11 Mistakes in 11 Days: Lessons in Failure

We just went through an interviewing process in my group for a new employee, and it’s amazing how many job candidates never make mistakes.  “Interviewing 101” tells you that you should expect to reel off a few mistakes and lessons learned during an interview.  Candidate after candidate couldn’t communicate one thing they failed at.  A few good men and women did share lessons learned from a failure and they all made our short list of candidates.

It’s the failures, or mistakes, that make you better at your job, as much if not more so than your achievements.  James Joyce once said: “Mistakes are the portals of discovery” and, for what it’s worth — he’s right. Public Relations employs the art and the science of communicating the best of a worst situation and making improvements/adjustments based on lessons gleaned.  In this blog, for the next 11 days, I am going to share with you ONE COMMUNICATIONS MISTAKE I MADE in the past 24 hours.  I hope you’ll do the same and on this Blog, share your mistake of the day (something with a PR/communications twist).

Here’s my first one:  Dealing with a finicky executive in one of the groups I oversee at Access Intelligence, I emailed him a few times to address an important question he had. I knew he hated email as a communications mode, preferring instead the old-fashioned telephone (possibly with the chord attached to the wall). Yet it was easier for ME to email him rather than call him.  Three emails later (without a reply), I called him. He had received my emails but was waiting for the phone call from me.  Communicate with your constituencies how THEY want to be communicated with.  Not heeding that mantra was my mistake. Ten more to come…..

  • Larry De Palma

    I’m inferring from this post that you manage him? I guess I’m from the old school that if you work for me, you will learn to love the communication method that I prefer… That’s the joy of being employed. If you want to be a diva, go get a record deal with Sony/BMG and an Oscar de la Renta gown!

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/marydykstra,www.withinreach.biz Mary Dykstra MBA, CPO

    I think having a conversation upfront with clients and vendors about how they best communicate is critical to relationship building and being efficient and successful. I work with a lot of clients (I’m a certified professional organizer & time management coach) and find many people struggle with email (and workflow) for different reasons including:

    Challenge 1) Many professionals are overwhelmed by the amount of email communication they are expected to keep up with and do not have good systems in place for filtering spam, using “rules” to organize e-communications, and struggle with blocking time to effectively deal with email and workflow (some company cultures do not allow closed door policies). Statistics include: On average, professionals waste 6 weeks a year looking for stuff in their offices; deal with 150 interruptions a day (phone, email, meetings, ‘drive by shootings’ etc); have 30+ hours of unfinished work on their desks at any one time so by the time “you” ask for one more thing, the recipient goes into overwhelm and their IQ drops 10 points (there goes the sense of humor and decision making skills).

    Challenge 2) A lot of the time, emails are complicated and NOT effectively written for easy response. Typical examples include: multiple requests or topics appear in 1 email or the writer does not quickly outline the actions required or deliverables expected by when (long winded convoluted emails). Also, sometimes there really needs to be discussion to facilitate resolution or next steps (know when it is better to pick up the phone).

    Challenge 3) The subject lines are misleading or don’t pertain to the current conversation thread (change email subject lines when you respond to emails). There have been a number of times I have not opened email promptly because I assume I already know the content and assume it is more of the same. If you want me to respond – I need you to have that in the subject line.

    In summary, life is busy, fragmented and full of stress especially in the current economy. I think, when one is in the communication field, the assumption is that communication is natural and clear. It has been my experience and that of my clients that we live in a very complicated world with a lot of distractions/responsibilities and we should all be required to take ‘continuing education’ in crafting our emails as well as our messages to be brief, clear and compelling.

    Got to go, the phone is ringing . . .

  • Kevindra

    If you or anyone has done a collective training program in communications you would know that the old in this industry try to be more face to face in dealing with matters at hand, you communicated with someone with idology that has the strengths in areas we may never be exposed to, so with our changing times the key is not try to put divisions in areas of communications, that’s why I belief that the school of hands on approches is a firm bases to linking the old with the new.

  • dschwartz

    Thanks for your insight. Larry — this person I’m referring doesn’t work for me, as in “on my team.” However, I work “for” all my readers and customers and should communicate with them how they want to be communicated to — within reason.

  • http://www.market-up.com/blog/ Donna Lehman

    I agree with you Diane that making mistakes can teach important lessons and are necessary for learning. However, I’m surprised to see you ‘naming names’ by calling out a particular client and then stating the executive is finicky for wanting to be communicated with in a certain way.
    I think perhaps you can use that as another mistake: “name calling” of clients. It made me wince to read that section. However, I still shared this on Twitter because the overall message is a nice one.
    One mistake I’ve made: Talking to a client like I would to a co-worker, allowing my frustration to be heard in my voice. Lesson learned: Always remember who the client is and treat them respectfully.

  • http://samsonblinded.org/news/ ilona@israel

    Mistakes are important part of our lifes. We are doing mistakes, but we must teach ourselfes something.