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Friday, June 06, 2008

The power of respect

The crisis started at our regular 1:30 p.m. Monday staff meeting when I sensed something was not right. By 3:00 p.m., at the regular monthly meeting with consultant Bill Caswell, I received some advice (not followed exactly the way I should!) that helped set the course to address and resolve the problem I perceived needed urgent attention. We resolved the situation and concluded the story (at least this chapter) today.

How do you handle difficult business relationships and challenges -- especially when you face potential conflict and hostility? As I gain experience, increasingly I'm sharing the values of our primary business consultant Bill Caswell, who advocates the concept of "respect" -- that is, seeing things from the perspective of the other persons and seeking to understand and acknowledge their fundamental human decency, no matter how aggravating the circumstances.

This week, I faced the respect test at a high level, but paradoxically (and out of respect for the person involved) I cannot go into details here. The challenge involved many hours as I soothed sensitive client relationships. With some real drama in the office, I haven't had the time or energy to blog like usual -- and while my "big pen" (big mouth) would love to share some of the really interesting stories that evolved this week in the presence of this company's other employees, I know that won't do anyone any good.

I can say, however, that I applied the principals of respect, coupled with a significant amount of common sense, to arrive at the fairest resolution possible and achieve results that are rare if not downright exceptional in conventional business practice.

Here are some of the guidelines I followed:
  • I listened and heard 'warning signs' because my ears were open. This gave me the opportunity to confront the situation decisively;

  • I consulted with trusted advisers, in confidence, to validate and correct my course where required. But I still took responsibility for all my actions;

  • I accelerated the lines of communication and information gathering. This allowed me to catch a truly major potential client crisis immediately, and take remedial measures within minutes;
  • I 'slept on it' when facing major emotional and confrontation issues -- avoiding email and allowing others to speak first;

  • I allowed sufficient time to ensure that I had enough information to reach a fair and reasonable conclusion about the circumstances;
and, most importantly, even when we reached the end of the road;
  • I left the door open for future relationships and possibilities.
Lots of "I's there, I realize, but this is a personal story. The basic guidelines however transcend any selfish perspectives. We all are better off if we listen, consider all the circumstances, and do whatever we can to mitigate problems. Then, even the most difficult circumstances can lead to improvements and new opportunities.

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