GiveWell is a non-profit organization that researches charities that “saves or improve the most lives per dollar“. Strong hook!
They do deep research (20,000+ hours per year) and publish it free for the world to use.
One of the interesting things about this company is their Our Mistakes page.
On that page, they publish the mistakes they’ve made—and even some they are still making today. Here are a few examples:
- 2016 to ongoing: Failure to publish all relevant intervention research
- 2017 to 2019: Failure to publish charity reviews
- 2007 to 2014, with ongoing work to improve: Failure to prioritize staff diversity in hiring
- 2014 to 2016: Failure to prioritize hiring an economist
There are many more.
Why do they do this? Why not just make the mistakes, own them internally, and learn from them privately?
Of course, the reason is trust.
As an organization, they hold a great deal of scrutiny to charities who aim to save lives, so it makes sense that they too should be subject to the same (or greater) scrutiny.
Does publishing their mistakes it make you more or less likely to trust them? I’m guessing you’d trust them more.
It is no different in any freelance or consulting relationship. You’ll inevitably make mistakes. Or you won’t know something you should.
It’s your job to be transparent to your client about it so they know they can trust you.
This kind of transparency is so rare that you will immediately stand out when you practice it. Your clients are looking for this from you. But they don’t always expect it. Which is why it’s so important.
Most clients don’t expect you to know everything. But they do want you to be honest when you don’t know something or when you make a mistake.
At the end of the day, all you have is trust. It’s one of the reasons I provide a fiduciary standard for my clients.
Admitting mistakes is hard but it’s the foundation for trust and is critical to your success.