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Sunday at the Post

News and notes: QB competition in Denver, JaMarcus shows up in Oakland and more. Michael Lombardi

Print This May 02, 2010, 09:40 AM EST

QUOTE/STORY OF THE WEEK...

“I'd like to give you a little advice today. I'll try not to give you too much, just a little bit. One thing you cannot afford to do -- that's to feel sorry for yourself. That's what leads to drugs, to alcohol, to those things that tear you apart. In football, we always said that the other team couldn't beat us. We had to be sure that we didn't beat ourselves. And that's what people have to do, too -- make sure they don't beat themselves.” -- Woody Hayes, commencement speech, Ohio State University, March 14, 1986

May is the month for college graduation commencement speeches all over the country. On Saturday, President Obama gave one at the University of Michigan, which I’m sure would have angered former Buckeyes head coach Woody Hayes had he been alive.

Hayes gave his speech almost one year before his death in March 1987. Sadly, Hayes will be remembered for throwing a punch during a game that cost him his career at his beloved Ohio State. Despite the unhappy ending, Hayes, because of his knowledge of military history and continuing popularity, hosted the broadcast of six World War II films for WBNS-TV in Columbus in the early 1980s. Among the movies shown were “Patton,” “Midway,” “The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel” and “Tora! Tora! Tora!”

Hayes was well read and loved talking politics, and former President Richard Nixon gave the eulogy at his funeral. Nixon would always say he wanted to talk football with Hayes, but Hayes wanted to talk politics, so they talked politics. Hayes was unique, passionate and loved his Buckeyes.

“Nobody despises to lose more than I do. That’s got me into trouble over the years, but it also made a man of mediocre ability into a pretty good coach.” -- Woody Hayes

THINGS I HEARD AROUND THE NFL...

“It doesn't matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping.” -- Jerry Zucker

1. I watched Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow work in practice on Friday in Denver, and he appeared very confident. His delivery is more compact, and his knowledge of the offense is impressive. Now, if the Broncos can get his lower body in rhythm, he’ll be ready to compete at the highest level.

2. Speaking of Broncos quarterbacks, everyone in the organization has been impressed with the work of former Brown Brady Quinn. Quinn has slowed down his movements and, according to the team’s coaches, has improved his accuracy. They’re excited to watch him work, and Denver will have a legitimate competition at quarterback this summer.

3. The other first-round wide receiver, Demaryius Thomas, did not work, nor did third rounder Eric Decker. But Thomas looks the part. He’s a hard worker and competitive player who I suspect will have a very good year as a rookie.

4. Many people have asked me why the 49ers moved up with Denver in the draft to pick offensive tackle Anthony Davis. They were concerned about Green Bay moving ahead of them for Davis and wanted to make sure they got the guy they wanted. Peace of mind is sometimes worth a fourth-round pick.

5. Once Denver picked Demaryius Thomas ahead of Baltimore, it allowed the Ravens to trade out of the first round. The Ravens would not have picked Dez Bryant had he been there, but with Thomas gone, they moved. So essentially, Denver picking Thomas allowed them to get back into the first round. Green Bay did move up to draft Morgan Burnett, who both the Bears and Cowboys would have loved to draft.

6. Why have the Raiders brought back JaMarcus Russell? One man makes decisions in that building, and he’s not ready to do what everyone thinks he should do.

7. I know much has been made of the Colt McCoy pick by Cleveland, but in reality, this pick will not stop the Browns from drafting a quarterback next year. McCoy is viewed more as backup than a potential starter by team brass. Expect the Browns to get involved in scouting the top QBs in the draft next year.

8. Dallas had linebacker Sean Lee rated as first rounder, so according to their board, they got two players of first-round talent. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips loves Lee.

9. Houston will work seventh-round pick Dorin Dickerson at wide receiver first to determine if he’s quick enough to handle press coverage on the outside. He can be a mismatch receiver if he has the right kind of quickness.

10. I keep hearing there might be more trades in the coming weeks, especially involving former restricted players. If a team doesn’t want to sign a player to a long-term deal, it might be beneficial to trade him now. Giants DT Barry Cofield and Saints tackle Jammal Brown are the hot candidates to be moved if they can agree to long-term deals.

11. Teams are reluctant to do long-term deals with players mostly because they don’t know the landscape in terms of a new Collective Bargaining Agreement. It’s hard to extend a player without some understanding of possible new rules. This might prevent Colts QB Peyton Manning and Saints QB Drew Brees from getting done any time soon. Same for Cowboys wideout Miles Austin.

LEADERSHIP IMPROVEMENT IDEA...

“Our lifetime is a flash of lightning in the sky, like a dance, like a torrent rushing by a steep mountain – impermanent. Make it precious.” -- Deepak Chopra

You've Made A Mistake. Now What?

By Amy Gallo 

Anyone who has worked in an office for more than a day has made a mistake. While most people accept that slip-ups are unavoidable, no one likes to be responsible for them. The good news is that mistakes, even big ones, don't have to leave a permanent mark on your career. In fact, most contribute to organizational and personal learning; they are an essential part of experimentation and a prerequisite for innovation. So don't worry: if you've made a mistake at work — and, again, who hasn't? — you can recover gracefully and use the experience to learn and grow.

What the Experts Say

According to Paul Schoemaker, the research director for the Mack Center for Technological Innovation at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School and co-author of the forthcoming “Brilliant Mistakes,” most people tend to overreact to their slip-ups. They "make asymmetric evaluation of gains and losses so that losses loom much larger than gains," he explains. As a result, they may be tempted to hide their mistakes, or even worse, continue down paths that have proven unproductive. This "sunk cost fallacy" can be dangerous and expensive.

It is much better to accept mistakes, learn from them and move on. "Look forward and base decisions on the future, not the past," Schoemaker says. Christopher Gergen, the director of the Entrepreneurial Leadership Initiative at Duke University and co-author of Life Entrepreneurs: Ordinary People Creating Extraordinary Lives, agrees. The most useful thing you can do is "translate a mistake into a valuable moment of leadership," he says

Here are a few guiding principles to help you turn your gaffes into gold:

Fess up and acknowledge your mistake

First and foremost, it's critical to be transparent, candid and own up to the error. Don't try to blame others. Even if it was a group mistake, acknowledge your role in it. In cases where someone was hurt, issue an apology. However, don't apologize too much or be defensive. The key is to be action-oriented and focus on the future. How will your misstep be remedied? What will you do differently going forward?

Once you've admitted your blunder, it may be appropriate to reframe it. Reframing is not making an excuse, but a genuine effort to help people see the mistake in a different light. Poor decisions or flawed processes can sometimes lead to mistakes, but that doesn't mean that every bad outcome is a mistake. Gergen says it's important to understand what was external and internal, what was in your control and what wasn't. Explaining in a non-defensive way what led to the mistake can help people better understand why it happened and how to avoid it in the future.

Change your ways

Mistakes play a critical role in leadership development. "The best kind of mistake is where the costs are low but the learning is high," Schoemaker says. If the error was a result of a poor decision, explain to your boss and other interested parties how you will avoid making the same or a similar misstep in the future. You have to respond quickly before people make judgments about your competence or expertise. "You need to get on top of it, get ahead of it, and deal with it," Gergen says.

By demonstrating that you've changed as a result of your mistake, you reassure your superiors, peers and direct reports that you can be trusted with equally important tasks or decisions in the future. "If you are going to pay the price for making the mistake, you need to get the learning," Schoemaker says. This is far easier in a learning culture than in a performance-focused culture, in which mistakes are often viewed more harshly. But regardless of the office environment, you need to figure out "how you can translate the mistake from a liability into an asset," Gergen says.

Rely on your support network

A strong support network can help you. "Our research shows that a healthy support network has three components: authentic trusting relationships, a diverse range of perspectives and is reciprocal," Gergen says. Ask current or former colleagues or people outside the organization for their perspective on the mistake and what they believe you can do to recover. They are likely to have some useful advice about how to frame the error and restore your reputation.

Get back out there

It can be hard to rebuild confidence after slipping up. The key is to not let your errors make you afraid of experimentation. Once the mistake is behind you, focus on the future. If it made people question your expertise, put more data points out there to rebuild their trust. Remember that mistakes are not signs of weakness or ineptitude; recovering from them demonstrates resilience and perseverance. Both Gergen and Schoemaker emphasize that many employers look for people who made mistakes and came out ahead.

Not all mistakes are created equal

Mistakes vary in degree and type, and some can be tougher to recover from than others. Schoemaker notes that group mistakes are often easier to get over because there is a diffusion of responsibility. Mistakes that involve breaking someone's trust can have lasting consequences and contrition is critical. If your mistake has caused someone to lose trust in you, approach the person and offer a sincere apology. Ask what you can do to restore his trust. But be patient — forgiveness may take a long time.

Principles to Remember

Do:

Accept responsibility for your role in the mistake

Show that you've learned and will behave differently going forward

Demonstrate that you can be trusted with equally important decisions in the future

Don't:

Be defensive or blame others

Make mistakes that violate people's trust — these are the toughest to recover from

Stop experimenting or hold back because of a misstep

Case Study No. 1: A supportive boss and colleagues speed up recovery

As the associate director of the Science & Environmental Health Network (SEHN), one of Katie Silberman's responsibilities is to manage the nonprofit organization's grant applications. Last August, Katie created a calendar to track important funding dates; it included due dates for current grant reports as well as deadlines to reapply for future funding. In late January, Katie emailed the foundation officer at one of the organization's primary funders to check in about their re-application for 2010, thinking she was ahead of schedule.

But the foundation officer replied that the 2010 deadline had just passed. Katie was shocked. She had a March deadline on her calendar — that was when the report for the 2009 grant was due, and Katie expected they would talk about reapplying then. SEHN needed the foundation grant to make it through the year. "To lose a funder in this environment isn't just bad, it's catastrophic," Katie says. It turns out that each January someone at SEHN calls the foundation officer to discuss that year's cycle. Katie wasn't aware of this informal meeting, but it was her responsibility to know each funder relationship in and out and to ensure that the organization was on top of each funding opportunity.

Katie immediately called her boss, explained the mistake and offered ideas about how they could secure new funding sources to keep the organization afloat. Because she was forthright, she and the rest of the SEHN team were extremely supportive, offering to join a team call and do whatever they could to help. The foundation officer had let Katie know that there was a deadline in May for a separate round of funding and so SEHN has decided to submit an idea for a new project conceived at a recent retreat. Katie is optimistic they'll get it funded.

While Katie felt like she had made an enormous mistake, she learned from it. Her calendar of deadlines now also includes "unwritten" ones and meetings in addition to the hard dates issued by funders.

Case Study No. 2: Don't blame the economy, change your ways

In the late 1990s, Christopher Gergen, one of our experts from above, co-founded Smarthinking.com, an online tutoring service for high school and college students. Christopher and his partner raised their first round of financing in the spring of 1999. The company grew quickly: by the beginning of 2000, it had 30 employees and was ready to launch. Then the dot-com bubble burst. In a matter of weeks, the company's financing fell through. With six weeks of cash in the bank, Christopher and his co-founder were facing one of the biggest mistakes of their lives. Like many, they failed to foresee the bubble bursting and left the company and themselves exposed.

Christopher had prior experience with companies facing hard times and had seen leaders hide behind closed doors. He and his co-founder took a different approach. They brought their whole staff together and explained exactly what needed to happen to save the company. Emphasizing that they couldn't pull it off alone, they were clear about what each person and function needed to do.

They "limped" through that spring and summer, but were able to raise a $5-million round of funding in the fall and winter. While Christopher could easily blame the economy for what happened, he takes full responsibility for putting the company in an over-extended position. "While outside circumstances were not in our control, the ability to manage through it was," he says. Most importantly, he learned from the mistake and began to take a much more disciplined approach to cash flow. As a result of how he and his co-founder handled the aftermath, the company indeed survived and now has cohesive culture with practically no turnover. It just celebrated its 11th anniversary and made it through the recent downturn with very few hiccups.

ARTICLES YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED THAT AREN’T WORTH MISSING...

“The ideals that lighted my way, and time after time have given me new courage to face life cheerfully have been kindness, beauty and truth.” -- Albert Einstein

Mario Batali: The Life's Work Interview

We Have Met the Enemy and He Is PowerPoint

STORIES TO SHARE....

“Risk more than others think is safe. Care more than others think is wise. Dream more than others think is practical. Expect more than others think is possible.” -- Claude T. Bissell

The Puppet

By Johnny Welch

This is the work of an obscure Mexican ventriloquist who had written it for his puppet sidekick "Mofles." But somehow his name had been replaced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize for literature. Welch admitted that he was not a great writer but felt the disappointment of not getting credit.?During the summer of 1999, Garcia Marquez, author of "One Hundred Years of Solitude," was treated for lymphatic cancer. In the wake of that, this poetic verse has been circulated online as his farewell letter to friends. While, in fact, it was written about how a puppet would feel if given a chance, by God, at real life. -- ENJOY!

If, for a moment, God would forget that I am a rag doll and give me a scrap of life...

I would not say everything that I think, but I would definitely think everything that I say.

I would value things not for how much they are worth but rather for what they mean.

I would sleep little, dream more. I know that for each minute that we close our eyes we lose sixty seconds of light.

I would walk when the others loiter; I would awaken when the others sleep.

I would listen when the others speak, and how I would enjoy a good chocolate ice cream.

If God would bestow on me a scrap of life, I would dress simply, I would throw myself flat under the sun, exposing not only my body but also my soul.

My God, if I had a heart, I would write my hatred on ice and wait for the sun to come out. With a dream of Van Gogh I would paint on the stars a poem by Benedetti, and a song by Serrat would be my serenade to the moon.

With my tears I would water the roses, to feel the pain of their thorns and the incarnated kiss of their petals.

My God, if I only had a scrap of life...

I wouldn't let a single day go by without saying to people I love, that I love them.

I would convince each woman or man that they are my favourites and I would live in love with love.

I would prove to the men how mistaken they are in thinking that they no longer fall in love when they grow old -- not knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love. 

To a child I would give wings, but I would let him learn how to fly by himself. To the old I would teach that death comes not with old age but with forgetting.

I have learned so much from you men...

I have learned that everybody wants to live at the top of the mountain without realizing that true happiness lies in the way we climb the slope.

I have learned that when a newborn first squeezes his father's finger in his tiny fist, he has caught him forever.

I have learned that a man only has the right to look down on another man when it is to help him to stand up.

I have learned so many things from you, but in the end most of it will be no use because when they put me inside that suitcase, unfortunately, I will be dying.

Follow me on Twitter: michaelombardi

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