, we model this well when we step up and accept responsibility for decisions we make.

Today is a good day to consider how we fit into the Margaritaville accountability model. Are we quick to blame others or believe that no one is to blame for anything that goes wrong? Do we accept that we have some responsibility, but we alone could not be totally responsible? Or, do we willingly accept our share of the responsibility for our decisions and actions? Maturing to the point of appropriate accountability will serve us well in any situation we find ourselves.

Remember, today could be our best day yet!

Mastering ‘Perspective’ (and why doing so is imperative for success)

perspective

One day over the recent holiday period, my wife and I were hosting our 7- and 4-year old grandchildren for the day. When they arrived, they raced to our door each wanting to be the first to open the door. On this day, the younger child arrived at the door first and burst through the door to our welcoming arms. The older child stopped on the deck, sat down, and started crying. When we asked why she was crying, she said, “I wanted to open the door first because you are always so happy to see us.” To us, it seemed like such a minor thing to come through the door second, not first. But to her, it made a huge difference for that day. Children often lack the ability to keep things in proper perspective. However, adults also struggle with perspective. Our inability to master it can significantly impact our happiness, success, or ability to cope with life. Today, let’s look at ‘perspective’ and why it is so important for us to master.

Perspective is often defined as a point of view or particular way of considering something. It is an ability to take a few steps back and look at a situation or something with different eyes… with a different focus. When we lose perspective, we become so close to one thing or to a particular viewpoint that we fail to consider any other way of looking at that situation. As a result, a lack of perspective can prevent us from solving a problem, making an impact, or addressing a concern. At its worst, poor perspective can result in a complete lack of focus and failure.

So, having the ability, or skill, to view situations with a broader perspective (e.g., by taking a few steps back and viewing the situation from a new viewpoint) is essential to our success in work, life, and family. John Sununu (former Governor and Senator from New Hampshire) once said,

“Perspective gives us the ability to accurately contrast the large with the small, and the important with the less important. Without it we are lost in a world where all ideas, news, and information look the same. We cannot differentiate, we cannot prioritize, and we cannot make good choices.”  

Why is perspective so important? What are the benefits of seeing situations with a broad perspective? Let’s look today at four key elements of perspective:

  1. Perspective allows us to benefit from our experiences from the past – When we get so close to a situation that we lose perspective, we often fail to apply the skills we have already learned to deal with today’s problems. Let’s face it… we have all made mistakes in the past. Hopefully, these mistakes were catalogued and now can be used to help us avoid similar mistakes in the future. When we fail to retrieve that prior experience, we are bound to repeat history. When we learn to step back from a situation and consider how we dealt with similar ones in the past (either successfully or unsuccessfully), we have a step up on conquering today’s events.
  2. Perspective allows us to look at the future impact of situations or events – Today’s “big” challenges often become much smaller when viewed through the lens of the future. However, failing to utilize this lens can fool us into thinking that our situation is bigger, or worse, or more significant than it really is. Being able to view any situation from the viewpoint of tomorrow… or next week… or next year can make a remarkable difference to how we see things today.
  3. Perspective ensures that we consider the impact to people – When we see today’s challenges too closely, we often fail to consider its impact on anyone else. We become focused on self when we fail to utilize a proper perspective. Then, with the focus totally on the impact we experience, we may fail to recognize how our actions can impact our teammates, our family, or our friends. When we step back, other people start appearing in the picture. And, when we start to see the viewpoint of others, our actions often change… for the better.
  4. Perspective ensures that we stay focused on the purpose – I can recall many times in my own past when dealing with a particularly challenging work situation that we became so focused on today’s issues that we forgot complete our purpose, or the ultimate goal. When we lose perspective, we might win the battle, but lose the war simply because we shifted our eye off the ball. Perspective is ensuring that our every action is balanced against our ultimate objective.

So, how can we master perspective? How can we ensure that we always take that step back to broaden the picture? I believe that if we remember to ask 4 key sets of questions in any challenging situation, we’ll always retain a proper sense of perspective:

  • Have I ever experienced anything similar in the past? How did I deal with it that can help me deal with my challenges today?
  • Will this really matter tomorrow? Next week? Next year? If this is really not that important, why am I stressing so much about it today?
  • Who else is impacted by this situation? How can I ensure that they are not harmed? Would involving others help get a better result or help me deal with make better choices?
  • What are we really trying to accomplish? What is the mission? How can I keep my eye on that ball and not be deflected by today’s challenges?

Life is already challenging enough. When we fail to exercise proper perspective, we are much more likely to make poor decisions or incur significantly more stress that is needed or necessary. Learn to take that step back in any key situation or challenge to ensure that you have mastered the essential art of perspective.

“A little perspective, like a little humor, goes a long way.”           – Allen Klein –