Backspacing: Organizational and Personal Do-Overs
Rick Forbus, PhD
Are you glad for do-overs in your organization and in your life? You may be asking how do organizational and personal second chances coincide. Well, that is the topic of this article. Recently, while talking on my cell phone, I was multi-tasking by typing a long e-mail. For a portion of the phone call I lost focus on my typing and placed my fingers inadvertently on the wrong position and mistyped a full paragraph. When the call was over I re-read my email. It started out correct, but the part where I had lost focus read a little like this: “U qill fet vack to tou in rhat dhortly.” An entire section was just one finger position off. It hit me as funny as I tried to reclaim the meaning and retype it correctly.
As a coach, it seems that there is some teachable moment in just about everything. A learning moment is what this e-mail incident became for me. My e-mail needed a little backspacing and so does my life sometimes! It seems that certain organizations need some backspacing, as well. If it were not for the mulligans and do-overs most organizational leaders would be in tough shape. Many times trying another strategy after a failure brings encouragement and synergy to the team. Admitting a do-over is a powerful position for a leader. Most organizations get less-than-strategic results at times, and a redirection and a little backspacing can be the answer for better outcomes.
In these recent days of layoffs and downsizing, human capital can become a little thin and stressed. Layoffs always become emotional for the organization, whether justifiable or not. Rearranging the team structure, reassigning tasks and implementing new communication lines are challenging. However, rallying the team or organization and clarifying changes is imperative. Although, public admission of mistakes to an organization is not always necessary, a certain amount of openness and honesty about change is helpful to the team. After an economic downturn, it is important that leaders and laid off employees stay connected in some way.
A recent survey by OI Partners-Leathers Milligan & Associates examined business trends and perspectives related to rehiring laid-off workers. The majority of those polled said they would rehire workers for various reasons, but mostly because they were familiar with those workers’ job skills and they fit into the company’s culture.
“Rehiring laid-off employees is a way to keep hiring costs down, since there will not be any fees to be paid. Employers already know the workers’ talents and skills, they can get back to performing their old jobs quickly, and have already demonstrated they fit well into the organization,” Dick Lippert, managing partner of OI Partners-Leathers Milligan & Associates in Phoenix, said in a statement.
Lippert also said it pays for people who were laid off while in good standing to keep in touch with their former employers, especially if the company’s financial results improve and it begins hiring again.
The poll, which surveyed 318 organizations at the 61st annual Society for Human Resource Management’s conference in New Orleans this summer, was released Sept. 15.
Backspacing organizationally and being willing to be honest about change really empowers employees. When we do this personally as leaders, it becomes even more impactful. Admitting a need to try something another way is a good start to healthy self-awareness. Overcoming the proverbial “in a rut” syndrome takes some intentionality.
Years ago when the western U. S. was being settled, roads were often just wagon tracks. These rough trails posed serious problems for those who journeyed on them. On one of these winding paths was posted a sign which read: “Avoid this rut or you’ll be in it for the next 25 miles!”
Changing something for no apparent reason is weak leadership. Willingness to rethink, backspace, and then implement effective change is stronger leadership. Personal re-dos are important to growing as a leader. If you do not keep a journal, it is difficult to recall some of your personal blind spots. When coaching leaders, especially emerging leaders, I strongly encourage keeping a written record of certain management issues that reoccur and certain weaknesses that seem to hinder strong leadership. A willingness to backspace and try it another way is a sign of healthy leadership. Change it up a bit and take a fresh look. Confront your own challenges.
Oscar Wilde said, ‘Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.” So stop getting up at 6:05. Get up at 5:06. Walk a mile at dawn. Find a new way to drive to work. Switch chores with your spouse next Saturday. Buy a wok. Study wildflowers. Stay up alone all night. Read to the blind. Start counting brown-eyed blondes. Subscribe to an out-of-town paper. Canoe at midnight. Don’t write to your Congressman; take a whole scout troop to see him. Learn to speak Italian. Teach some kid the thing you do best. Listen to two hours of uninterrupted Mozart. Take up aerobic dancing. Leap out of that rut. Savor life. Remember, we pass this way only once.
Emotional Intelligence is measured in one section of the assessment as self-awareness. In the research entitled Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee. Copyright 2002 by Daniel Goleman , this EI scale is defined below:
• Emotional Self-Awareness: Leaders high in emotional self-awareness are attuned to their inner signals, recognizing how their feelings affect them and their job performance. They are attuned to their guiding values and can often intuit the best course of action, seeing the big picture in a complex situation. Emotionally self-aware leaders can be candid and authentic, able to speak openly about their emotions or with conviction about their guiding vision.
• Accurate Self-Assessment: Leaders with high self-awareness typically know their limitations and strengths, and exhibit a sense of humor about them. They exhibit a gracefulness in learning where they need to improve, and welcome constructive criticism and feedback. Accurate self-assessment allows a leader to better identify when to ask for help and where to focus in cultivating new leadership strengths.
• Self-Confidence: Knowing their abilities with accuracy allows leaders to play to their strengths. Self-confident leaders can welcome a difficult assignment. Such leaders often have a sense of presence, a self-assurance that lets them stand out in a group.
As stated by Goleman’s team of behavioral scientists in Primal Leadership, the ability to see one’s blind spots and change for the better is a sign of strong self-awareness. Organizational backspacing and personal re-dos mean strong leadership. Starting again is an act of renewal.
Thomas Edison’s manufacturing facilities in West Orange, N.J., were heavily damaged by fire one night in December, 1914. Edison lost almost $1 million worth of equipment and the record of much of his work. The next morning, walking about the charred embers of his hopes and dreams, the 67-year-old inventor said: ‘There is value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Now we can start anew.”
Work at some backspacing in your organizational and personal life this week. Keep your leadership fresh.
Executive coach – firstname.lastname@example.org