Is leadership a top-down or bottom-up process? I’ve thought a lot about this question since the ’80s, when I was dating a musician whose music was amazing. I’d watch him playing and think: Is he reaching up to God, or is God reaching down to him? When we attempt perfection, are we worshiping God?
Well, I think leadership is a two-way street: God is reaching down, while we are reaching up. And one of the big things I like about editing is that perfection is possible. Am I worshiping God by trying to be perfect? You bet!
And perhaps that’s why I don’t “get it” when I see so-called leaders make such a deliberate hash of their promotional materials. Case in point. I belong to an international referral network organization. I have learned so much about my business from the members, who are some of the sharpest, smartest people I’ve ever met. Many of them are true role models, people you want to emulate. But the organization’s leadership? Not so much.
How can you be a “leader” when the first promotional piece a new member receives contains, according to my count, seven misspelled words, 37 punctuation mistakes (for my purposes, these are errors in capitalization, hyphens, italics, and spacing), 22 grammar mistakes (mostly noun-pronoun and noun-verb agreement mistakes), 13 “inconsistencies” (like when there are three different copyright notices, certain phrases aren’t spelled the same way, etc.), nine times when the mistakes were what I characterize as “judgement calls,” and two times when I would have to ask what was meant, because, either way, you don’t do what was done. I wasn’t even harsh: I bet someone else could make a case for higher numbers. (And, no, I didn’t count anything in two categories. And, for purposes of the count, I only counted the three different ways the pagination/copyright notices were displayed as three mistakes, not once for each time they appeared. So, no, I didn’t pad my numbers.)
This organization. 1500 or so businesses in my franchise area. 1500 people receive this particular promotional piece every year, and it was updated in 2016. 100 individual mistakes, give or take a couple, in 21 pages.
Helloooo? You know I’m an editor. I’m a member of this organization. I pay you to be a member of this organization. You know I can help. What would have been the cost to edit this piece? $1000? $2000? What’s it worth not to look like a jackass in front of your membership? Well, if I’d had access to the file, it would have cost about $180. If I had to go through someone else, it would have cost about $280, because I would have had to check that person’s work.
So, what’s the takeaway when you receive such deliberately lousy promotional piece? Frankly, the takeaway is that people don’t give a darn. There’s no more obvious way to tell people that you don’t give a darn—about yourself, about them—than to put out a sloppy promotional piece with 100 mistakes in it. And, to me, it’s a real slap in the face.
Is anyone trying? Is this the best that can be done? Is anyone worshiping God by putting out this sloppy crap, which I will not call “educational,” and then turning around and portraying the franchise team members as “leaders”?
And, the lack of leadership shows. At a “leadership” conference for the same organization the day before, a PowerPoint program was shown with four misspelled words in it. How does that happen? The lack of leadership trickles down. The lack of leadership sends a message. Nobody cares. Nobody notices.
But that’s not true! If my friend the pianist had been a poor player, a sloppy player, no one would have listened to him. But he practiced, he played, and he was reaching up to the Almighty in his own way. His playing could move you to tears.
Always strive for perfection. Whatever it is you do, strive for perfection. I guarantee that people notice. I guarantee that people care. Do I believe that God is watching? You bet I do.
Let’s start reaching up, people. I believe that God is reaching down, all this time, every moment of every day, and it’s up to us to meet him halfway.
Truth in writing: this blog post originally contained the word “shit,” twice. I changed it to “darn,” which lacks impact, but is more businesslike.