Sunday, February 19, 2012

Progress, not perfection

Progress, not perfection.

This is a statement that I have learned over the last few years when in coaching and development situations.  I first heard this statement from a good friend that is in an AA program, and it is one that I have been able to transfer to coaching and development.

In my contact center, I have several front line representatives that are very hard on themselves for making an error.  They expressed to me that in other positions, errors were not acceptable and that they could lose their jobs for making mistakes.  My immediate question back to them was, what did you learn from that previous negative experience.  Typically their response was that they needed to slow down and make sure their work was correct the first time.  Interesting.  Slow down and make sure that you don't make the same mistake again. 

What I didn't hear from that interaction was that representative was never coached and developed.  How much effort would it have taken for the supervisor to spend an extra couple of minutes and have a conversation with that employee about their thought process, or what they were looking at when the error occurred.  Getting employee feedback as to the why an error occurred is more important than the error itself.  By doing so, it can lead to identification of process improvements, training gaps, or system enhancements.  At the human level, it can demonstrate to the employee that leadership really does care about them as individuals, not just numbers.

Whenever coaching a manager, supervisor, or front line agent, focus on root cause of the error.  The thought process leading up to the error is more important than the error itself.  Progress, not perfection means to me that errors and mistakes are going to occur.  What is more important though is what an individual learns from the error, and how the individual and organization can develop from the mistake.

Baseball is the best analogy for not being perfect.  What other profession can you be successful 30% of the time and have a 20+ year career and reach your professions Hall of Fame. 

Next time you find yourself with a teachable moment, take the time to remind the person that your expectation is that they are progressing forward, not backward as a trend.  Force them to critically think about what they are doing.  If you do so, you will have a much more engaged organization.

Have a great weekend!

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