Making Mistakes – When the Data is Wrong


If you are human at all, you’ve made mistakes.  If you are giving life any an effort, you’ve made a mistake or two or 100 plus some.  Some are little mistakes; some can be quite big and embarrassing.  I have made mistakes in my marriage, in parenting my children, in being a friend, and in my career.  Thank goodness for bogies in life, the opportunity to get it right the next time.

According to Clifton’s Strengthsfinder my strengths are Empathy, Individualization, Developer, Context and Strategic.  Each of these suits me very well and have helped me be successful.  At times these strengths have caused me to make mistakes too.   

Given most situations my context strength rises to the surface.  When dealing with difficult situations I look back to when things were really hard for me and what it took to survive those times, always remembering this too shall pass.  I love to tell the stories of some of the hardest, most life changing events in my life and the lessons I was taught. 

Have you ever had one of those moments when you wish the earth would just open up and swallow you in because you are so embarrassed?  I certainly have and I remember the feelings of each as if it were yesterday. 

One particular time I had been called upon by the president of the company to prepare a slideshow for a meeting with all of the big wigs from our largest lubricant supplier.  I had been given much of the content, but I had some blanks I had to fill in with data that had to be collected from our database reporting system.

The company I worked for was certainly not hi-tech and they had put together a few reports where you just plugged in business unit, date ranges, product type, etc…and let the reporting tool do its thing.  Easy enough, right?  I thought so too. The presentation was for a nine o’clock meeting in the morning so, I get my numbers, add it to the presentation and email it back to the president.  The next day comes and I am sitting in the conference room with the president, all of the big wigs from the lubricant distributor, and several of our other executives.

The president begins the presentation and it’s going well, that is, until he reads out loud, the magical, 3x’s what it should have been number of gallons of lubricants we have sold in the last year.  And I begin see everyone looking at one another and shaking their heads “no” ever so slightly, then I look over at the president and he is looking at me and then I knew it was wrong, way wrong. I could tell he was embarrassed and that I had disappointed him.  That only amplified by embarrassment by a gazillion times.  I felt like my credibility was shot.  My heart racing and my temples pounding I again prayed for the earth to swallow me up!

Lesson learned; verify everything, check yourself twice, ask for help, make no assumptions and most importantly, the only good data is accurate data! 

All businesses rely on the correct data to make important decisions in every aspect of their business.  In the transportation industry, trucking companies rely on data to calculate loads, freight rates, driver pay and to provide excellent customer service.  How about your company?  What types of data do you utilize to make your day to day decisions?  Do you have the proper tools to make such decisions?  Is it hard or easy to get?  Can you trust your data?  Or do you just wing it and go with your gut…only to make a mistake?

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