Perfection, Authenticity and the art of getting it wrong.

As a business owner, as a professional, as a dad, as a man…

…I’m a million miles away from perfect.

Now whilst I’m constantly trying to find ways to develop my skills, improve my knowledge whilst living my life as happily as I can….I’ve got to admit I could, without a shadow of a doubt, ‘do better’ in each and every aspect of my existence.

However I reckon that “perfection”, whether it’s personally or professionally, is impossible. An ideal which we might all aspire to but never achieve and is even harder to define.

However it’s interesting how when you think about the advisory world how reluctant we all are (and I include both financial planners, product providers and most service providers into the mix) to admit that we’re not. Think about this…

Have you ever had a fund manager or product provider admit, openly and without an initial challenging question, they make mistakes? or confirm a particular investment manager is prone to certain biases or errors? Would they openly admit to errors? or poor decision? or research that provided an alternative and compelling counterpoint to their point of view?

or do they, a lot of the time, pretend they’re perfect?

Do service providers always assume their opinion or perspective is right? If they were wrong would they admit openly? Would they take responsibility for their mistakes? Would they share publicly and openly what mistakes they’d made as a business? Would they admit they were wrong?

or do they pretend they’re perfect

and

Do we as planners and advisers openly and publicly admit when we make mistakes? Do we hide our eccentricities or idiosyncrasies for fear of alienating our clients? Do we share the challenges within our business, or the obstacles we struggle with?

or do we just hold it all together and pretend we’re perfect.

It’s strange. One of the things I admire most in people is authenticity. The ability to admit that, whist hopefully always trying, they’re not perfect and are entirely fallible.

Why do I like those people? Because I know I’m fallible too!

However when we market our businesses, or communicate with clients, or speak to our peers how often do we talk about the fact that we might be fallible?

The answer : for me, probably not often enough.

After all, if I spoke about my own failings with my clients would they trust me with their lives and the future of their businesses?

If I spoke to fellow professionals would you lose their trust and respect if you admitted you wern’t as competent as you attempt to portray?

or

Would you gain trust and respect from clients, fellow professionals and everyone you engage with by simply admitting you make mistakes?

After all if we were prepared to admit to mistakes we’d made, and knowing that everyone is fallible in one way or another , would we be able to make stronger, deeper connections with our clients, prospective clients and fellow professionals by simply admitting that you can and have made plenty of mistakes?

or

Is admitting your mistakes commercial suicide? Does it do more harm than good? Is there a fear of liability which stops us from admitting our mistakes? or is it because we need to be perceived as constantly stable and successful?

The reality is….I haven’t got the answer. I’m just asking the question!

Would it benefit our businesses and our lives if spend more time admitting our fallibility?

or to put it another way…

I’m a million miles from perfect! are you?

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4 thoughts on “Perfection, Authenticity and the art of getting it wrong.

  • Hi Chris,

    Great article.

    I don’t know why more people don’t own up to making mistakes, We all make mistakes. As a customer, if something goes wrong I really appreciate a company saying to me, “Hey, we made a mistake. We’re really sorry. Here’s what we’re doing to rectify the situation”. Say that and actually rectify the situation and I’ll be a customer for life. Don’t even apologise and you’ll see me going to a competitor.

    It’s astounding how many (most?) companies don’t “get it”.

    Brand Financial Training make mistakes. Yes, we do. I’m not going to pretend we’re super-heroes. We’re only human and despite extensive processes and procedures some things sometime slip through the net. I hate it when that happens, but when it does I’m the first to say sorry. What is amazing is that by admitting a mistake was made and giving a genuine apology, the majority of those customers who may have been annoyed by the mistake turn into our biggest fans. The upside to so few companies admitting mistakes and saying sorry, is that those of us who do are so unusual that our customers TRUST us not to lie to them.

    The power of admitting a mistake is huge.

    Catriona.

    Reply
  • Thanks Catriona,

    I think you’re right! Admit a mistake but work hard to ensure it’s sorted will win you more clients in the long run!

    I’m so glad it’s working for you!#

    However I wonder if there’s a fear, either commercially or just personally, that admitting to making mistakes will lessen your opportunity to influence.

    I’m with you in thinking the opposite….so the question is why don’t more of us do it?

    Reply
  • Good article Chris, we all mistakes; no business is perfect 100% of the time (we’re only human as Catrionia has said). We strive to offer the best possible service and yes, sometimes we make a mistake. You just need to own up, admit it, take ownership and demonstrate how you’re going to put it right. Clients, I think, will value the honesty and judge you based on how you resolve an issue. Not telling the truth & admitting a mistake is more damaging.

    When I worked for an IFA years ago, I was handling a complex pensions case – I was given some information by someone from a provider (who shall remain nameless!); I typed up an old fashioned ‘file-note’ with the name of the person I’d spoken with, the date, time and the info provided. This info turned out to be completely incorrect ; when I challenged the person; not only did he go immediately on the defensive, he said it wasn’t him I’d spoken with as on that particular date as he was on annual leave!! seriously?! did he think I’d just plucked his name out of thin air?! That sort of thing is v frustrating.

    Jess

    Reply
    • Thanks Jess,

      Thanks for your comment and it’s made me think about something specific….

      I’m with you….I think admitting when you’re wrong, apologising for the mistake and making it right is the best way to go.

      However you’re experience with the provider suggests that in some larger businesses (not all – some are brilliant!) the same culture isn’t as prevalent. I’m wondering why? Could it be that being in a larger organisations this culture is more difficult to establish? or is it a fallacy that smaller businesses are more likely to admit to mistakes more readily than larger businesses?

      I’m not sure!

      Thanks again for your comment.

      Reply

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