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Taking a Hard Look at Ourselves

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My business coach started the meeting by saying, “Ok, so you want to walk in and say, ‘If I had to do this over again, I would.” Oh no. This was going to be an apology to someone who works for me. 

I had done it again. I had a “great idea,” and rather than go through the important steps of getting others on board and enrolling them, I just announced it and expected everyone to see the brilliance of the idea and get on board. It was such a good idea that I didn’t want to delay the implementation with all of the slow work of letting others have a voice in it, challenge it in a way that would sharpen the idea, or have the breathing room to really buy in and give the idea a chance to make it.

At this point my internal reactions were running wild.

“I’m so mad at myself for blowing it in the first place,” I thought. This wasn’t the first time I’ve run ahead of—or over—my team.

But I also thought, “Why should I apologize to him? He works for me! I can do whatever I want and he needs to fall in line.” 

I also wondered if an apology would make me look weak and lose respect in my teams’ eyes.

How we handle conflict is huge in our shops. Handle it poorly and it may lead to massive turnover on your team. Handle it wisely and the team you always hoped for could come together and help you build a truly remarkable shop. 

Susan Scott, an author and leadership consultant, says in her book, Fierce Leadership, “What is needed now is for leaders to become more open, more flexible, less egoistic and less hypocritical. We must loosen our death grip on whatever we believe to be the truth simply because it is how we want the truth to look. We must be honest with ourselves and invite honesty from others.” 

How do we begin to have these more difficult, yet very important and honest conversations? The first step is to “interrogate reality.” This means we take a very honest look at ourselves and our shops and start recognizing what is real and true and not living in the false reality of what we want to be true. For instance, we may say we value customer service, but if we consistently get feedback from our customers and vendors that they felt belittled or not cared for when interacting with us, then we have to ask ourselves if we really do, or whether we just want to value it.

This is, in part, a huge advantage to getting negative feedback from our customers. Even though it is hard and our first reaction will likely be to get defensive to protect our team or our ego, it is worth the time and effort to figure out if there was anything we could have done differently. The only way learning and growth will happen is to own it and get to work on making it better. This, of course, does not mean that the customer is always right. But even those negative, nearly impossible-to-please customers can be viewed as a gift. Quite simply, if we have the guts to receive it, they help us become better people and run better shops. 

The absolute best place to interrogate reality is by looking in the mirror. Start with yourself. It’s not about laying blame or beating yourself up. We all make mistakes and we all have room to grow. Start with an honest look at yourself and own whatever reality you have created. Celebrate what is good, and then take my coach’s advice for the stuff that is not so good and have the hard conversations that start with “If I had to do this over again, I would… .” 

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