Little Mistakes Illustrate Important Principles

No one likes to see their stupid mistake to be plastered on the internet, me included. That said, it’s hard to pass up writing about a personal blunder that illustrates important principles.

A week and a half ago my supply of business cards was getting low and a business trip was nearing. It made sense to make the new business cards consistent with my web site’s newly redesigned graphic theme, so I redesigned them. When the card publisher’s web site refused to accept my design file, I called their 800 number.

For the next 15 minutes, a very competent customer service rep somewhere in the world explained why the format wouldn’t work and rebuilt the card using my graphic elements. He’d show me a new version online, I’d ask for a tweak, he’d respond, then I’d refresh the page to see the changes. We repeated the cycle until it was done, and I approved and ordered the cards.

The cards arrived on my doorstep the Wednesday night before I left early for the two-day trip, and I was very pleased with the graphic appeal of the cards. Happy to have my original idea for the design implemented, I packed a supply of new cards before crashing for the night.

During several meetings on Thursday, I handed out a few of the new cards. Friday morning while handing one to a friend, I noticed something wrong. In front of my twitter address “@2020outlook” it was supposed to read “twitter:” but instead it said “tweeter:”, and also the blog URL had an embedded “@” sign. For a few seconds I wondered why the service rep made those silly mistakes, and then quickly shifted the blame where it really belonged – me.

I have a few old cards left, and the corrected ones will be here in a few days. Still, it’s valuable to learn (or relearn) the general lessons apparent from this mistake:

Recognize when details need your full attention. In a rush to get to other tasks after I completed the order, I let my focus on getting the new design right distract me from the more important job of making sure the textual details were correct. The lesson: leaders need to continually and accurately evaluate how much time to devote to details versus the big picture.

Don’t waste time beating yourself up for mistakes. After a mistake is made, focus on correcting it and then move to your next task. If you tend toward perfectionism as I do, this can be difficult. The lesson: when a leader makes a mistake, it’s fine to do a post mortem to determine what could have been done differently. Once you’re done, however, move on without regrets and refocus on growing your business.

In my case, I devoted the trip home to self-flagellation. It didn’t take the whole trip so I used the rest of the time to do something productive – outlining this post.

About Bob Barker
Bob Barker is a trusted advisor to CEOs, helping them identify, define, and execute new growth-accelerating opportunities. He also shares ideas on LinkedIn (robertgbarker), in guest posts on related blogs, and in industry publications. Contact him via email at bob@2020outlook.com.

Comments

One Response to “Little Mistakes Illustrate Important Principles”
  1. John Ford says:

    This is excellent insight, and the first lesson really caught my eye, as many executives deal with an extensive amount of urgent items that come across their desk. The assumption that delegates who are directly responsible for execution (in this case your customer service rep) will catch the details assumes incorrectly that they aren’t also dealing with the same number of urgent actions. Taking the extra few minutes to focus on some of the critical details can avoid embarrassing results.