I am a straight shooter—it’s not good and it’s also not necessarily bad. It is just who I am. But, I didn’t start out that way. In fact, when I started GroundFloor Media I used to get this undeniable pit in the bottom of my stomach when I knew that the inevitable conversation needed to happen. It didn’t matter if it was a disagreement with a team member, a level set with a client, or a frank discussion with one of our competitors. I despised the thought of having to talk openly and honestly about the issue at hand. I used to toss and turn at night trying to figure out the best way to approach it, the proof points that I should use, the setting in which it should happen and even if it was the right decision to have the conversation at all.
Three years ago we were managing a national project for a very large client and in that role,we managed multiple vendors who reported up to our team. Without delving into the details, there was an error that was made on location by one of the client’s vendors they had asked us to manage. The client was furious at our team and the cost of the mistake was significant. I received a call from our team lead early that morning to warn me that a lengthy e-mail was waiting for me in my in box – an e-mail that 26 people were copied on (including the CMO). Needless to say, by this time I understood what had happened and where the fault ultimately fell. However, in a split second I knew that the tough conversation needed to happen immediately and no matter who was at fault, we needed to take the blame and cover the cost. I wrote a response, owned up to our responsibility and offered to cover the cost.
I didn’t have time to even think about it. It was simply the right thing to do.
At that moment I also realized that all tough conversations needed to be like this. The longer you wait to either own something or address something, the worse it can get. I am still far from perfect and find myself fretting over the ‘how’ when that knot in my stomach creeps up, but it does get easier.
Any professional service position requires a commitment to personalize the situation and address any concerns head on. I continue to make mistakes, but I have learned that if something seems out of alignment, it is better to rip the Band-Aid off and have the courage to address it. Once I stopped fretting about the right words to use and spoke from my heart, it became a lot easier to take feedback, own my role in it and try to find a solution.
We are fortunate to have clients that believe this type of communication is not only important, but also necessary. They aren’t afraid to call us on our mistakes and ask us to let them know when we are off base. These frank and transparent conversations are often the turning point that leads us down the road of a trusting, long-lasting relationship.
If you have that knot in your stomach and are trying to figure out how to bridge the gap and start the dialogue, I encourage you to jump in and do it now. I can almost guarantee that not only will you feel better afterward, but also that your relationship and partnership will take a turn for the better.