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Lessons from the Seven-10 Split

Not long ago a colleague, Roland, and I discovered a scheduling conflict for a training course for several of our supervisors that would affect an operational commitment over the same set of days. In short, we had erred and found it necessary to notify the training center that we would have to abandon our reservations. There was no time to properly cancel our paid reservations and enrollment into the highly sought-after class, and no way to alter co-worker schedules to cover such a significant absence.

Fortunately, Roland approached this openly and immediately. And while we anticipated our call to be an understandable source of frustration for our failure, his communication to the training center was received in a highly professional and understanding manner. Contributing factors made the next opportunity for success possible. First, we handled this discovery in the only responsible way we believed it could be handled — quickly, honestly, and by taking immediate ownership of the problem — our problem. But the equally critical component that I found myself appreciating was the training center’s complete understanding of our circumstances and appreciation of our honesty and our commitment to the learning we sought. And they chose to make the problem theirs, too.  In short, the training center rescheduled us into the very next session just a few weeks later. What could have been a costly and frustrating oversight on our part was solved with exemplary customer service by our vendor.

Shortly afterward, I complimented Roland for the manner that he used when he responded to our shortcoming and thanked him for the diligence in getting word to the vendor so completely and openly.  When Roland replied, he did so with this little gem. “Actually,” he said, “I’ve learned how to roll a few spares over the years.”  And with that wisdom, I began to see the enormous additional value when everyone works toward a successful second chance, regardless of their position in the circumstance.

I also found myself quite intrigued by the remarkably poignant metaphor of bowling to success, and the manner with which we all approach second chances. For it is indeed quite true that some second opportunities to complete or accomplish a goal are much more difficult than others, and many still need contributions from others.

Among the most difficult spares to make in bowling is the 7-10. When a bowler is left with the two farthest pins, immediately across from one another and at opposite sides of the lane … well, the options are naturally very limited. The player can choose from two options, playable on either side of the lane.  The player can attempt to direct his ball to the very end of the lane, straddling the gutter as the ball strikes the outside of the pin so as to force it across the lane to strike the other before it falls into the pit behind the pin deck. The other option for every player facing this nearly insurmountable task is to direct the ball with enough force to strike the inside portion of one of the pins so that it will bounce off the wall, and its bounce will carry it across the lane until it strikes the lone remaining pin.

For most of us, these options are almost exclusively the actions of professionals. And, for most of us, the option we most often pursue is to focus our energy and skills on knocking down one pin or the other — knowing the importance of accomplishing even a modest additional portion of our goal.  Most of our second opportunities to complete our goals don’t come in the form of a 7-10 split, of course, but second chances are important and we must value them fully — as well as those who remain part of that circumstance and scenario.

Our ability to manage well these second opportunities develops over time. As we recognize, accept, and appreciate these additional chances to accomplish our goals, we become more skilled and more assured with each successful achievement under those conditions. These skills improve us, but just as my colleague Roland demonstrated through his choice in handling our organizational challenge, we can also contribute to the opportunity for others to find additional forms of success.

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