Mulligans (Do-Overs) Not Allowed

Posted by Richard Moran.

For those who aren’t golfers, a mulligan is a do-over. In golf, if your first shot was botched, just drop another ball and the first one doesn’t count. The hope is that the second shot will be better and the first one, well, will be forgotten. The pros don’t get any mulligans, but for weekend duffers, it is a part of the game as long as it’s not overdone. And when it comes to golf, I appreciate mulligans.

At work though, mulligans are a different story. Many are the times we wish that a do-over was a part of how we work, but it’s rare that you get a mulligan . The first shot always counts.

  • Miss a deadline? No mulligan.
  • Do something crazy like send a rant to the boss/company? No mulligan.
  • Make an inappropriate comment in a meeting? No mulligan.
  • Irritate a customer? No mulligan.
  • Blow a presentation in front of the boss? No mulligan.
  • Get caught on video doing something you don’t want to share? No mulligan

The list of no mulligans at work is infinite. Lots of people expect do-overs at work but that is usually not the case. Even if a do-over is granted, people remember that first try and may or may not forgive it. For leaders especially, a do-over is never allowed. I wish they knew that the workplace is not a golf course and behaviors and decisions, once out there, can’t be taken back. Leaders are not perfect and mistakes will be made and adjustments need to follow but mulligans are a little different than correcting a mistake.

If we screw up and want to correct a mistake, the correction usually involves an admission of the problem and a plan to move forward. Some humility is involved. A mulligan is a belief that the first one didn’t count and others will tacitly grant approval. That doesn’t happen at work.

Staying out of the danger zone that requires a mulligan is not that difficult. A few quick reminders can help:

  • Always double-check your work. Sure, check for typos and spelling but that’s not enough. Is your work something you are proud of? Does it solve a problem? What grade would you give it? If it’s not an A, do it again.
  • Never send emails or texts when angry or upset. Especially don’t hit any send buttons when you are drunk.
  • Develop positive relationships with your colleagues. An occasional mulligan might be granted if people like you. Be thoughtful in dealing with you colleagues.
  • Recognize that little things count and don’t expect daily mulligans as in if you are always late for meetings.
  • Do what you say you will do and do it well. Mulligans may never be needed.

In golf, some players sneak mulligans although other players almost always know – sneaking mulligans is called cheating. That shouldn’t happen at work but when it does, terminations might ensue.

Sometimes we might have an accommodating boss who understands the need for coaching and improving. He or she might suggest the report needs more work or the presentation is not complete or that analysis needs to be redone. That’s not a mulligan, that’s a good boss.

Mulligans are a part of golf; just don’t expect any at work.

Richard is the author of the new book The Thing About Work: Showing Up and Other Important Matters [A Worker’s Manual]. You can follow his writing on TwitterFacebook, or at his website at

Richard is a noted San Francisco based business leader, workplace pundit, bestselling author and venture capitalist.

An Ode to Cafeteria Workers and the Night Custodians

Posted by Richard Moran.

Business related websites are full of advice and notifications and admonitions about how to be successful and what to do in this disruptive world. To my eye, there is not much content that explores the concept of giving thanks or how to treat others.  Business site topics range from artificial intelligence to how to manage a meeting; from block chain implications to tips on resumes. An entire body of work exists that details all the things not to do, as in, “5 Ways to Kill a Good Interview!!!” All good and helpful, and I am proud to be an influencer who provides such content.  We know from the advice sites how to be a team player and that our colleagues are critical in helping us be more successful, or not.

But wait; there is a cadre of people and actions that are rarely discussed.  In a de facto way, they are dismissed in all the advice but they can make or break our day. In the work world, they are often underappreciated.

People who show up, do their jobs, and are a part of our lives constantly surround us, and yet we often don’t see them. We interact with them every day and they make life just a little bit better for us. We might nod to them while we are talking on the phone. We might glance up at them while we are hitting the REPLY button. These are the people who never really pop up as an unsung hero. The unsung hero spots are often reserved for teachers and first responders who certainly deserve it. But there are other people who help us or make our day and we often take them for granted. They too, are unsung heroes but are not ones that we typically thank for being a part of our workplace lives.

They are all around us. They are in the parking lots taking your keys. They are in your office fixing your lights. They push the elevator buttons for us. They provide security. They may or may not be on social media but their attention is not on LinkedIn pieces on how to better network. When the debate about raising the minimum wage rages, these are the people who will be see a bump in pay – or not. These are the people who are working incredibly hard and can make our day by showing the slight gesture of a kindness.

So as the school year begins, there is a particular group that I would like to call out for our attention – the cafeteria workers. You know who I am talking about. Like the cable guy, the cafeteria ladies (and men) bear a designation that conjures up a unique image. We love them because they know our names, they give us food, and they almost always have a smile. They are efficient and they enjoy and are proud of their work. They love their work and can bring a little sunshine into a day with an oatmeal raisin cookie. Although cafeteria workers are a metaphor for underappreciated workers, they are flag bearers for that group of people who make our day.

At a time when debates are raging about critical topics at work, I hope we can all take a moment out of our day to say thank you. So, thank you cafeteria workers and night custodians and all those who work hard to make everyone’s work just a little better. You all should have more recognition.

Why Venture Capitalists Don’t Get Back to You

Posted by Richard Moran.

You made the pitch on a Monday to a venture capital firm and you believe you nailed it. Woohoo and hot damn! They laughed at the one joke. They asked good questions about the market size and the patent potential. No one fell asleep and at the end the group was effusive in showing appreciation. This could be it.

A day or two later you receive an email that the venture group decided to pass on your company but thanks and good luck. Ugh. Depression and back to using the credit cards. What happened? Was it presentation skills? Is it a bad idea?  Should you go to work at Best Buy? What!? You may never know.

The relationship between entrepreneurs and investors is complicated. Investors are desperate to find good deals. Ideas with the possibility of a big return are really difficult to find. The most difficult part of being an investor is finding the next big thing. Entrepreneurs are desperate for the investment. The credit cards are at the limit and every start up is on the verge of greatness, if only that next round of money comes in. Two desperate parties looking for the same thing – returns. So why is there such a dance after the presentations? Why don’t the VCs give feedback? There are several reasons.

  • No one wants to hear “your baby is ugly”. That’s right, your baby, in the form of your idea or your company might be ugly and you are unwilling to accept it. We love entrepreneurs because they are passionate and committed and idealistic. Saying it’s not a good idea or you don’t have the right team will only elicit a rejoinder of protest and angst that no investor wants to deal with.
  • No one wants to tell you “your baby is ugly”. It’s no fun to deliver bad news or deal with the protests. The more engagement there is in delivering the negative decision, the more difficult the meeting is. It is just more efficient to send an email.
  • Hope springs eternal. If there is a glimmer of hope from the investor, the entrepreneur tends to be too optimistic that there is still money to be had. So investors don’t give feedback because it is heard as, “if you fix this and that then we might fund you.” That is not the case. Almost always, once the decision is made, it is final.

Other reasons could be part of the decision too. Maybe the investors are too heavy in a particular vertical. Maybe the investors are running out of money but want to keep seeing pitches. In both cases, you won’t hear that as a reason.

The solution? Don’t wait for feedback and don’t get mad. Just move on. That investment could be waiting around the next corner. When it comes to investor feedback, it could be like that last break up when you heard, “It’s not you, it’s me.” There is no good way to say I don’t love you.