Have you ever been disappointed, angry and/or just generally frustrated with employees, customers, bankers or the government?
Did it seem to you I just described the very definition of being a business owner? It probably gets you fired up just by mentioning these past experiences!
Would you say I was crazy if I told you it doesn’t have to be this way? Of course not, we all know business owners can have great employees, appreciative customers, friendly bankers and no government worries.
What is the secret to breaking through to those happy places?
The solution was in the mirror when you got up this morning.
About 90% of the barriers between the best and worst of customers and employees are the self-limiting beliefs we create ourselves! – (And the other 10% is just in your head )
There is a lot of neuroscience research behind the how and why, but here is the short version of how your mind gets in the way of business success:
Real-life experiences with employees and customers are recorded in your brain along with the emotions that go with it. If you were frustrated with an employee for three months, experienced the personal trauma of firing them and then got sued for wrongful dismissal, there are some real and painful emotions attached to the memory of these experiences. Over time, when you replay these experiences over and over in your head as you think about your other employees that give you grief, your brain creates a subconscious “shortcut” for thinking about any employee grief – eventually, it programs itself (without your conscious awareness) to have a default thought pattern:
“If I start to think about employee issues, avoid it because it is too painful and it will end badly!”
The first step is to accept that the science I just explained is possible. If it is possible to be happening within your own brain you are halfway to fixing the problem. What you have is the knowledge that the possibility exists.
The second half of the solution takes a little more courage and even some vulnerability. You will need to self-reflect and bring these thought patterns into your conscious awareness.
When you go from being “unaware” to being “aware” of the mindset and thinking patterns, you now have conscious control over those thoughts.
Once you have conscious control of the thought patterns (basically bad thinking habits) you can begin to “unlearn” them. Because they are habits, you need to practice identifying them and then replacing them with new thought patterns. This requires some quiet time away from distractions. You get to decide the new thoughts, but consider the following replacement mindset for dealing with challenging employee situations:
“This is just a business issue. I can set aside the personal emotions of past experiences and just have an honest and business-like discussion with the employee. Avoiding it makes it worse. When I think about it, the pain of each time I avoid it is likely worse than the pain of just having an open, honest, business-like discussion.”
Just like any habit or established pattern, it will take practice to change it. The employee termination example is probably the most painful issue I have coached business owners through to an always surprisingly good resolution (which, at the time, does seem totally impossible by the way). However, why not start experimenting with a minor issue? Maybe start with just some business-like direct communication with an employee that you might be avoiding.
From a practical point of view, I have a great “trick” to improve the chance of success. The tip is to just give yourself time to prepare for the communication. If you need to have a conversation with an employee about showing up late for the second time this week, give them advanced notice and give yourself time to prepare. If they come in late at 8:15 a.m. one morning, give them advanced notice you want to talk to them about it: “Hey Joe, Can you come to my office at 10:00 a.m. this morning? I want to discuss your tardiness with you.” This gives you time to unlearn and let go of all those rep-programmed thoughts, such as:
- “He is probably going to start crying.”
- “I hope he doesn’t quit over this.”
- “He will probably roll his eyes and them blame something other than himself.”
Do you see how your brain automatically plays out a future event that hasn’t even happened yet as ending badly?
In this example, try these new thoughts instead:
- “I would like to understand the real reason for the tardiness.”
- “If I could explain my point of view in a business-like way, I could ask Joe if he really understands why I think it is important to be on time.”
- “How can we help Joe get here on time?”
If you trust the process and are willing to experiment with some new mindsets, the rewards will be abundant. You really have to trust it, try it and experience it for yourself. Not surprisingly, the new experiences will eventually replace the old experiences.
By the way, we practice what we preach. I am already creating in my mind a future experience where you reach out to us and report a successful application of this concept! Congratulations in advance!