One skills that has helped me a lot in my career is the ability to apologize. Whenever someone brings a problem to my attention, I use this 5-part apology formula.

1) Thank the person for bringing the issue to your attention.

2) Apologize for the mistake.

3) Let them know briefly how it happened.

4) Tell them what you are doing differently to make sure it does not happen again. This is a good time to state your commitment to quality or excellence if it is an error that is hard to prevent or if you are not sure how to phrase what you are going to do to prevent it from happening again. Depending on the degree of the error, you may want to offer them something at this point such as free shipping on their next order of merchandise.

5) Thank them again for calling this issue to your attention.

Here is an excellent example of an apology letter.


Staying on top of email

This year I made a pledge to myself and my staff (since most of my email comes from them) that I will answer all emails within 24 hours. The trick for me has been ignore my flood of email during the day. I average about 50-80 incoming emails each day. During the last hour of my work day, I take my account offline (so I don’t get replies back as I’m replying) and answer them all, then send them out in one batch. The tradeoff is that people need to call me or IM me if they need a response right away, but this was already the case since some days I would not check my email until the afternoon anyway. (My day is usually full of back-to-back meetings with staff.) Resisting the temptation to check email during the day has also allowed me to be more present at meetings, since I’m not trying to sneak in an email or two between each person. I learned this trick from watching my property manager when I was in the process of securing a rental apartment from him. Whenever I emailed him, I would always get a response between 4-5PM.

This blog post by Michael Hyatt talks about this technique and others.

Google’s Quest to Build a Better Manager

Google’s Project Oxygen set out to quantify what makes a great manager by gathering more than 10,000 data points from performance reviews, feedback surveys, and other reports. The list of qualities that they found was not at all surprising, but the order in which they were ranked was not what they expected.

Google’s simple management approach has been: Leave people alone. Let the engineers do their stuff. If they become stuck, they’ll ask their bosses, whose deep technical expertise propelled them into management into the first place.

However, technical expertise was ranked lowest of the eight qualities. The first three–be a good coach, empower your team, be a good communicator–are all key leadership abilities that can be used in any field.

The Quest to Build a Better Boss – The New York Times