Big Mistakes in Big Companies
In a famous 2010 tale, Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh chose not to fire an employee who had made a $1.6 million mistake. In another story, a CEO actually thanked the IT guy who caused the company’s site to go down (causing a loss of thousands of dollars per hour) for uncovering a systematic weakness that needed to be fixed. See Top 5 Reasons to Celebrate Mistakes at Work.
My Blog Mistake
I did not know these anecdotes until I sat down to write this blog about mistakes. Last week, as many of you are aware, I wrote a draft of my blog and sent it to my assistant with a request that she come up with an appropriate title for the article. She offered six suggestions, with her top pick being “3 Trends Effecting LinkedIn That You Need to Know.” I wrote back the following:
I chose #3 [3 Ways LinkedIn Times are a Changin’] and updated the title on WordPress. Note it would be Affecting not Effecting!!
The next thing I knew, the blog had gone out to my e-list with the original subject line, the word “Effecting” intact.
The emails rolled in:
I noticed a spelling mistake in your subject title. It should read 3 Trends Affecting LinkedIn…. I see this error a lot, but thought you might want to make a note of it.
It should be 3 trends AFFECTING …
Did you use “effecting” rather than “affecting” on purpose?
Living “Above the Line”
My first response was “This is bad.” I mean, here I was, a writer and editor, making an error that I’ve actually blogged about in the past! See Top 7 Grammatical and Spelling Errors of 2012.
But as I aim to do in my life, I looked at where the opportunity was in the face of this breakdown. I’ve taken plenty of personal growth courses where we are coached to say things like “Yay! I made a mistake!” So how could I, dare I say, celebrate this initially embarrassing mistake in my blog title?
I issued a correction as soon as possible, thanking my readers for their eagle eyes and explaining what had happened. I did my best to convey an understanding that mistakes happen, and that I probably need another round of editorial proofing before sending out my blog.
One message from a reader confirmed I had done the right thing:
Love the graceful save you did on this — you got it goin’ on, as they say, girl.
Always a fan. When I can ever get a moment I want to work with you to update my LI profile!
In the grand scheme of things, this was a small mistake. While I feared I might lose clients over it, since people count on me to know English grammar and spelling, I hope my correction set the record straight. No one was injured or taken advantage of as a result of this mistake.
Mistakes are the way we learn most in life. Looking back, I can see that my mistake last week was a testament to my ability to trust another person to do work for me! It would not have happened if I had not expanded my business to the point where I need an assistant. The mistake also showed me that many of my readers care and are paying attention. And I was given the opportunity to “play above the line,” issuing a correction that was gracious and non-blaming. I got to show my commitment to quality, and that I was unwilling to let something like this error go unaddressed!
I recently spoke with someone who told me about a $250K mistake she once made at work. When she went to her boss expecting to be fired, she had another thing coming. He appreciated her honesty and let the monetary loss roll off his back. As he said, he could always make another $250K, but he would not be able to get her back.
That’s how I feel about what happened with my assistant. I wouldn’t let this one mistake color my undying appreciation of what she does for me and how responsible she is when she does make a mistake! In fact, in the midst of writing this blog, I took a break to apologize to her for my initial “This is bad” response.
I have a lot to learn about celebrating my own mistakes and the mistakes of the people around me. And I’d love to hear what you have learned in your life! How have you celebrated mistakes? How could you or someone around you have done better in their response to a mistake? I look forward to hearing what you have to share!