Recovering From a Screw-Up at Work

27 03 2012

We all make mistakes. We’re human. Those little “oops moments” can either break you or make you into a better person. Which will you choose?

I recently screwed up at work. Yes, I’m admitting it. I messed up. It wasn’t anything that would be considered gross misconduct, but it was a screw-up nevertheless. In my life and career, I’ve taken risks that didn’t pay off and I’ve made audacious decisions without thinking about the big picture. I’m getting to the point…

You see, some of those decisions throughout my life got me into trouble. In school, I was called to the Principal’s office. In my career, guess who called me? My boss. I’ll come back to this in a bit.

In my experience, I’ve learned that there are four things a person can do to recover from a screw-up at work:

Own up. Never lie. Lying about what you did NEVER gets you to a better place. In fact, it does quite the opposite. When you mess up at work, own up to it. Accept the fact that you’ve made a mistake and acknowledge the problem. The blame game only makes it worse.

Listen to feedback. Listen. You have two ears and one mouth for a reason – listen twice as much as you talk. Be receptive to feedback and learn what you can do better next time. You have to own up to your mistake first, hence the ordering of the points in this post. Most people want others to succeed, so if they have a suggestion for improvement, listen.

Move on. Accept that you’ve made a mistake, listen to feedback, and then move on. There is no sense in dwelling on the past. You can’t change what you’ve done. The past is in the past. Take the feedback you receive and move on to a better you.

Don’t repeat. I said earlier that we all screw up. We do. Why? We’re human. At one time or another, we’re going to mess something up. It happens. But, we should learn from our mistakes. Don’t be afraid to fail, but remember to learn from those failures. Even a cartoon coyote knows the importance of this. Don’t make the same mistake again.

I think parents, teachers, and bosses all have one thing in common: they want you to SUCCEED. I know this has been true in my past, is true today, and will continue to be true in my future. Learn from your mistakes, own up, listen and move on. That’s it. It sounds simple, right? That’s because it is! You might not need these words of advice today, but sooner or later, they’ll come in handy. It’s okay to screw up. Just don’t make it a habit and don’t make the same mistake again.

What are YOUR tips? Is there anything that you would like to share regarding a time when you messed up and learned from it?


Underwear, Directing Traffic and Public Speaking

20 03 2012

Public speaking.  <GULP>  This phrase typically causes panic, knee-knocking and butterflies in a person’s stomach when mentioned.  Or, just plain, old-fashioned F-E-A-R.  Know what I’m talking about?  Good!  Let’s get started.

At one time or another in your life, you’re likely going to be asked to speak in public.  Whether it’s speaking to a group of 2nd graders or Fortune 500 executives, here are a few tips to help you get past the fear and give your best when you’re given the stage.

Adding needless punctuation. Sounds odd, right?  Here’s what I’m talking about:  I went to school with a person who had brilliant ideas, but couldn’t communicate them clearly to a group.  When there was a natural pause, they filled it with “uh” or “um.”  It was almost as if every comma, period or semicolon was replaced with “uh!”  There were even people in the audience that were taking score, adding a tick mark every time the words were uttered.  There were over 200 instances in the 7 minute speech.  Don’t fill your time with needless punctuation.  Instead, take a deep breath, pause for a second or two, gather your thoughts and move on.

Directing traffic.  Have you ever seen someone flail their arms and hands as they speak?  I’ve seen some that look like they’re trying to land Air Force One.  Fact: It’s annoying.  Erratic movement detracts from the content being presented.  Practice your speech or presentation in front of a mirror and you’ll see just how much you’re doing it.  You might even consider recording yourself on video so you can watch the playback to adjust.  Subtle gestures and movements go a long way.  Practice a few movements so you don’t look like a robot when you’re presenting.  You don’t want to land the plane, but you also don’t want your gestures to look forced.

Hiding in plain sight.  You might be more comfortable speaking with a lectern.  Why?  You get to hide behind it, lean on it, there’s a place for your notes or even a spot for a glass of water.  Who wouldn’t prefer that?  Note: A podium is a raised platform on which a speaker stands.  A lectern is the upright object on which he or she places her papers.  Here’s the thing: you can’t always avoid using a lectern to speak more freely from the stage.  It might be the only place that has the microphone.  But, if you can, I would suggest getting out in front and talking directly to, not at, the audience.  For some reason, it’s tougher to do this from behind the lectern.

Mic check: two, three.  Your voice carries.  A microphone isn’t usually warranted when you speak to a group.  We get it – you think you have a big mouth.  I sometimes fall prey to this weakness.  As a former broadcaster, I can typically command a room with my “radio voice.”  Guess what?  I’m not as loud as I think I am.  The people in the back of the room can’t hear as well as the people directly in front of you.  Use the microphone.  I’ll say it again.  Use the microphone.   Yes, you have to.  It doesn’t matter if a few people say they can hear you.  What if they are recording your speech?  We all know how terrible a YouTube video or audio clip is when the person’s voice is muffled or so low you have to crank up the volume.  Your audience will get more from your content if they don’t have to struggle to hear it!

Don’t forget the visuals.  As you’re giving your presentation, think of how a visual representation will help the audience connect with your content.  You might need a few words or bullet points, but know that slides ARE NOT your presentation.  They’re aids.  Not a crutch.  I have a friend who is a wonderful storyteller, commanding the attention of everyone in the audience as he weaves real-life stories and pop culture into his presentation.  Slides?  Yes, he has them.  In fact, during his last keynote, he used over 200 slides for a 30 minute presentation.  Guess what?  His slides don’t make a lick of sense without him telling the story!  So those people who always ask, “Will the slides be available afterwards?” won’t have much to use if they don’t pay attention in real-time.  The caveat in this situation is that it doesn’t apply across the board for everyone.  If you’re giving a financial presentation, you’re probably going to need content with number and figures on your slides, with them needing to be available for reference afterwards.  Each case is unique.

Practice, practice, practice.  Need I say more?  The best way to polish your presentation is to practice it a few times.  Some people are good to go with just one or two run-throughs.  Others need to deliver the entire presentation over and over again.  Ask your friends or family to listen to your presentation, giving you feedback afterwards.  They’ll notice the “um’s” and flailing arms more than you will.  If you don’t have the option of a LIVE run-through, video the speech a few times for later review.

One last piece of advice:  Don’t picture the audience in their underwear.  It’s just weird and I doubt you’ll feel any more comfortable about giving your speech if they’re all in their skivvies in your head.  Did I make you laugh?  🙂

What is your best piece of advice regarding public speaking?  Have a funny moment you’d like to share?  Please leave a comment below.  I’d love to hear from you!

3 Little Life-Changing Words

13 03 2012

What if I told you that three little words could change your life?  No, they’re not the words you’re thinking about right now; the words you’ve heard your entire life…but they’ll change you for sure.

First, I’d like to share with you how I came to discover these three little words.  Social media has proven to be a great connector (and not time-waster) for me. I’ve learned a lot, met some really great people, and made some new friends.  I had the opportunity to speak with one of those friends recently about her job search.  Her contract was almost up with the company she was writing for and it was time for her to think about other career options.  During a recent conversation, a movie came to mind as we discussed the various options out there for job seekers and tactics some use to set themselves apart from the competition.  I love pop culture and like to find ways that it relates to everyday life.  Guess what?  This one hits the nail on the head!

The movie: The First $20 Million is Always the Hardest (2002). The plot: Andy, a successful marketing guy quits his job, because he feels disconnected with the values about work he learned from his father. He gets a new job at a top notch research facility, where he quickly makes a powerful enemy who makes him volunteer for a nearly impossible project: The $99 Personal Computer.

What are the three little words that resonated with me during this movie?  Simplify.  Clarify.  Economize.

These words have a lot of relevance in the job search and generally in life.  Here’s what I gleaned from the quirky, yet poignant film:

Simplify.  In the movie, the research team is faced with a serious challenge.  How can they take a piece of technology that typically costs hundreds of dollars and create a $99 version with the same capabilities?  Keep in mind, the $99 personal computer needed to be as fully functional as the basic computers on the market at that time.  The team chose to keep things simple, not overcomplicating things with features that were unnecessary when an alternative could serve the purpose just as well.

  • THINK: How can you make your job easier?  That doesn’t mean less work.  Instead, think about what you’re doing.  Does it advance your strategic objectives?  If not, why are you doing it?  Simplify.

Clarify.  The purpose of the $99 computer was to be able to provide technology to children in third world countries so that they may advance their learning, empowering them to get themselves out of the circle of poverty, hunger and disease.  Seems like a lofty goal, but it all starts with an idea…make that an idea with a plan.

  • THINK: Look at your actions and your overall goals.  What exactly are you trying to achieve?  Does it align with your strategic objectives?

Economize.  Economize means to avoid waste or extravagance.  In the movie, the team’s original design was simple, but as they continued research, it gained some flash and style.  Once the prototype was ready, the idea went from bare bones to basically an upscale version of a modern computer.  It was just cheaper.  The process wasn’t efficient either.  The team’s competition received word of the design and submitted an even more elaborate design.  Neither team held true to the goal of economy.

  • THINK: In your job or job search, how can you make processes more efficient?  Are you wasting your time and resources on extravagance or are you being frugal, remaining cognizant of the task at hand without losing sight of the big picture?

If you haven’t seen the movie, I’d highly recommend it.  In fact, I enjoyed it so much (I was entertained, informed and inspired), I bought it.  The film budget wasn’t enormous, but they got the point across.  Actors like Adam Garcia, Rosario Dawson, Jake Busey (yes, he’s Gary Busey’s son) and Ethan Suplee make for a great oddball cast bringing a few laughs as well.

What are you doing to Simplify, Clarify and Economize in your job or job search? 

3 Strategies for Staying Positive during Your Job Search

6 03 2012

Photo Credit: Free Digital Photos

There are few things in life that are more challenging than being unemployed when you’d like to be employed. In today’s challenging economic atmosphere, more and more people are finding themselves out of work and feverishly scouring the job market for their next career opportunity. That being said, this means that many people are dealing with long days of unemployment. While having the skills and charisma to land a position is key, there is something very important to be said about job candidates with positive attitudes and self assurance. Try these three strategies for saying positive during your job search.

Keep a Productive Daily Schedule

Maintaining a regular schedule during your unemployment is essential for staying positive and keeping active. It can be easy to fall into an unhealthy schedule when you have fewer responsibilities during the day. Many of us are tempted to sleep until noon and be fairly inactive when we have no specific responsibilities during the day. However, maintaining a relatively normal daily schedule can help you stay on top of your job search and keep a positive attitude. As you’ll hear time and time again, your job during unemployment is finding a new job. It should be approached with the same passion and commitment. Set a schedule: wake up at nine am, take a shower, get dressed, and start looking for jobs. Structure creates balance in life. Don’t let unemployment break that balance.

Set Conceivable Goals

Goal setting is important at any stage in a person’s life. Without solid goals it can be very hard to stay productive and positive. Most all of us are programmed to want to achieve things for ourselves. By setting realistic and achievable goals during your time of unemployment, you can help stay busy and focused while also finding ways to feel positive about your progress. Take your job search seriously every single day and create goals that can help you accomplish things in that search. Monitoring your progress with your goal setting will help build your confidence and keep up your momentum.

Find Something You are Passionate About

Hobbies are an important thing to maintain during any point of our lives. Whether you are working full time, maintaining a part time job, or in search of something new, a hobby is essential for keeping your head on straight and staying level. All too often, people get too caught up in their work lives and forget to find something outside of work that inspires them. Particularly during unemployment, a hobby can be a useful and productive thing. Searching for job opportunities all day everyday can be an especially exhausting experience. Find a hobby during your unemployment that you are passionate and excited about. This can hobby can be an asset during job interviews and will help keep you relaxed during your search.

This is a guest post by Kimberly Wilson. Kimberly is from accredited online colleges, she writes on topics including career, education, student life, college life, home improvement, time management etc.