Stop sending mixed messages

I have several doctors as clients. One of them has an email signature that includes a quote I know is popular among doctors:

The art of medicine consists in amusing the patient while nature cures the disease.
-Voltaire, French Philosopher (1694-1778)

That email signature reminded me of a time when I put up a poster at my first workplace — I ran a database for a PR agency in Chicago — it was a Disney poster of Mickey Mouse. For fun I captioned it “Quality Control Provided By”.

Then a few months later I really noticed the poster in my boss’ office. It was a 1930’s style colored drawing of a train on very straight rails, every line perfect, and titled “Exactitude” — which epitomized him, and reinforced my image of him as meticulous.

I took my poster down.

Lighthearted poking of fun at oneself is one thing. Sending mixed signals about how you see your own work is another.

People will believe what you say about yourself. My advice to my client was, ditch the Voltaire quote. My call to you is, look closely at what you are saying about yourself and the quality of your work. Ironic and self-deprecating humor may be interpreted as a lack of confidence or a lack of quality. In some cases it may even be an external sign of an internal lack of confidence.

I don’t want an ironic and hip doctor, dentist, CPA, or plumber. I want a meticulous craftsman who puts a lot of ego into being the best in the business — someone a little nerdy about quality. (See also my posting Hip to be Square on a related point.)

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