I swear I didn’t write this because my name is Deirdre.
I wrote this because I’m tired of seeing perfectly good leaders lose just a smidge of credibility by making the same, simple, indefensible mistake. Every day. Many times.
Allow me to begin with an example.
I’m currently coordinating a project that involves several partner organizations. One of the committee members is named Alan.
Last week I sent an email to the group on Alan’s behalf, and asked partners to respond.
Here’s what came back:
- “Thanks so much for taking this on, Allen…I’m available next week.”
- “Allan, please let me know how I can help. I’m up for anything.”
- “AL – how great that you’re taking this piece on. Count me in!”
You might think you’ve got the point. Keep reading.
None of these responses was offensive. They were all quite positive, actually.
There’s absolutely no reason…none…as to why each person got Alan’s name wrong.
His name was in my email. It was spelled clearly.
And even though Alan probably didn’t care, that’s not what matters.
- …is that these three people reflected that they didn’t care enough to get it right.
- …is that they reflected a lack of concentration, focus, and attention to detail.
- …is that they showed a disregard for excellent communication.
It’s quite possible none of them meant it this way.
I know what you’re thinking. I’m sensitive. This is personal.
Yes, I happen to have a name that’s very difficult to spell. I’ve gotten all kinds of spellings throughout my life (My favorite? Deidriff. Came by fax. Don’t ask.)
I’ve gotten used to this. And I accept it. I swear.
But at the same time the truth is I notice…when someone spells my name consistently wrong. And even more so when someone gets it consistently right.
Let me be clear…
This blog is not about the emails you get.
This is about the emails you send.
So all of you Bobs, Bills and Lisas who think this doesn’t apply to you? It does. (In fact, it applies to you even more since your sensitivity on this point is probably low.)
This is about breaking the bad habit of rushing through emails and assuming the name is spelled correctly…or thinking it doesn’t matter if you just get close.
Be intentional about what you reflect to others:
- That you’re a leader
- That you’re an excellent communicator
- That you care
We all know that success is about relationships. Why would you not do everything you could to make sure each one is as solid as possible?
I’ve actually been involved in a string of emails – a half dozen or so – where I connected with a person, put my name at the bottom of each and every message, and each time it came back with my name right on top, spelled wrong.
Was I offended? No. But I did notice.
When I was an executive director I can’t tell you how many cover letters came in with my name spelled wrong.
Was I offended? No. But I did notice.
And this seemingly meaningless error told me all kinds of things about the person. Right or wrong, the resume went to the bottom of the pile.
Now…let’s be real.
We write many, many emails these days. And so misspelling will happen.
We’re also at a time when parents have gotten a bit more creative with names…
…and so misspellings will happen.
It’s life. It’s not tragic. (though I will tell you I’ve run across plenty of people who do get bugged by this…so beware)
For the most part, many of us have gotten used to having our name spelled incorrectly.
Which is why it’s something special when people get it right. Every time.
And why they stand out.
By the way, this same point applies when you refer to the person’s partner, child, pet or company name in your email. No excuses. No exceptions.
One more point on the name thing.
Skip the nicknames unless someone introduces themselves with it or signs their name that way first. Don’t assume William prefers Bill or Jolene prefers Jo.
We can say we’re leaders. We can say we’re good at what we do. We can say we can communicate it.
Then, we can blow it in the first line of an email.
If you’re working with a name that you’re unsure of, double-check it. If their name isn’t in front of you, google them, search out their linked-in profile, or double check an old email.
And if you deal with them a lot, put their name into your spell-check dictionary.
You’ve got something important to say. Make sure your message isn’t botched up because of a simple and avoidable mistake.
Communication is the name of every game.
Stand out by making sure yours gets it right.
Now, go do good…and do it well.