A few years back my company was growing leaps and bounds, the pace was hectic and I was falling down trying to keep up. I gained customers and I lost a few on this bumpy road.
Last week I paid a visit to a customer I lost. I guess I could have whined about growing pains, apologized profusely and relied on a spreadsheet to show how much money I could save them if they gave me another chance. To be honest, that was my game plan.
There were times my mind was made up before I even gave myself a chance to listen. All of us have been stubborn to a fault at one point or another.
I arrived early for the meeting. I was prepared and ready to go. After their team members were seated, I began my presentation. Seated at a distance was a team member who was disengaged. She wasn’t listening to me. She was leafing through the handouts and spreadsheets I provided. It became apparent she was the person who was most disgruntled.
I know her. I have been in her shoes at various times in my life. When someone caused me problems I became angry. When those who wronged me tried to make amends, I have been skeptical and mistrusting. There were times my mind was made up before I even gave myself a chance to listen. All of us have been stubborn to a fault at one point or another.
I continued through my presentation and explained how my company increased capacity, reduced prices and improved distribution. I was quick, clear and concise. In business, we tend to think things should be cut and dry. Sometimes we think life should run the same way and that’s far from the truth.
On this journey as an entrepreneur I have learned life lessons that speak to the very core of my existence. One of those lessons unfolded last week at this meeting. The time came when I asked for their comments. There were the usual “thanks for your time” and “you addressed all our concerns” comments. Then disgruntled team member had her say. She was quiet at first and slow to begin telling me exactly how my company failed her.
The first process of moving past a bad experience is to take an active step to create an environment where change is possible.
Rather than make mental counterpoints to her criticisms I shifted my thinking and just listened intently. I took full responsibility in my mind for her complaints. I am not going to say hearing the truth is an easy process. I believe we can block ourselves from acknowledging the things about us that need improving. When we listen with an open mind we facilitate a positive opportunity for resolution and improvement.
At the conclusion of the meeting, I witnessed the softening of animosity. The first process of moving past a bad experience is to take an active step to create an environment where change is possible. When we exercise our ability to listen honestly we can address our shortcomings. Many of us have faced this challenge throughout our lives and refused to take the first step.
Growing pains are tough in business and in life. The point of growth is to expand and improve. During the stormy season of growth we can sabotage our transition to a better model if we let ourselves become overwhelmed with disappointment, stress and anxiety.
I would say the best result of growth is the opportunity to reflect and take responsibility for the mistakes of the past. It’s surprising how many of us actually don’t take a hard look at how we contributed to a problem. It is easier to blame others for the whole mess rather than take ownership and seek partnership for resolution.
Anxiety is often our first reaction to conflict and problems. Each of us has the power to flip that into patience and compassion as we listen intently and take responsibility.
I am not sure if I will win the customer back. When I left the meeting I felt empowered. I transformed a business encounter into a positive situation where I could grow as both an entrepreneur and a person. How we become stronger, healthier and happier from growth is up to us. Anxiety is often our first reaction to conflict and problems. Each of us has the power to flip that into patience and compassion as we listen intently and take responsibility. For every negative there is a positive. For every mistake there is a solution. When we believe and practice this. … it’s all good.
Monica Simeon is an enrolled member of the Spokane Tribe. She is CEO and principal partner of Sister Sky. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.