Why (and how to) make friends with a mistake

Andrea Howe
Category : Weekly tips July 13, 2015

This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

In 2013 my colleague and friend Jake Breeden published his first book—equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking, I’m sure, as it is for most authors. He sent a mass email to his subscriber list announcing the book’s long-awaited release.

Unfortunately, Jake got the subtitle of his book wrong in his email.

In the words of a well-known Mozilla Firefox error message, “Well, this is embarrassing.

What Jake did next was a brilliant example of how to make good friends with his mistake—and build trust (and followers) as a result.

Here’s the second email he sent:

Subject line: Make that “Work Habits” not “Word Habits”

My first email blast had a typo. I got the subtitle of my book wrong. My book is …

Tipping Sacred Cows: Kick the Bad Work Habits that Masquerade as Virtues

On my last note I typed “word habits” instead of “work habits.” I need to work on my word habits, I guess. You’ll be happy to know I wrote my book, but I didn’t edit it. A professional editor at my publisher did (my publisher, by the way, is Jossey-Bass, the #1 publisher of leadership books).

Thanks for reading my unedited emails and, hopefully, my edited book,

Jake

There are four things I love about Jake’s second email:

  1. He called attention to his mistake (“I got the subtitle of my book wrong.”)
  2. He used self-deprecating humor (“You’ll be happy to know I wrote my book, but didn’t edit it.”)
  3. He made a personal connection with his audience (“Thanks for reading my unedited emails …”)
  4. He took the opportunity to re-build confidence by saying something positive (“… my publisher, by the way, is Jossey-Bass, the #1 publisher of leadership books”).

Jake could have easily let his oops slip by, not sending the second note—either hoping people wouldn’t notice or assuming that, if they did, they got the gist of his message. Instead, Jake made a different choice.

I really like different choices when it comes to trust-building.

Make It Real

This week, don’t go out of your way to make mistakes; do look for ways to make the most out of any mistakes you make. How might you apply “the Jake Model”?

Learn More

TAfieldbook

Read more about why mistakes build trust, or refresh on where people go wrong with risk assessment in Chapter 9 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

Here’s to standing out in the crowd.

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Andrea Howe

Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).

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