Names matter to people, particularly their own. As someone with a name that is commonly misspelled, I’m particularly sensitive to this. Not only are there several variations of Tammy (Tami, Tammi, Tammie, Tamie), but people also want to argue with me about what my “real” name is. I’ve gotten used to it, but it’s still annoying.

I’ve written about the importance of getting it right (check out What’s in a name), so I never thought I’d fall victim to name carelessness. You know what’s coming.

Never say never.

A few weeks ago, I prepared a summary document for one of my freelance clients. I took extra care with his last name, since there are a couple of common variations and I knew which one he used. I ran a search on the entire document to make sure each instance of his name was spelled correctly. Update, save, print, leave for meeting.

As I pulled into the parking lot of my client’s business, my eyes fixated on the sign above. The one with his name on it. The one with his name spelled the OTHER way.

It was, of course, far too late to correct my mistake.

I went into that meeting with newfound humility. I had no choice but to own up to the mistake, and thankfully the client was gracious about it. We moved forward with our business without further incident.

Yet here I am, writing this post. I re-learned two lessons that day, and they apply to a lot more than names:

  1. Never, ever think it can’t happen to you. Be diligent, pay attention to detail, and double check whatever your “it” is. Don’t get so full of yourself that you let things slide. We all have those days.
  2. Be transparent when you screw up. Own it. It’s far better to deal with the issue up front than to ignore it and hope someone doesn’t notice. Trust me, s/he will, and then you’ll look worse for trying to hide it.

As you read my posts, you may think I’m writing them for you to learn something. Truthfully, I write them so I will.

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