Ouch! I made a mistake!

One key to success in business is to make sure your clients and prospects know of your successes and competencies.  But the sad secret is that all of us have failures or make mistakes.  Of course, the top performers make few of them, and those they do make are seldom of great consequence.  I’d like to think of myself as a top performer, but you’re a better judge of that.

Today I’m going to tell you about a mistake I made, and what I’m going to do to recover from it. 

Last year I got a call from a company that specializes in brand marketing and consulting.  They are among that new breed of companies who try to help you with social media, search engine optimization and the like.  Me, I’m in the human performance technology area and I don’t know a lot about this stuff, but I told them I would give them a try.  They got me started with this blog, helped me fine tune my website for SEO, and suggested I share a lot of my experience through a monthly newsletter, all great ideas.  Their help was valuable and I was impressed with their expertise.

So my first newsletter was in March and I sent them the text and they handled it all.  Problem was, instead of sending it out from ActionSystems, they sent it out from (get this!) “SOS Litigation Services”!  Okay, I was upset and a few people cancelled, but it was a mistake and I am a good guy. I was sure this wouldn’t happen again.  But in April, they sent a perfect newsletter, but they sent it out twice on two consecutive days.  Friends asked, “Gregory, are you spamming me?”  Okay, okay, it was a mistake.  I’ll give the company another chance, as they too were upset and promised they would get it right for April.

I told everyone my April newsletter was going out Tuesday, May 3rd.  But it didn’t. It went out today, and it was a mess.  Different fonts, text overlapping, no alignment. It looked like a child had written it. I am getting lots of mail about it, believe me.  So I finally told them today that we need to say good-bye.

The cup is a prop. There’s no coffee in it.

Maybe you wouldn’t have been as patient as I was, but I work with people, and I often reflect when I see what passes for coaching among managers, that we don’t allow for enough mistakes from others, to help them learn and give them confidence to perform.  Robert Goizueta, the former CEO of Coca-Cola and now deceased, once said “The moment avoiding failure becomes your motivation, you’re down the path of inactivity. You stumble only if you’re moving.”  I believe this, and I know my experience with that company helped me to learn, as I know it did them.  And after all, there was no major harm done. I can mention the mistake in my next newsletter and ask forgiveness, and people will understand. 

The problem that consulting firm had is the same one many tech companies have. They had an unstable product but outstanding consultants.  I admit I’m not a tech savvy guy, but I like to think I know people well.  I enjoy trusting others to help me and giving them a chance to succeed, and the two consultants I worked with there will be my friends for life, even if I did fire them.
What about you as a manager?  How much rope do you give your people?  Do you worry that their mistakes will reflect on you, get you in trouble?  Or do you empower them to do the best they can and then watch their back?  I may not be the world’s greatest manager, but this is the only way I know how to do it.  Thanks for listening.

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

One Response to Ouch! I made a mistake!

  1. Gary Williams says:

    The cup is a prop, there is probably no coffee in it.
    The person is not a prop, there is humanity in it.

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