The supposed winter storm of the century may have packed a wallop in some areas, like coastal Massachusetts, but overall, it was one big hyped dud. Breathless forecasters on television were left to explain how they could have gotten things so wrong.
And you know they were sure they were right at the time. Unfortunately, because they were so far off and so certain, many people, organizations, and businesses made plans to close, put off travel, or scale back operations for the day. The loss of productivity and opportunity left plenty of time to devise jokes and to boil away that much more confidence in the weather industry.
It only takes a moment to blow a reputation. The good news is that it's almost as easy to build a great one. Here are five basic things to remember, or learn, from the flubbed forecasts.
Under promise, over deliver
It's easy to talk a big game but harder to deliver one. You're always better off making smaller claims and promises and then working hard to do better than you said you would. Just as people don't readily forget grandiosity, they also remember a pattern of being pleasantly surprised.
Set proper expectations
When you're doing work for someone, whether delivering a product to a customer or providing services to an ongoing client, you always set expectations. Every time you predict a delivery date, mention enhancements, agree to fix a problem, or say anything else and fail to follow through, you're digging yourself a ditch, shovel by shovel--and what you're moving isn't snow. It's easier to deal with people being disappointed at not getting what they'd like than anger at not getting what they were promised.
Do sober assessments
A major way that companies and people blow their reputations is by over confidence. Give a clear-eyed look at what you are doing and the promises you are about to make. Ask yourself important questions, such as whether you've made allowances for problems or if you're suppressing a feeling that you might fall short. Base what you say on as factual an analysis of the situation as you can.
Consider the impact
There are many reasons we all are overly optimistic or promise more than is reasonably possible to deliver. But whether you're afraid of people being upset, insistent on being "positive," or using promises as a sales tactic, the reality is that you're getting yourself and your customer into trouble. Before you let loose, consider what impact your unfulfilled estimates will have on someone else. They may draw schedules, make investments, or extend their own promises and potentially endanger their reputations. It's easier to draw back when you see the harm you are about to cause.
Know how to say sorry
No matter how hard you try, there will come times when you fall short. Learn how to apologize, which is to accept responsibility, express regret to the people affected, and devise ways to keep it from happening again. If you can come back in a straightforward way from mistakes, you can actually improve your reputation over time. No reasonable person expects perfection, and chances are they admire someone who deals with circumstances in an adult fashion.