I have a very good friend who has a very specific business problem. Each time I spend time with them they talk about this issue. Each time they complain, they complain about this issue. And each time they do, they point out the same cause for the issue. Of course, they don’t think they have anything to do with the reason they’re having the problem in the first place.
Here’s the rub: the cause they’re illustrating is not the reason they have the problem. That much is obvious to me, obvious to whomever else is listening, and probably obvious to the clients my friend is having problems with.
One day I decided to take matters into my own hands. I told my friend that I wanted to have lunch with them. When we got together, I told them that I was there for an intervention.
I explained that there was no upside for me to have this conversation. I told them that when I was done they’d probably be mad at me which was not my intent. Instead, I wanted them to see a simple solution to their problem that they simply didn’t see before.
From there, I thought I was going to explain the problem and what I thought was the solution. But very few words had passed my lips before my friend started explaining why I was wrong, why the problem was bigger than I understood, and why they were doing the right thing.
So much for being helpful.
Perhaps they were right, who knows? What I do know is that my friend wasn’t open to understanding or exploring the issue.
Some people want to evolve. Some don’t.
All this went through my mind this morning when I read a blog post from another friend of mine. This person wrote:
“I talked to a very bright guy I know recently whom I really respect. He’s creative and articulate and interesting. During our time together he mentioned something negative that someone else has said about me. I have always called this kind of reporting “schoolyard gossip.” I remember when our kids’ fourth grade teacher told us during a parent evening at school, “Here’s my deal: If you don’t believe everything your kids tell you about me, I won’t believe everything they tell me about you.”
I wrote back:
“Hmmmmmm. I resemble that remark. Thanks for the insight and giving me something to think about. I’m always looking to evolve.”
Of course, I could be wrong. But assuming that they were talking about me, I surely enjoyed being called “very bright,” “creative,” “articulate,” and “interesting.” But I didn’t enjoy how my actions were perceived. Because while I might have thought I was being helpful, clearly I was not.
Only after I read what had been written did I realize how petty and gossipy I had been. And whether or not that was my intent is irrelevant. I acted badly and got called on my actions.
Forget about my disappointment in myself. Instead, let’s try to look at this constructively. You see, I realize this is a great way to start a new year. I now have something to look at, something to work on, something to strive for.
I have written many columns about PR crises management — mostly taking the best and worst examples from big companies and explaining what happened. I do this to provide entrepreneurs and small business owners like you with proven, practical advice. But here is an example taken right out of real life.
Just as I would suggest to my clients, I need to follow my own 4As of Crises Management:
Accept the mistake without being defensive.
Acknowledge your error to the people who matter.
Apologize quickly and sincerely.
Act to fix the problem.
I know what I did. I wrote to my friend to acknowledge my error. I am sorry. I am committed to not do this again.
Is this how people evolve? I suppose that remains to be seen. With this article I’m telling you a little bit about how I’m going to try to evolve in 2018. Or, as my friend wrote back when I reached out: “If you evolve anymore, you’ll be flapping your arms and flying.”