Last year, I was frustrated with the lack of progress on updating the website for the National Speakers Association (NSA) Illinois Chapter.

“Just give it to me,” I said to the chapter president, “and I’ll get it done.”

I wanted to make my contribution to the organization. But I also wanted to be a hero. Boy that stuff can bite me in the butt!

You don’t need to know the details about getting the NSA board to approve a site map, finding a website designer that they would agree to work with, and writing text and pulling together graphics that they thought would work. (And these are all good people!) You’ve managed major projects in your career, so you know what that’s like.

Talking Through Our Hats

At last month’s board meeting, one member asked, “When will the site be done?”

It was a fair question. I answered, “In a few weeks.”

She replied, “Does that mean by April 1?”

“Yes,” I responded with confidence — that shortly turned out to be misplaced.

When I went back to the designer with this hard deadline, she informed me that she was planning to be gone the last week in March and the first week in April — because she hadn’t taken a vacation in a few years.

“Can we get this launched before you go?” I asked.

“Yes,” she responded with confidence — that also turned out to be overstated.

She loaded content on a development site. I proofed it. I found errors. She fixed them. I asked her to check the search function, to make sure potential clients could easily find chapter members who spoke on a topic. She said it was working.

Two days before she left on vacation, I doubled back to make sure she had everything she needed to launch the site. 

“I get it,” I said. “Done is better than perfect. If we find some mistakes, we can fix them when you get back.” She promised the site would go live before she left town.

And it didn’t.

It’s Hard to Be a Hero When I’m Focused on Myself

All I could think of was that I’d made a promise that the thing would be up by April 1. It was now March 26 and my designer was gone. I was either going to look like a fool or someone who didn’t keep her word. Both rankled me.

So I sent an email. “You’re on vacation and I hate to bother you. What can we do to meet the deadline we agreed upon?”

She replied that she’d pull the trigger on March 29 and the site would be live. I was relieved!

On March 30, I tried to register for the next chapter meeting through the shiny new website. That’s when I encountered a problem with the payment. The website wouldn’t ask for a credit card number, so people could register but couldn’t pay. That part of the site hadn’t been debugged.

This meant I’d just made a lot more work for the executive director, who would have to contact everyone for payment information — because the designer is still out-of-town and unable to fix this.

I Asked the Wrong Question

To meet a deadline, I’d help push out a site with a major flaw that couldn’t quickly be fixed. Sure, the old site was unsightly. But if I’d been OK with leaving it up one more week, we wouldn’t have had problems collecting money for the chapter meeting –which must surely be frustrating to members and may affect attendance.

Instead of asking, “What will people think of me?” I should have been asking, “What’s the best thing for the members?” Then I could have chosen to look bad to anyone who had asked, because that would have done a better job of serving others.

This is a lesson I won’t forget. May it help you avoid the same mistake the next time you’refaced with this situation as a leader!

My articles normally end with a question of how I may be of service to you. Considering this mess up, I’m feeling a little vulnerable about that this week. 

But if you want to work someone who’s brutally honest about what she’s learned from her own shortcomings, I’m your person!