"The shortcut that's sure to work, every time:
Take the long way.
Do the hard work, consistently and with generosity and transparency.
And then you won't waste time doing it over."
At my alma mater, the Medill School of Journalism, there was something known as the "Medill F"--it's the grade that you got when making even one spelling mistake on an assignment. One time, the specter of that "F" prompted me to agonize over whether the word "the" should be lowercase or capitalized in connection with the musicians who backed Bruce Hornsby--were they "the Range" or "The Range"?
I didn't know for sure, and in 1987, I didn't have Google (or anywhere on the Internet) to consult. I don't honestly recall how I resolved that mystery more than a quarter-century ago.
Since then, I have made some humbling goof-ups, such as the time, about 15 years ago, when I identified a high school student in a particularly controversial story about a teacher accused of misconduct as "Dustin Hoffman." The only part that actually matched was his first name--my brain just glided on cruise control and I tapped out the famous actor's last name without catching it on review.
Overall, though, I have managed to keep the frequency of avoidable errors to a minimum. I have taken the "long way," as Seth Godin has termed it, by doing the hard work upfront. As a result, there is little post-publication regret of having made such a boneheaded move.
Journalists are not the only ones working at a frantic pace. Sometimes, in the Chicago PR and marketing world, we find ourselves cranking out news releases on tight deadlines and later seeing a mistake staring us in the face. Usually, with me, it comes in the form of seeing the gaffe in an e-mail I sent only minutes earlier to a reporter. It's at this point that we face a decision:
A. Acknowledge the mistake, alert the reporter to the fix and circle back to others we may have already contacted with the same correction.
B. Shrug our shoulders, hope nobody catches the mistake, and fix things going forward.
I choose Option A. Humbling and embarrassing as it can be, doing so communicates to others that I am committed to getting it right, and taking that extra (belated) step to making sure they get it right, too. While it's not the most efficient use of time, it's far from a waste.
It builds trust. And as I have learned from the likes of Amway Diamond Bob Kummer, a World Wide DreamBuilders (WWDB) organization leader, there is this powerful and easy-to-overlook truth to consider: while there is no doubt that everyone makes mistakes, you can distinguish yourself by being among those who own up to them when they happen.
That willingness to humble yourself is a character trait too often lacking in relationships, from parents and their interactions with their children to business colleagues. Failing to embrace that truth, and opting for the shortcut of denial and deflection, could well mean short-circuiting some of the most significant relationships in your personal and business life.
P.S. If you are wondering about the "the" versus "The" question on Hornsby's group, it's "the." Yep, you can look it up now--which puts so many of the errors we make in the "avoidable" category.