Lesson 4: Don’t Dig Holes

Lamb Lessons

Don’t dig holes, now, what on earth does that mean? This one goes hand in hand with number 3! If you didn’t read number 3, you can read it here, Avoiding hypotheticals and dealing with actuals was the key message in number 3 and I can tell you that this one is the second half. We are the WARRIOR LEADERS so we jump in headfirst! We fight for our teams and get shit done! On the opposite side of this are the “avoidance leaders”. (No shouty caps for that type of leader!) Those are the ones that say, “Yes, yes, I understand” and then do NOTHING about the situation. They appease the team with their, “I got this”. But if the team has seen this more than once, they know the deal. They know that this leader is really not going to do anything to help or fix the situation.

I love the WARRIOR LEADERS. The ones that jump in headfirst no matter the cost. Hell, I am one of those leaders. And there is nothing I love more than being a fixer and GETTING SHIT DONE! But I have learned to refine this skill along the way. There is a way to be a WARRIOR and also have all the details, be level headed, and be respectful of all involved. When you can learn to do this and handle situations with a strong fierceness, but also respectful and level headed; YOU HAVE CROSSED OVER TO THE TRUE WARRIOR LEADER STATUS!

As I am sure you can tell if you have read the first three lessons, I have learned a lot throughout my career! It took some really great leaders around me to show me how to become my best self, and I am still learning. But you know who I also learned from? Just like in life, I learned from the leaders that showed me “what not to do”! Sometimes we learn the most when we become an observer and analyze situations from every angle. And I can tell you, from more skinned knees than I would like to admit, that this one lesson can truly change your whole professional career. It sounds like a lofty claim, but it’s so true! So let’s get into the details of this lesson.


You have a situation arise: you have conquered lesson 3 and now you are dealing with the actuals! In order to have time to gather the facts, you must promptly and succinctly do 3 things. You must let all parties involved know that you are gathering the details, that you genuinely care about the issue at hand, and that you will manage it and take it seriously once you have all of the information. This buys you the time to do all the work needed to prep for the solution, it eases the “hype” of the situation and it allows for a calm to take over.

Once you have done your research and you have figured out all of the angles, you are ready to discuss with the parties affected what happened and what you are going to do about it. But you can’t breeze past lesson 4! And the only way to not dig yourself into a hole is to prepare for what lies ahead. This is a critical, critical point. And this is the most skipped step. How you handle it makes all the difference. You need to be level headed. Have you calmed down? Do you feel the boiling point has passed? Calm your nerves and start to think about how you are going to talk through the issue. A great way to do this is to write out the details. It always helps to write down all of the facts you have gathered and figure out how you are going to word things. This is the dig your hole part. How you word it can either dig you out or dig you further in. Are you nodding? Are you smiling? You know you’ve been here before. You started down a path to dig out of something and boom, you just dug 6 feet further down into the depths of the earth. Lordy! This is not going to be easy. But if you take notice of some key triggers, you can avoid that digging deeper part altogether!

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As you prepare your outline of the details, you will need to assess a few key components. First, does there need to be an apology? This is important. Not all situations need an apology, but some need one first and foremost! If you determine this right out of the gate you can set the entire tone for the solution and conversation. Many times I see someone over apologize right out of the gate. Hmmm, that does not always work in your favor.  It actually can begin the dig on this new 6-foot hole you are about to fall into! Some situations do not need an apology at all. Here’s one of those read it again sentences! Seriously, if there was no ill intent, there may not be an apology that has to be made. You can also soften an apology with a genuine, “I’m sorry that this happened”. But profusely apologizing for something that was caused by a lack of process or procedure does not always get you that extra mile. Think of this as offense versus defense. How far do you need to actually go? A more general, “This is an unfortunate situation” can go a very long way. But listen, you have to do a gut check here. If you use the wrong tone or degree of apology, you can send the whole thing sideways. Put on your WARRIOR hat and tune into your gut. What would make YOU feel better if the situation had happened to you? And be GENUINE! Seriously, if you are not genuine they will feel it! And boom, a few more shovels full of fresh dirt deep!


Okay, you’ve written your outline, figured out the tone and degree of apology needed; now you need to outline the solution. What are you willing to do? Do you know what they are asking for? If you are dealing with clients, you may be asked for compensation for an error or a credit of services. Figure out what you can afford to give, what you think is fair, and what the timing can be. It is so important to know these details BEFORE you address the situation. Too many times we go knee-deep into the issue and we haven’t thought through this part. And guess what? Yep, you guessed it, because you didn’t prepare and you fumbled the response, now you are going to have to GIVE more. I guarantee you, if you don’t prepare for this part, you will be digging out of something YOU now have created. Digga digga dig! Sing it with me! IT’S THE WORST! So take the moment and prep for this part. Be diligent and know what you can and can’t do. If you need approvals on the solutions, you can get those ahead of time! Knowing what you can and can’t do before you go in goes a long way with the parties that you are dealing with and lets them know that you have authority in the situation. If you don’t, they are just going to ask to go to your manager. And that is the worst-case scenario in my book. I always used that as my guidepost for how I was doing as a leader. If something had to go to my boss, then I didn’t handle it. This was a clear indicator of the work I still needed to do to hone my leadership skills! And the job I did NOT accomplish.


Tip number 3, breathe! Seriously, do some breathing before you go in. No matter who you are it is stressful handling tough situations. And breathing can help you calm your nerves before you go in. It sounds so simple and some of you might be thinking that it sounds stupid, but your nerves can get the best of you. We have all been there. That DAMN quivery voice. SHIT, it can derail everything we are trying to fix! So breathe, breathe, breathe. Before you go into the meeting or before you get on the phone, go to the bathroom and do a 3 minute breathing exercise. If you have an Apple Watch, theres an app for that! SERIOUSLY, don’t roll your eyes on this one. If you go in with all your preparation plus the solution and then you have a shaky voice you are NOT going to be the WARRIOR LEADER! You are going to sound like the wimpy leader. It’s just that simple. Breathing allows for your diaphragm to fill with air and for your body to have enough oxygen to handle the response to unexpected nerves. You don’t have a crystal ball to know what they are going to say back to you. It may smooth over, but how many times have you hung up the phone and said, “Wow, I didn’t see it going that way”. So prepare, prepare, prepare! And breathe, breathe, breathe!


The more you follow all of the steps above, the better off you will be. Once I learned and conquered these key steps, I would come out of a tough situation and my team would look at me like I was a Jedi! (Term of endearment that I received after handling a horrible situation. I’ll never forget that WIN! A little shout out to my number 1, you know who you are!) Because I was so prepared for all angles, I was able to handle the situation like a true WARRIOR! And I can tell you, there is no better feeling! When you are missing facts, you will not see what’s coming. You will be blindsided. This doesn’t mean there won’t still be times when you go up against something you didn’t see coming. But you will start to be able to ebb and flow through those scenarios. The more you do it, the better you will become. And the number one thing that will grow is YOUR CONFIDENCE! And confidence is a sign of a true WARRIOR LEADER! I can tell you after 25 years of customer service, there is little that I haven’t seen and every single scenario helps prepare you for the next! Every situation has three sides; your side, my side, and what actually happened. Pull in lessons 1 and 2! Kill them with kindness, and leave out the “lead-ins” that make you sound disingenuous anyway and you are on your road to WARRIOR LEADER STATUS!

Outline the details, decide the level of apology, discuss the solution, and deliver the message calmly are the keys to conquering this lesson! You will always WIN if you follow these steps! It’s time to take the reigns! You’ve got this! Preparation is EVERYTHING! It will show your team you are in control, and you are a WARRIOR LEADER!


Nicolle Lamb

Nicolle Lamb, CEO/Founder of Lane Marketing. With more than 20 years of experience in marketing, Nicolle took a leap of faith and started her own company in 2020. She is doing amazing work helping her clients ensure their advertising budgets are spent wisely! She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with 3 amazing kids, one awesome dog, and a wonderful husband. Baseball, Fastpitch, and Volleyball schedules are just a few pieces of Nicolle’s Mom Hustle. Spring tests her sanity every year due to these sports schedules. She enjoys decorating, DIY projects, pretending to be a runner, reading, and spending time with her husband, 3 kids, and her dog.

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