Think about a recent blunder you witnessed someone make. I could have been a politician, organization, group of people, CEO, or even an association. From the outside it is easy to understand why people are outraged. The blunder may seem hostile, mean spirited or perhaps just thoughtless. If you have ever been inside an association during a public blunder you likely saw that it was just thoughtlessness. Not the malicious kind of thoughtlessness but instead the it-never-even-occured-to-us kind of thoughtlessness.
Why does this happen? Because we think the way we think not the way our members think. We are worried about hitting deadlines, not lagging behind, alerting members to trends and hot topics. After a blow up we think, in retrospect, we should have thought about it more carefully, we should have had more checks and balances, we should have known this would be incorrectly perceived.
So how do we keep it from happening again? One way is to put ourselves in our member’s shoes more often than not. What would I think of this article if I were a member? How might this letter be interpreted by a member? Is this tweet intriguing or is it inflammatory? While this is a great practice we don’t want to dwell on every little word and action all of the time. Building in fear of what members may think will stop us in our tracks. Even if we are able to give a fleeting member perspective to every outgoing communication we are bound to miss some because our work lives have gotten so much more complex and days are so jam-packed it is hard to be super thoughtful about everything all the time.
In fact sometimes there’s a real need to do and say things our members won’t like. We’re responsible for helping them move forward even though they might want to cling to the status quo. We’re responsible for updating everyone about bad news about the industry or profession. But these are not blunders.
I’m talking about real blunders. An occasion when someone says, or writes, or publishes something that members rightfully take issue with. What do we do when this happens? If your association is out there pushing the boundaries (like it should be) blunders will happen. Since we can’t avoid the rare blunder let’s be ready to apologize.
Apologies are not often used in the business world. Organizations and CEO’s tend to fall back on presenting a strong front by not admitting they were wrong. It’s the position we are used to but this position is anti-engaging. What is engaging is a human admitting they were wrong and making plans to move forward.