A friend of mine with many years of project management experience has developed what he calls the "5L's" . He has allowed me to copy them here. I think they are applicable to all phases of life. I have added comments to them in italics.
The Codner 5L's
By James H. Codner
1. LEAD from the front.
Leadership is not as has hard as it looks. But it takes courage and commitment. No one follows a "leader" who leads from the rear or home office. Lead from the front. Demonstrate active and visible leadership practices. If you don’t have some, go get some steel-toed boots. Drag them behind your car for a few blocks if needed to show some wear; then get out in front and lead. Learn people’s names. Nothing sounds more magical from a leader as speaking to someone by his or her first name.
The president of the first company I worked for urged employees to get out into the field and see where the real work was done. Nothing is more valuable than hands on knowledge and experience and nothing gets you respect faster than the signs that you have been there, done it and got the T shirt (Beat up steel toes, dinged hard hats, and a worn out travel bag)
2. LISTEN to others.
Listen to what others say – the best ideas are probably not yours. I have been amazed at the number of times that a complicated problem was solved by simply listening to the person who was on-the-front-line. This works from a 6 foot 7 inch construction worker sorting out a potential safety issue to a 4 foot 3 inch grade school child learning a new sport.
I found that a new engineer will often be "set up" by the field hands. They sit back and ask him what they should do. The best response is to turn it around and ask their advice. If you get them to offer possible solutions they will become part of the team. And they will appreciate being asked for their ideas.
3. LEARN from your mistakes.
If you are not making some mistakes along the way, you can’t possibly be learning anything. The trick is to learn from all incidents, whether they are in an office, at home, a plant, on a construction site or school gymnasium and ensure that there is not a risk of repeating. While it’s not “OK” to get someone hurt or make a costly mistake, the risk of repeating will definitely haunt you.
Don't be ashamed to say "I F'd up." It also protects the people who are working for you. Nobody wants to follow someone who blames someone else for their mistakes. "Hitting the Crown Block" is a drilling term which means you have pulled the travelling block too high and hit the upper block, usually causing grave damage to the drilling rig. I once heard an expreienced superintendent say that he would rather have a driller that had done it once, because he knew that it would never happen again. Of course, if he had done it twice, he was run off.
4. LEVERAGE from others.
Leverage best practices from others – don’t fall into the not-invented-here trap. And what a trap it can be! Simply because we are all too good to trip where others fell! While all projects, great and small, claim to practice “lessons learned”, in reality I’ve seen very few “lessons” (excepting catastrophic lessons) learned in practice, and usually at great industry cost and legislative burden. It’s really a matter of simply taking a “hard swallow”, absorbing and applying your skinned knee to your forward planning.
One company I worked for used the phrase "Steal Shamelessly" to encourage people to seek solutions from others. I have found that it is sometimes best to get outside of your industry and see what ideas they have that could be applied to your situation.
5. LOOP back to the beginning.
Loop back to the beginning. Everything takes practice. Ask a professional athlete. They may easily hit 100,000 tennis / golf / cricket balls in a year and still not be “ranked” on the world stage. Review your plans. Re-read your Contracts. Review your organizational structure (excepting trade skills, usually more is simply less and more inefficient). I’ve found “looping” back almost always reveals trap-doors I didn’t see coming or some other problem that was sure to be imminent.
There's a saying that it's hard to remember that your original plan was to drain the swamp when you are up to your A** in alligators. It pays to go back and think again. I have found several errors during construction by doing just that. I pulled the original documents and found changes made in the field that would not have worked.