retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Michael Sansolo

Because managers are so integral to the success of companies and individual workers, we need celebrate to any example of wonderful management.

And that’s why we need to revisit the passing of legendary Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee. This isn’t about his contribution to journalism but rather his style as a manager and how reflections about his style can educate us - whether we currently are managers or merely hope to be one someday.

One of the special stories shared in Bradlee’s memory in the Post last week was an anecdote from Milton Coleman, a former Post editor and reporter. Coleman told about a time the newspaper misidentified a person in a photo caption. Bradlee learned about the mistake before Coleman could tell him.

Bradlee went into the newsroom and both loudly and publicly chewed out Coleman. From that the lessons flowed and every part of this episode is worth reading.

1. A few minutes after his outburst, Bradlee summoned Coleman to his office to apologize for his behavior. Managers must certainly deliver criticism, but must do it properly. A public outburst is not the way and Bradlee admitted his action was wrong.

2. Bradlee recognized that mistakes happen, whether in the millions of details in a newspaper or a supermarket. He reminded Coleman that bad news doesn’t improve with age, so there was nothing gained by waiting to tell him. The lesson to all of us: Explain what happened especially when it was a mistake and decide what corrective steps need be taken. Just do it all quickly.

3. Bradlee also reminded Coleman that the mistake wasn’t the end of the world, and told him the following: “You’re running in the fast lane now. You just fell flat on your face. Do you know what that means? Get the (expletive) up and run.” That one is pretty self-explanatory.

I’ve had some great managers in my life, but none ever explained things as succinctly as that and it explains why the tributes to Bradlee from his former staffers are so universally wonderful.

All three of the points he made with Coleman should be considered and discussed by every manager and everyone on their teams. The reality is that mistakes will always happen and the best performers are those who confront them quickly, learn from what happened and, most importantly, get up and start running again.

That’s life.

As we announced here on MorningNewsBeat yesterday, both Kevin and I have new books available now that are filled with lessons for improving your marketing, management and leadership skills. One of the lessons in my book, Business Rules!, is about failure. It’s a lesson frequently taught in cutting edge companies: fail fast and fail cheap.

The lesson is simple: recognize when a project is going wrong and don’t blindly pursue a losing strategy. Learn that there are times to change tactics or simply admit failure and move on. The sooner mistakes are realized the less time and resources are spent. Failure happens and that too is life; so get up and starting running again quickly.

Our books - Kevin’s is called Retail Rules! - are full of straightforward examples like that in hopes of getting you thinking and giving you ideas for discussion with your teams and colleagues. We both believe the world is full of great examples that provide us direction, insight and inspiration.

We hope you agree and that you will find our new books every bit as useful as what we try to do daily here on MorningNewsBeat.


Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at msansolo@morningnewsbeat.com . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available on Amazon by clicking here. And, his book "Business Rules!" is available from Amazon by clicking here.
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