This month, I started to read a book “What they don’t teach you at Harvard Business School” by Mark H. McCormack. While I am still in the midst of enjoying a good read, I can’t help but notice a consistent advice that the book has brought out – “Learn to Wait”.
I quote: “It is still amazing to me how the simple passing of time can totally alter a situation, solve problems, render other problems meaningless, cool down confrontations and add a whole new perspective.”
I am amazed myself. I recalled that once I was a hot-headed young man who cannot sit still. I expected the world to move at the same pace as me. I couldn’t stand it when things were not moving fast enough. To be absolutely candid, I still have the hot-headedness in me now but with age, I have learnt something else. Patience. I have learnt a bit to control my hot-headedness with patience.
I am still learning patience, just like what the author said. Learning to wait, learning to be patient has produced much more positive outcomes than the lack of patience and rushing into decisions in the heat of the fire.
Looking back these 7 years of entrepreneurship journey, I am happy. One of the virtues that I have learnt well is really patience.
There were so many times when we get a phone call and the other end was an angry voice which shouted relentless or issued endless threats to terminate the contract if we don’t respond or don’t comply etc. I reckon that many of us would be affected emotionally. No one likes to be at the end of a phone call from customers or partners with bad news. Yet, we have to learn how to deal with bad news.
Many people would start to apologise to customers or partners when they hear bad news and then become edgy and wanted to jump in to resolve issues. I am not saying we shouldn’t do this. Now, if there is a real fire, we better send out firefighters and fight the fire first, or else everything will be burnt down. But the crux is “real fire”. Life-threatening real fires. That is the crux.
When we hear news, especially bad news, it is always important for us to first take a deep breath (as if this is your last breath) and then calmly try to establish the facts. How bad is the situation? Is it a real fire? Is it something that is time sensitive? How much time do I think I have to resolve this issue?
I find that if I am able to establish the facts quickly, the most useful question that I can answer is “how much time do I think I have to resolve this”?
Very often, we do have time. Sometimes, taking a step back and re-looking at the problems or issues from a different perspective may help. Talking to others to find out the real concerns would also help to create options to resolve the issues. Sometimes, sleeping over the problem may not be a bad idea after all.
Next, coming to my last point, is there a proven way to handle bad news and crisis (besides being patience)?
IMHO, I have my own set of rules of engagement and I will share:
Rule Number 1 – Acknowledge: Always acknowledge that there could be an issue or a problem. Set a specific time to get back to the person once we have established the facts.
Rule Number 2 – Learn More: Always ask for time to “learn” more about the issue first. Establish the facts.
Rule Number 3 – Action: Once we know where the problem lies, plan for a remedial action. Always have a few options.
Rule Number 4 – Get Back: Always get back to update the person who contacted you on the issue. Review the findings and propose the possible options and recommendations.
With a lot of patience, a strong heart, and a good ear to hear the complaints, and armed with the 4 rules of engagement, I am pretty confident I can face most of the issues.
With best regards