I was hurting for a local school and school principal yesterday as social media lit up with photographs and comments about the misspelled word on their outdoor announcement board. What should have read, “We are glad you are here” instead said, “We are glad you are hear”. What a travesty and nightmare for the beginning of a new school year! Comments are flying about the quality of public education and how our children are affected. Here is the reality…
We will all make mistakes. Some of them are extremely costly and others cause minimal damage. It is not the mistake itself that defines us, but rather how we handle the mistake that we have made. As a leader, our perception is that if we make a mistake, we will be considered weak and ineffective. Mistakes actually give us the opportunity to take responsibility and to change our direction and behavior as a result of that mistake.
I am positive that the principal of this school understands the difference between the words “here” and “hear”. I feel certain that the principal of this school has delegated the outdoor message board to someone else working in the school. I am hopeful that the principal of this school will embrace this as a teachable moment for all involved and as a former middle school principal, I would include the following:
· Assumptions are Costly. For the one responsible for the message on the sign, it’s a good lesson on assumptions. When you tell someone (in this case the message for the board), you assume they understand how you want it to look (and be spelled). Had the message been written (clearly stated), there is less likelihood the person putting the letters on the sign would have made the mistake.
· Ask Questions. As adults, we don’t want to ask questions because we fear looking foolish. If the person who actually put the message on the board asked for clarification or wrote down what they thought was to be done and checked to make sure it was correct, they would have felt less foolish asking the question than the result of the mistake made them feel.
· Mistakes Don’t Define You. This is a lesson that I hope the students of the school will take away from this event. Mistakes are often publicized more than success in our world, especially with social media, and it is easy to become discouraged when you make a mistake. Mistakes can change our behavior for the better (the person who displayed the message will probably always remember the difference between “here” and “hear” from this point on). It is how you react to the mistake that defines you.
· Take Responsibility and Move On. People respect you when you take responsibility for your mistakes. The instinctual response to a mistake is to find someone else to blame. Integrity is gained when the person making the mistake speaks up, takes responsibility and apologizes sincerely…and then moves on in an improved fashion. Beating yourself up doesn’t help anything. Hold your chin up, laugh at yourself and do better in the future.
· Be Careful of Judging Others. We are quick to find fault in others. After all, we’ve never made a mistake – right? When mistakes are made, we have the opportunity to make a difference and coach the one who made the mistake – changing that person for the better instead of defeating them. I hope we can choose the higher calling and make a difference.
What past mistakes are you letting define you? Learn from them and move on. If you lead an organization, how will you handle the mistakes you make and help those working with you learn from their mistakes? You have the opportunity to lead with humility and by example. When mistakes come – and they will – take a breath and say to yourself, I have the opportunity to learn something today!