……The Minds Consciousness (FaceBook)
This quote that I spotted on FaceBook a few days ago, made a huge impact on me as a small business owner, an independent contractor and as a person. It truly made me think and prompted me to write this blog entry to perhaps help other small business owners and contractors, I am pretty confident that I am not the only one that has lacked the resilience and strength to move past those 10 seconds.
I also knew that those 10 second moments have been affecting me badly and that to ensure that my day ended productively I needed to get over those 10 seconds, solve the issue if there was one and to not harbor any negative feelings towards myself or the challenge that I had faced.
So, have you ever felt that sinking feeling in your stomach that no matter what you do, there is no chance of resolving an issue with a customer? Typically it lasts more than 10 seconds for me. Guilt is part of my makeup. I must not show my feelings as guilt though because when it comes to family and friends in my life they look at me as the forever optimist. The glass is always half full!
“Don’t sweat the small stuff”…I have fully accepted that I do sweat the small stuff and to some degree this has conflicted with my constant need to have everything right and to ensure that what I deliver at the end of day is a good product and service. On a daily basis, you are pressured to make quick decisions, turn around a project in way less time that you really want to spend on it, to create based on partial information and to juggle more things each and every day.
If you are starting to sweat the small things, and are getting more and more frustrated, it is a good time to go and have a cigarette break…I use this phrase as if I am always taking a smoking break. Fact is I have never smoked in my entire life but my work life started in the late 80’s, smoking breaks were the hip thing to do. For me personally, I grab a cup of tea, and go sit on my porch, or I go visit with my horses for a few minutes. This time away from my desk solves a lot of the problems that were mounting up a few ways. I have found that I have put my trust in people that are able to resolve things and are as proactive as I am. If I am getting frustrated I am only inhibiting their abilities. Taking a 10 minute break allows you come back with positive thoughts and a fresh mind to come up with the ideas needed to creatively solve the problem.
It is late afternoon and a client emails/skypes you with a problem that you may have caused. Those 10 seconds used to kick in straight away for me. I would physically start to sweat, get upset and to question my memory. I admit that I do have a bad memory and for as long as I “remember” I have used mnemonics to help me to categorize tasks. Because of my memory issues I like to organize everything, follow the rule of one touch on all emails and if possible, not have to do a series of things that are not standard each time I send out a file or update. So when I read the message, I stop, think, and then I consider what actions I need to take. Usually, if it is a problem I have caused, I should be able solve it pretty quickly. Client created problems are usually a little tougher but they are typically more receptive to your solution and ultimately grateful for your help. The difficulty is making sure your client is happy with the solution irrelevant of how the issue was created.
The old adage, that software companies used to sell their software with problems, so that they can “fix” it for you quickly and then make you feel beholden to them is not a good option. If your client has contacted you then they are typically already frustrated. First rule; accept ownership to solve the challenge. Second rule; offer a solution that is quick and effective. Third rule; give them a good idea of how much time that solution is going to take. If they need it quicker, indicate that you want to make sure that the solution is the best possible answer and will generate the best possible outcome in the timeline available. Rushing something usually generates other errors and that is most definitely not the answer and it is another opening to losing more than 10 seconds of your life and probably your client!
By being calm, not sweating the small stuff and solving the challenges as they hit your desk methodically your day will end on a much higher and positive position and even if you still have things to tackle the next day you will know that you have done everything that you possibly can. Never think that not sweating the small stuff means you can forget it or not solve it! It just means that you need to solve it and be able to put it on your “DONE” list.
It has been painful but I have learnt over the years that the customer is not “always right”, but it is just as important that you deal with that situation in the same calm, methodical way. Alienating customers is not the best idea, but being honest with them is. Letting them off by not telling them what they may have done wrong, just means that they may do it again. So pick your words wisely and suggest that there may be a way for this not to happen in the future and offer a variety of different steps that will allow you both to take everything into consideration.
Overall, live for the moment; do not live to work, but rather work to live! Never get that sinking feeling again, but rather take the opportunity to learn something new, and to create a good memory for you, your team and your client!