Woman Typing on Laptop
communication,  faith,  leadership

The “Reply All” Faux Pas

Woman Typing on Laptop

One of my priceless colleagues is currently transitioning out of her leadership role in my organization. (Insert saddest emoji here.) She has been a true visionary for us, someone who has greatly influenced everything we currently do to serve our mission.

So, naturally, I wanted to break the news of her transition in a thoughtful, well-planned way to the rest of our global organization’s leaders and community.

She crafted a letter of transition, and my team and I began editing it to incorporate into the announcement. After much discussion, my Chief Influence Officer, Mary, sent it out to all our leaders. I saw it pop up in my inbox, missed that it went to a larger group, and thought, “Hmmm, something about this doesn’t look like the finalized version – better correct Mary,” and hit Reply.

Or, so I thought. But nope, I made that dreaded faux pas. I hit “REPLY ALL.”

Oh, the horror. My CIO and I have a close relationship, so the error was intensified by the fact that my communication with her was short and blunt. Definitely NOT how I would speak to her in front of others! Nor how I wish to communicate most of the time. With so many things on my mind, time crunches, a pounding sinus headache… I don’t know what I was thinking.

I called Mary, who could have been so offended. I thought she may feel disrespected. Instead, she laughed.

She knows me. She knows my heart and a whole lot about my life, and she gives lots of grace for silly mistakes. And while I was certainly humbled (read: humiliated) to err in front of so many people, I hung up realizing what a beautiful demonstration was just given to me.

As the founding leader of a global organization, I often fall into that misconception that I have to be a perfect example of the perfect vision our organization has. The perfect leader. But in reality, as amazing as every staff and faculty member I work with is, we are a REAL working group of REAL people with REAL lives. We are training our students for the REAL world.

The apostle Paul describes this phenomenon in his letter to the early church in Rome. I love how The Message puts it:

It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?

The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different. (Romans 7:21-25)

The truth is, I’m imperfect. The truth is, that’s going to be obvious at times! Here’s our reality: we live parallel truths. Contradictions that are still true of us.

  • I’m a mess, and God loves people through me.
  • I’m a sinner, and God communicates his redemption to people through me.
  • I communicate poorly, and God speaks through me to draw people to himself.
  • I love imperfectly, and Jesus loves perfectly through me.

My younger self would have been tempted to cover it up. Gloss it over. Make an excuse. But this time I chose to be real. I addressed the “REPLY ALL” audience the very next day. I shared exactly what happened. And I reminded my colleagues that we’re the real deal here. If you’re looking for perfection, you won’t find it in this community. In fact, you’ll be disappointed everywhere you go.

I want to love and lead well. I really really do. I don’t always get it right. But I’m awfully glad when I, like Paul, can say “in this life of contradictions” there is one who can set things right. Jesus Christ.

Are you disappointed when people you follow mess up? Relieved? Share a comment and let me know how you handle the contradictions in your life.

Dr. Teresa M. Moon is President and CEO for the Institute for Cultural Communicators. She empowers extraordinary leaders globally to influence culture. Her mentees have spoken at the White House, G8 Summit, United Nations, throughout the United States and in 20-plus additional countries. She is an internationally recognized speaker, author and leadership coach.


  • Mary Gunther

    I’m glad you share the faltering steps as well as the fabulous. Thanks for leading like that and keeping it real.

  • Bruce

    Yes. Disappointed. Then God reminds me that I often blow it. Who am I to judge when I have such glaring problems, ya?

    On the other hand, when a leader owns their weakness my respect and admiration grow.

    Thank you for being open.

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