I'm not much for displaying awards in my office. But I have one small trophy that has been a fixture on my desk for nearly 20 years.
Back when I was a just-out-of-college reporter for a weekly newspaper in upstate New York, the company I worked for had an annual contest in which it rewarded points to its reporters for writing great leads, colorful stories, and attention-grabbing headlines.
I happened to win the contest in 1995 and I was awarded the cute little trophy pictured above.
I'll give you a second to see if you can figure out what's wrong with that photo.
That's right -- my name is misspelled.
I've kept the trophy on my desk ever since as a reminder to stay humble.
It also serves as another reminder: to pay attention to the small stuff.
As professionals, we worry about communicating our big ideas, impressing our clients and customers with well-designed websites or presentations, and hitting our deadlines.
But it is so easy to lose track of the details in pursuit of these larger goals.
And when we miss those details, we cheapen our work and hurt our credibility.
You might have a killer idea or a great proposal, but if you misspell the name of the potential client, you've lost all credibility with the person who you're trying to impress.
It is surprising how often this happens -- and how little companies and organizations invest in taking the time to check their facts.
My last name is misspelled so often that it's often the first thing I look for when I receive a proposal or when one of my kids is listed on a program for a dance recital or school play.
Every time it happens, I make a judgement about the company or institution that is responsible for the error. And, in case you're wondering, it's not a positive one.
This isn't just about names. We also lose credibility when we misuse "their" or "there" -- or when we put Mr. instead of Ms. in front of a customer's name.
Details matter. If your company or organization isn't building time into its creative process to check them, you're probably turning off more people than you know.
My 1995 Editorial Contest trophy is one of my favorite examples of details gone wrong. What's yours? I bet there are some doozies out there!