If anyone in public life was to have their death announced prematurely then Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, would be the most likely person to forgive the gaffe. The Daily Telegraph did just this when it published in its online version the death announcement from Buckingham Palace. The frustrating thing is that now Prince Philip has officially retired we may not hear his eloquent response to the Telegraph gaffe! The Telegraph gaffe does though give us an opportunity to remind ourselves of a few basics:
Check before pressing send
How often have we noted an error in something we have just emailed the moment after we pressed the send button? And how often have we sent or uploaded the wrong version of a file (as The Telegraph did yesterday)?
How do we respond to our mistakes?
We are all human (well until AI takes over) and we will make mistakes. We are often judged more on how we respond to our mistakes than on the original mistake. In the recent General Election, politicians of all parties made mistakes in what they said or didn’t know. Some were able to retrieve the matter with grace and humility whilst others seemed to compound their problems with angry self-justification.
Do we have a sense of humour?
There is much wisdom in Oscar Wilde’s quote “It is a curious fact that people are never so trivial as when they take themselves seriously.” I have a reputation for being one of Matt’s (cartoonist to The Telegraph) greatest fans. His ability to poke fun at the pompous whilst commenting on the serious is remarkable. It is well known that the power of laughter to lift our mood, reduce pain, connect people and boost motivation and confidence, is remarkable.
Remember to smile each day
Smiling (which is connected to humour) has special powers. It can calm fear, insecurity, hurt and anxiety not only in yourself, but in those around us. The next time someone is feeling sad, scared, nervous, whatever it may be, smile with them. See how this makes them feel. Smiling is contagious and very attractive. Business deals can be made simply through smiling. One of the first things that sales people quickly learn is to smile. Who would we rather buy something from? The sales rep who looks bored, down, angry or frustrated, or the sales rep who is simply smiling and happy to see us?
Be flexible to change
The original idea for this blog was not about gaffes at all! Flexibility is now sought after as a key skill by employers as the world of work changes at an ever increasing pace. Staff are needed who can adapt to changing circumstances and environments, and embrace new ideas. People are needed who are enterprising, resourceful and adaptable. It is often said that having children (or a puppy!) does wonders for promoting flexibility in us.
Reliability is one of the hallmarks of the service given by Prince Philip and all the royal family. The Duke’s official ‘retirement’ is a clever way of ensuring that by not having a pre published list of engagement in future, poor health or even his demise will not cause inconvenience to others. Some time ago the Princess Royal was due to visit my army unit in Essex and she would be travelling by helicopter from her home in Gloucestershire. I recall asking my adjutant at the time what if the weather is poor and the helicopter couldn’t fly. She wouldn’t come presumably. “Wouldn’t come?” He stared at me bemused. “Of course she will come – she just gets up a few hours’ earlier and comes by car. The Princess never lets people down.” “Wow”, I thought “that’s commitment!”
It is 65 years since the Duke became consort to the sovereign when HM the Queen ascended the throne. After 22,219 solo engagements, 5,496 speeches and 14 books the nation says a heartfelt “Thank you Sir, for a lifetime of service and achievement.” We all hope it is many years before The Telegraph has to run the story again of Prince Philip’s demise.
PS According to my sources at the Palace, there is a story running that The Telegraph is closing down….