Unforced Errors

Nothing in professional life is more frustrating, than dealing with problems at work.

That is, of course, unless you are dealing with problems of your own making, that weren’t problems to begin with.

Without “going topical” – or political – it’s safe to say, that unforced errors are front and center in conversations and gatherings around water coolers across the country these days.

What causes us, as leaders and as professionals, to commit damaging – and sometimes fatal – missteps, when these kinds of errors are almost 100% avoidable, by their very definition?

  • Overconfidence.
  • Hubris.
  • Haste.
  • Expediency.
  • Tone-deafness.
  • Failing to recognize our fallibility and – often – our mortality.

Over the years, I have seen the potential for, and realization of, unforced errors almost every working day in my life as an administrator.

Projects scheduled for execution, during times when there is no margin of error should things go south. Skunk work projects created with no backup or documentation, but deployed in mission critical initiatives. Decisions made without the knowledge or consent of stakeholders involved or affected.

In almost every case, these issues could have been avoided through the intentional practice of reflection, consideration, consultation, and communication.

Reflection – is what I am about to do, in the best interest of those involved?

Consideration – have I anticipated the consequences and fallout over what I am about to do or say?

Consultation – have I discussed the action I am about to undertake, with the constituencies who have an interest in its outcomes? And, have I taken into account their perspectives and opinions, in the formulation of my action plan?

Communication – have I transparently and properly communicated the purpose and intent of the action I am undertaking, so that the benefits, risks, and rewards are clearly understood by all involved and affected, and have I created a space in which communication of unconsidered affects, or dissenting viewpoints, may be heard and accommodated?

Even with careful attention to the practices listed above, one can still find themselves embroiled in self-made dumpster fires.

We’re human.

Sometimes, it is our unguarded moments and throwaway comments, that are the rocks upon which careers and lives are dashed.

Even so – if we are present, intentional, and disciplined in our approach and daily practice as professionals, we can – at the very least – be responsible, accountable actors in our decision making, and its outcomes.

As my grandfather used to say – “no need to borrow trouble – there’s enough to go around as is.”

 

 

 

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