Create 'learning organization'

Q. I know I misunderstood something one of my employees said and overreacted. We used to have a great relationship. Now he hardly looks at me. I really don't want to have to admit I was wrong? How can I fix the relationship and still keep my pride?

A. You can fix the relationship if you can realize that making a mistake is not the same as being wrong. If you believe that your entire being can be made wrong because you are a human being who learns through errors, then you'll be unable to problem solve because you are too stuck in embarrassment.

We will all make mistakes in and out of our workplace. If we strive to achieve great goals, we'll also make grand mistakes not merely small mistakes. Every mistake gives us a chance to start again more intelligently.

My clients tell me that using the language I teach them is a great asset in fixing mistakes. For instance, if you talk to employees about realizing that you may not have listened to them thoroughly, you are not admitting there is something horribly wrong with you. Most of us on a bad day have been less than perfect listeners.

Consider the possibility that, instead of limiting yourself categories like right and wrong, you could use categories like effective and ineffective. If you evaluate your behavior based on whether it works or doesn't work, there is no global assessment of your soul going on.

Reality is a great teacher to all of us in the workplace. We come to a job in our twenties with a lot of theories. We try out our theories and, if we're wise, notice that some theories don't seem to be effective.

As the boss, you're in a position to be a powerful role model to your team. What you do will speak much more loudly than what you say. If you can acknowledge that you didn't listen well and overreacted, then your employees have the room to also admit and fix problems.

There have been multiple studies on the concept of a "learning organization." The idea can be summed up like this: If people feel free to make mistakes, admit errors and learn, the entire organization makes more money. Productivity really is based on our capacity to see what doesn't work, not be bogged down in being upset about that, and figuring out a better way.

American business in particular has prided itself on innovation on novel problem solving. Ask yourself how you or your team can engage in creativity if you are too embarrassed to admit what doesn't work?

Last word(s)

Q. One of my coworkers keeps bringing up something that upset him in the past where he thinks I was mean to him. Can I tell him to shut up politely?

A. No, but you can ask him what he wants from you now. Those who are stuck in their past are stuck because they can't ask for what they want in their present.

(Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's "Workplace Guru" each Monday morning. She's the author of "Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything" (Hay House, 2006). You can contact Dr. Skube at http://www.interpersonaledge.com or 1420 NW Gilman Blvd., #2845, Issaquah, WA 98027. Sorry, no personal replies.)

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