Forgive and Remember

There are books that you read and they stay with you long after you are done. One book I read that fits that description is “What Were They Thinking” by Jeffrey Pfeffer.   His book focuses on unconventional wisdom and how management solves problems.  Jeffrey presents several management/business scenarios, discusses the conventional way of handling it, and then presents some alternatives that typically will yield more efficient results.

The one rule from the book that I really enjoyed was “Forgive and Remember”.  We all know the adage “Forgive and Forget”.  In its simplest form, forgive and forget is suggesting that you do not hold grudges. Once you have worked something out with another party, put it behind you and move forward. In business, it’s certainly important that you not hold grudges with co-workers and especially subordinates, but Jeffrey’s “Forgive and Remember” has a much subtler (and important) message.

My manifestation of his message is leveraged in my management style – particularly around empowerment.  The conventional wisdom around startup founders is that they are “do it all” type of people – high energy, hands in every pot, likely micromanaging because it’s hard for them to let go.  It sounds obvious that if you hire people and they can pull their own weight that the company will move much faster than if you have to continually hold their hand – but yet, we tend to do just that, even if the people we hire have in fact shown the ability to accomplish and manage items on their own.

Focusing on the following aspects of “Forgive and Remember” can be used to allow the utmost contributions from your entire team:

  1. Allow people to make mistakes
  2. Your employees should be asking for forgiveness, not permission
  3. Show, observe, then show again
  4. There are several ways to skin a cat – just because your employee chooses a way to implement a task or solve a problem that is different than yours doesn’t make it wrong.  In fact, you can learn a lot from your employees by observing how they solve problems.  Be open to alternative ways to get things done – if the results don’t materialize, then go back to items #1, #2 and #3!

It’s ok to make mistakes – in fact, most inspiration and progress come from them. Just don’t keep making the same mistake multiple times.  If you don’t “remember”, then forgiving doesn’t provide any benefit to anyone.

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