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Leading with Empathy: Unlocking Your Team’s Zone of Genius

Empathy – it’s a leadership buzzword thrown around a lot. But what does it truly mean to lead with empathy? Sure, it involves understanding emotions and perspectives. But great leaders take it a step further: they see the potential within their team members. They understand that empathy includes finding each person’s “zone of genius.”

The concept of the “zone of genius” comes from the idea that we all have areas where we naturally excel. These are the activities that energize us, come easily, and allow us to produce exceptional results. When a leader can identify these zones within their team, they unlock a powerful dynamic.

Why Focus on the Zone of Genius?

Leading with empathy through the lens of the zone of genius offers several advantages:

  • Increased Engagement: People are most passionate and productive when they’re doing what they do best. By placing individuals in their zones of genius, you ignite their intrinsic motivation. They’ll feel a sense of purpose and ownership over their work.
  • Enhanced Performance: When someone operates in their zone of genius, they deliver exceptional results. Their natural talents and abilities shine through, leading to higher quality work and increased efficiency.
  • Stronger Teams: When individuals understand and appreciate each other’s strengths, collaboration flourishes. Team members become more supportive, leveraging each other’s zones of genius for collective success.
  • Improved Retention: People who feel valued and utilized for their unique strengths are more likely to stay with an organization. Recognizing and nurturing their zone of genius fosters a sense of belonging and career growth.

So, How Do You Find Your Team’s Zone of Genius?

Here are some practical tips to get you started:

  • Open Communication: The foundation lies in open communication. Encourage regular conversations where team members can discuss their passions, interests, and past accomplishments. Ask them about projects they’ve enjoyed and excelled in.
  • Observe and Assess: As a leader, be an attentive observer. Watch for patterns in behavior and performance. Who naturally gravitates toward specific tasks? Who thrives under pressure or excels in brainstorming sessions?
  • Strengths Assessments: Consider utilizing personality or strengths assessments. While not definitive, these tools can provide valuable insights into natural capabilities and preferred work styles.
  • Direct Feedback: Don’t shy away from direct feedback. Ask team members for their self-assessment on strengths and weaknesses. Encourage honest conversations to refine your understanding of their zones of genius.


Finding your team’s zone of genius is an ongoing process. As people grow and develop, their strengths might evolve. Be prepared to continually adapt and refine your approach.

Leading with empathy through the zone of genius isn’t just about being nice, it’s about unlocking the full potential of your team. By empowering individuals to operate in their strengths, you create a dynamic and high-performing organization.

Now, go forth and discover the hidden genius within your team!

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Cultivating Harmony: Growing vs. Building Company Culture

Company culture. It’s a buzzword thrown around in boardrooms and plastered across job postings. But what exactly is it, and how do you achieve it? There seems to be a common misconception: culture is something you build, a foundation laid from scratch. But a thriving company culture is more akin to a garden – something nurtured and encouraged to grow organically.

This post dives into the difference between building and growing a company culture, exploring the benefits of the latter and offering tips for cultivating a positive and thriving work environment.

Building vs. Growing: A Tale of Two Cultures

Imagine a company with a sleek mission statement and a list of core values displayed prominently on the lobby wall. They offer ping pong tables and free lunches, perks meant to foster a fun and collaborative atmosphere. This is an example of a “built” culture. It’s designed from the top down, with leaders dictating the desired behaviors and interactions.

While these elements can be a good starting point, a built culture often feels inauthentic. Perks become gimmicks, and core values remain unlived principles. Employees may go through the motions, but a genuine sense of belonging and purpose is missing.

Growing a company culture, on the other hand, is a collaborative effort. It’s about creating an environment where the seeds of shared values, open communication, and trust can take root and flourish. Here, leadership plays a crucial role in providing the right conditions for growth, not dictating the outcome.

The Advantages of Growing a Culture

So why choose to grow a culture over building one? Here are some compelling reasons:

  • Sustainability: A built culture can feel forced and fragile. When the focus is on maintaining a facade, cracks can easily appear as situations change. A grown culture, however, is deeply ingrained in the DNA of the company, making it more resilient and adaptable.
  • Authenticity: When employees are empowered to contribute to the culture, it reflects their genuine values and preferences. This authenticity leads to a higher level of engagement and overall satisfaction.
  • Innovation: A thriving culture fosters open communication and collaboration. This environment encourages employees to share ideas and experiment, leading to a culture of innovation and continuous improvement.
  • Employee Ownership: When employees feel a sense of ownership over the culture, they become invested in its success. This translates into higher levels of accountability, productivity, and talent retention.

Growing Your Garden: Practical Tips for Cultivating Culture

Now that we understand the benefits of a grown culture, how do we actually cultivate it? Here are some practical tips:

  • Define Your Core Values – Together: Core values are the guiding principles that shape employee behavior and decision-making. Involve your team in defining these values through workshops, surveys, or open discussions.
  • Lead by Example: Leaders set the tone for the culture. Live and breathe the company values in your daily interactions and decision-making.
  • Empower Your People: Give your employees a voice. Encourage open communication, feedback, and participation in shaping the work environment.
  • Celebrate Successes: Recognize and reward employees who exemplify your core values. This reinforces positive behaviors and motivates others to follow suit.
  • Transparency is Key: Keep your team informed about company decisions, goals, and challenges. Transparency fosters trust and a sense of shared purpose.
  • Focus on Learning and Growth: Invest in your employees’ personal and professional development. When people feel valued and have opportunities to learn, they’re more engaged and contribute more to the overall culture.
  • Recognize and Address Issues Quickly: A positive culture doesn’t shy away from difficult conversations. When problems arise, address them openly and honestly to prevent them from festering and undermining trust.

Conclusion: A Continuous Journey

Growing a company culture is an ongoing process. It requires continuous nurturing, adaptation, and celebration. There will be setbacks and challenges, but by fostering an environment of trust, transparency, and shared values, you can cultivate a thriving work environment that attracts top talent, drives innovation, and fuels success.

Remember, your company culture is not a destination, but a journey. Embrace the growth mindset, empower your people, and watch your garden bloom.

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Maximizing Your Return on Invested TIME

Many years ago, a business coach and mentor I knew named Gerry Fusco introduced me to a phrase he invented. Return on invested time (ROIT).

As business owners and leaders, we know about ROI, ROE, EBITDA, SDE, etc. But have you ever spent any waking hours measuring ROIT?

We make plans, build budgets, measure KPIs, and do many other quantitative things to assess business performance yet we seldom ask about the time we spend and the return on THAT! However, time is the one thing that can be the most valuable commodity you manage.

Or does time manage you? There are so many related questions to ask ourselves.

Qualitative Assessment

I mentioned quantitative assessment measures. What about qualitative ones? I’d argue that ROIT is both quantitative and qualitative.

It’s the qualitative aspects of ROIT that give us the right blend and harmony in our search for work/life rhythm.

In my last article, I challenged us to revisit our thoughts about time. I said time is the ONE THING we all share. Each and every one of us is blessed with 86,400 seconds every day. How we choose to use that time makes all the difference in the world.

It’s the key difference between becoming a multi-millionaire or the next entrepreneur barely making it.

Choices about time can pay big dividends. So that brings us back to ROIT.

For all of the time on your calendar, how do you choose the best opportunities to spend time? And to what events, people, or things, do you give time?

Once time gets scheduled, how do evaluate the benefit of having spent that time?

Here are some options

First, decide whether time spent advances any part of your master plan. It’s likely answering those 300 emails at 8:00 AM does NOT!

It has been said (in many ways) that we should focus on working toward our “big rocks” first. Those big things we’re trying to move and make progress against often get set aside because they are big.

We fool ourselves into thinking that clearing away a thousand little things buys us time to do the big things. That mindset is exactly 180 degrees upside down.

Next, a failure to delegate keeps us bound up and distracted. The myth that “I can do it better myself” has kept many good people down. No, Teaching a team to do the little things can free you up for bigger things. Yes, you have to invest some time to do that teaching, but the ROIT will pay off in big ways.

Too many founders live in the mindset of “only I know what we’re really trying to do here.” If that’s actually true, SHAME ON YOU! Why have you not shared that with a team? Why hasn’t your crew learned what your idea of success is about?

Lastly, elevate your idea about the real value of your time. If you think too little of the time in your day, no one else will think more of it.

Work to eliminate any kind of limiting belief about how you spend time. Things like ‘it’s no big deal, I can do it tomorrow.’ Reframe everything you ever thought or felt about time in the day.

Time is precious. Value it. Use it wisely.

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12 Critical Questions to Ignite Your Team in the New Year: Go Beyond Goals, Embrace Ownership

The new year stretches before us, a blank canvas full of possibilities. As a business owner, you’re likely brimming with plans and goals, but are you tapping into the full potential of your team? Setting objectives is crucial, but it’s only the first brushstroke. To unleash the masterpiece, we need to delve deeper, fostering personal commitment and unwavering loyalty to the company’s vision, mission, and values.

This e-book delves into 12 critical questions designed to ignite individual ownership and propel your team to new heights. These questions are not mere checkboxes; they’re conversation starters, invitations to a deeper partnership in shaping your company’s destiny.

Ready to ignite your team and paint a masterpiece of success? Let’s dive in!

1. “What resonates most deeply with you about our company’s vision?”: Uncover what sparks their passion, aligning individual aspirations with the company’s core purpose.

2. “What does your ideal professional future look like within this company?”: Help them build a roadmap for growth, demonstrating your commitment to their development.

3. “What roadblocks have hindered your progress in the past year?”: Identify obstacles, empower them to overcome them, and eliminate systemic issues hampering performance.

4. “If you could change one thing about our communication channels, what would it be?”: Foster open dialogue, ensuring everyone feels heard and valued.

5. “What initiative aligns with your strengths and passions that you’d love to tackle?”: Unleash hidden talents and ignite ownership by empowering them to champion projects they believe in.

6. “How can we better celebrate individual and team victories, big and small?”: Recognition fuels motivation. Cultivate a culture of appreciation to keep the momentum going.

7. “What values beyond our core set do you think are essential for our team’s success?”: Encourage collaboration and inclusivity by welcoming their perspectives.

8. “If you could design your ideal work environment, what would it look like?”: Prioritize their well-being. Address concerns about workspace, tools, and flexibility to improve their experience.

9. “What opportunities for learning and development would you value most?”: Invest in their growth. Offer training, mentorship, or conference attendance to nurture their skills.

10. “How can we better connect our individual roles to the company’s broader mission?”: Show them how their contributions matter, weaving their work into the bigger picture.

11. “What concerns do you have about the future of the company?”: Foster open communication and transparency. Address their worries head-on to build trust and resilience.

12. “What excites you most about the possibilities ahead for our team?”: Rekindle their enthusiasm for the journey. Let them envision the shared success that awaits.

Remember, these questions are just the spark. Listen intently, engage in open dialogue, and act upon their feedback. By igniting their ownership and aligning individual aspirations with the company’s vision, you’ll paint a masterpiece of success, together.

Go beyond goals, embrace ownership, and watch your team shine!

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Facing the Dragons: Why Leadership Starts with Confrontation, Not Control

We, the captains of our professional and community ships, spend our days steering, navigating, and occasionally throwing out life preservers. We’re problem solvers, decision-makers, and cheerleaders, fueled by the noble ambition to make things better. But in the pursuit of progress, one crucial truth can get swallowed by the waves: you can’t fix what you won’t face.

It’s tempting, isn’t it? To tiptoe around the storm clouds, hoping they’ll dissipate on their own. To smooth over cracks in the hull with a fresh coat of paint, ignoring the ominous groans from below. We fear the chaos, the backlash, the messy detangling of the knots we’ve inherited or inadvertently tied ourselves. But this avoidance game, this dance with denial, is ultimately a leadership failure. It betrays the trust of those who rely on us to chart a safe and honest course.

Here’s the thing: problems, challenges, and yes, even dragons, rarely melt away under the sunbeams of avoidance. They grow, they fester, they evolve into three-headed hydra monsters that make steering impossible. By refusing to face them head-on, we surrender the power to shape the outcome. We become reactive bystanders, not proactive navigators.

So, where do we begin?

How do we shed the Captain Ahab cloak and become genuine dragon slayers? It starts with a simple, gut-wrenching act: acknowledgment. Recognize the storm, don’t pretend it’s a passing drizzle. Name the cracks, don’t cover them with posters of happy crewmates. This isn’t about negativity; it’s about creating a shared reality, a foundation on which solutions can be built.

Confrontation isn’t an attack, it’s an invitation. It’s opening the door to a difficult conversation, stepping into the discomfort zone where growth resides. It’s about listening without judgment, understanding not only the problem but also the underlying fears and anxieties it stirs. This is where trust truly gets forged, in the crucible of shared vulnerability.

Once we’ve faced the dragon, its horns lose their shine. We can begin to dissect its anatomy, understand its motivations, and identify its weak spots. This is where the real leadership magic happens. It’s not about controlling the dragon, but about inspiring others to join the fight. It’s about empowering your team, your community, to take ownership, to raise their swords and shields together.

Yes, facing the dragon is messy.

There will be dissent, disagreement, and moments of sheer terror. But remember, the alternative is far worse: a ship adrift, crew demoralized, waiting for the inevitable iceberg. By leading with courage, honesty, and a willingness to embrace the storm, we create the conditions for true transformation.

This doesn’t mean rushing into every battle with reckless abandon. Strategic retreat and careful planning are vital parts of the dragon-slaying arsenal. But ultimately, the key to leading effectively lies in recognizing that our leadership doesn’t reside in our ability to fix things, but in our courage to face them – even when the fire breathes hot and the wings blot out the sun.

So, let’s set sail, not with maps of predetermined outcomes, but with compasses that point towards honest confrontation. Let’s be leaders who face the dragons, not bystanders waiting for the rescue boats. And who knows, maybe along the way, we’ll discover that the fire we feared not only illuminates the path, but also forges our own wings.

Remember, leaders:

  • Acknowledgment is the first step to resolution.
  • Confrontation isn’t about negativity; it’s about shared reality.
  • Empowerment, not control, is the key to slaying dragons.
  • Courage and honesty are the fuel of effective leadership.
  • Facing the storms makes the calm seas even sweeter.

Now, go forth and slay some dragons (figuratively, of course). Your crew and your community are counting on you.

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Stepping Up, Stepping Out: Trust vs. Belief in Leadership

Let’s face it, folks. Leading a team isn’t about holding all the answers; it’s about knowing who does. And that, my friends, takes an intricate dance between two key players: trust and belief. They might sound like two sides of the same coin, but their roles in your leadership tango are distinctly different.

Trust is the bedrock.

It’s the unwavering confidence in someone’s reliability, honesty, and competence. It’s handing over a critical task without flinching, knowing they’ll deliver. Trust is earned, not granted. It takes time, proof, and a good dose of vulnerability. Remember that rookie you took a chance on a year ago? The one who fumbled at first but kept getting back up? Seeing them nail that presentation with laser focus – that’s trust blooming.

Belief, on the other hand, is a leap of faith.

It’s seeing potential where others see blank canvas. It’s whispering, “You’ve got this,” before they even know they do. Belief isn’t blind – it’s fueled by keen observation, an understanding of strengths, and a healthy dose of encouragement. Think about that quiet kid in the corner with a spark in their eyes. The one who hesitates to speak up but scribbles in notebooks filled with audacious ideas? Believing in them means nurturing that spark, showing them they have a voice, and waiting for it to ignite.

So, where do the lines blur? Here’s the rub: you can trust someone without believing in them, but you can’t truly believe in them without trusting them first. It’s a two-way street. You entrust them with responsibility, watch them grow, and that trust builds the bridge for your belief to soar.

Of course, it’s not always sunshine and rainbows. Trust gets broken, sometimes spectacularly. Belief gets misplaced, and the fall can be hard. But that’s just another lesson in the leadership waltz. We dust ourselves off, rebuild trust with open communication and accountability, and keep believing in the potential that shines through, even in the dimmest moments.

Because here’s the thing: when you truly trust and believe in your team, it’s magic. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. They rise to the occasion, exceeding expectations, and you bask in the collective glow of achievement. That’s when you know you’ve mastered the leadership tango – weaving trust and belief into a tapestry of excellence, one empowered step at a time.

P.S. Don’t forget to trust and believe in yourself too. You’re the conductor of this symphony, after all. Now grab your metaphorical baton and let the music play!

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From Spark to Flame: Keeping Your Business Hot While It Scales

Overcoming Challenges as Your Business Scales

As any entrepreneur knows, building momentum is exhilarating! But riding that wave of success isn’t without its challenges. Here are some of the biggest hurdles you might face and how to navigate them:

1. Scaling Without Sacrificing Quality:

  • Stumbling block: Expanding too quickly can lead to operational inefficiencies, product/service inconsistencies, and compromised customer experience.
  • Maximize opportunity: Implement robust systems and processes to manage growth. Invest in training and talent development to maintain quality standards. Prioritize customer feedback and adapt offerings to evolving needs.

2. Maintaining Agility in a Growing Organization:

  • Stumbling block: Bureaucracy and rigid structures can stifle innovation and responsiveness to market changes.
  • Maximize opportunity: Empower employees and encourage cross-functional collaboration. Embrace a culture of experimentation and rapid prototyping. Stay informed about industry trends and be prepared to adapt strategies.

3. Keeping the Team Motivated:

  • Stumbling block: Initial passion can wane as responsibilities increase, leading to burnout and decreased engagement.
  • Maximize opportunity: Foster a transparent and communicative environment. Recognize and reward individual and team achievements. Invest in employee well-being initiatives. Align personal goals with the company’s mission to create a sense of shared purpose.

4. Attracting and Retaining Top Talent:

  • Stumbling block: As competition for talent intensifies, attracting and keeping skilled individuals can become difficult.
  • Maximize opportunity: Offer competitive compensation and benefits, but more importantly, create a stimulating work environment. Focus on career development opportunities. Cultivate a strong company culture that attracts and retains top performers.

5. Adapting to Change and Disruption:

  • Stumbling block: Clinging to outdated business models or ignoring disruptive trends can lead to obsolescence.
  • Maximize opportunity: Foster a culture of continuous learning and innovation. Track emerging technologies and market shifts. Be willing to pivot strategies and adapt to new challenges.

Remember, navigating these challenges takes constant vigilance, strategic planning, and a commitment to agility. By recognizing potential roadblocks and proactively maximizing opportunities, you can ensure your business sustains its momentum and thrives in the long run.

If you need help with scaling your business, call on us.

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The Art of Management Run Businesses: A Comprehensive Guide

In the dynamic and ever-evolving world of business, management plays a pivotal role in determining the success or failure of an organization. Management-run businesses, where a team of experienced and qualified professionals oversees operations, have emerged as a prevalent and effective model for achieving organizational goals. This article delves into the intricacies of management-run businesses, exploring their defining characteristics, advantages, and challenges.

Many small businesses are run by the owner/founder. While great stories of success have come from this basic model, real growth and multiplier effect on the business does not happen until the owner opens up the control and delegates authority to a team of leaders within the business.

Management-run businesses are characterized by a distinct structure where a team of experienced and skilled managers, often with diverse expertise, takes on the responsibility of steering the organization towards its objectives.

These managers, typically holding senior positions within the company, possess a deep understanding of the industry, market dynamics, and operational processes. Their collective leadership and decision-making capabilities form the backbone of the management-run business model.

Management-run businesses stand apart from other organizational models due to several distinguishing features:

  1. Decentralized Decision-Making: Management-run businesses embrace a decentralized approach to decision-making, empowering individual managers to make informed choices within their respective domains. This fosters agility and responsiveness, enabling the organization to adapt quickly to changing market conditions.
  2. Collaborative Leadership: Collaboration forms the cornerstone of management-run businesses. Managers work together as a cohesive unit, sharing insights, expertise, and perspectives. This collaborative approach promotes strategic alignment and consensus-building, leading to effective decision-making.
  3. Shared Responsibility: Management-run businesses cultivate a culture of shared responsibility, where each manager takes ownership of their decisions and actions. This fosters accountability and engagement, ensuring that individual efforts align with the organization’s overall goals.
  4. Continuous Learning: Management-run businesses prioritize continuous learning and development. Managers actively engage in professional development opportunities, expanding their knowledge and skills to stay abreast of industry trends and best practices.

Management-run businesses offer several advantages that contribute to their success:

  1. Effective Decision-Making: The collective expertise and diverse perspectives of the management team lead to well-informed and strategic decision-making. This enhances the organization’s ability to navigate challenges and seize opportunities.
  2. Agility and Adaptability: The decentralized structure and shared responsibility culture empower managers to make timely decisions, enabling the organization to adapt quickly to changing market conditions. This agility ensures that the business remains competitive and relevant.
  3. Talent Management: Management-run businesses excel at identifying, developing, and retaining top talent. The collaborative leadership style and shared responsibility culture create an environment where employees feel valued and empowered, fostering high levels of engagement and productivity.
  4. Long-Term Perspective: Management-run businesses often adopt a long-term perspective, prioritizing sustainable growth and value creation over short-term gains. This focus on long-term success aligns with the interests of stakeholders and способствует long-term sustainability.

Despite their advantages, management-run businesses face unique challenges:

  1. Communication and Coordination: Effective communication and coordination among managers is crucial for ensuring alignment and preventing conflicts. The decentralized structure requires well-defined communication channels and processes to maintain organizational coherence.
  2. Conflict Resolution: The diversity of perspectives and shared responsibility can lead to disagreements and conflicts. Managers must possess strong conflict resolution skills to navigate these challenges and maintain a harmonious working environment.
  3. Succession Planning: Ensuring a smooth transition of leadership is critical for long-term success. Management-run businesses need to implement effective succession planning strategies to identify and develop future leaders.
  4. Adapting to Change: As industries evolve and market dynamics shift, management-run businesses need to adapt their strategies and decision-making processes accordingly. Continuous learning and a willingness to embrace change are essential for long-term success.

Management-run businesses offer a distinct approach to organizational leadership, leveraging the collective expertise and diverse perspectives of a team of experienced managers.

While these businesses offer several advantages, including effective decision-making, agility, and a long-term perspective, they also face challenges in communication, conflict resolution, succession planning, and adapting to change.

By effectively addressing these challenges, management-run businesses can achieve sustainable success and contribute significantly to the business landscape.

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5 Mistakes Most New Managers Make – And How to Avoid Them

For anyone who is now working in their first-ever management role, you know things can be tough. No doubt you have already made a few mistakes (at least YOU think they are).

Well if you haven’t done these 5 things, your management career is well on its way to a successful run.

1. Dropping the Ball –  Every business unit is organized for a reason. Granted some reasons may be better than others,  but there is a reason in there somewhere. Think of this as “The Ball”.

When you become a first time manager you never want to drop the Ball. Learn what the reason may be for your team to exist. Then lock that in to your view of your role. Get as much information as you can to fully understand this purpose.

2. Losing Confidence – You have to believe in yourself. You ego and psyche may take hits. You may feel intimidated. Just remember you were picked for a reason. Hold on to that truth.

Help your support team (friends, family etc.) understand the things you might be going through. Then ask for help from them.

3. Getting Run Down –  It may be tempting to work long extended hours just to feel like you are staying one step ahead of everything. This schedule may work in short spurts, but you need to be careful. Pay attention to your mental and emotional fatigue.

Finds ways to recharge your own batteries. Whatever your personal preference may be for rest and relaxation (walking, running, the gym, cycling, meditation, etc.), DO IT. Keep up with it.

4. Losing Balance – Similar to #3, maintaining a balance of work, life and faith is vital. Your spouse, family and friends may have to take a slight adjustment of their expectations from you because you are trying to make the new job work. Just don’t take them for granted and don’t make that adjustment period too long.

As soon as possible, get back into balance. Make all the adjustments that need to be made, but try to resume your quest for balance before it is irreparably lost.

5. Never Asking for Help –  No one can know it all; especially not when you are hit with a new responsibility. There will be new demands placed upon you. There is no need to act like you “got this”. Somewhere, somehow, there will be things you need to ask others.

Use a mentor, coach, trusted adviser…somebody you can turn to for advice and wisdom.

Question: What other mistakes have you experienced?