Last week I went to have my blood drawn for my annual physical exam.  The results included a Business Lesson Found.

The technician’s first question was if I was there for a “wellness visit”.  After a moment to consider whether an “annual physical” is considered a “wellness visit”, I said “yes”.  The technician frantically searched the computer and then told me I was not registered which was required before proceeding.  Confused, I pointed out that registration was never mentioned in previous visits and asked who to contact for this. “Your employer.” “But I’m self-employed.” “Contact your employer.” Realizing this interaction was going nowhere, I called the diagnostic lab’s customer service number; explained the situation; and was told “I don’t know why they are giving you the run around”. (That’s an exact quote about her own co-workers which is the “don’t throw co-workers under the bus” corollary to the Lesson Found on consistent customer excellence.)

The technician’s and my part in this awkward conversation are two separate pieces to this Lesson Found on listening. The listener’s responsibility is the first piece.  Had the technician been trained on active listening, she might have picked-up on and delved into my “self-employed” comment.  This points to why training on how to listening should be an integral part of your customer service plan. Listening is also a fundamental skill of leadership.  For leaders, the most difficult part of listening is not being distracted by thoughts of your over extended to-do list or next appointment. You must be fully present in the moment in order to truly listen and understand what is being said.

On the flip-side, my part as the speaker contributed to the misunderstanding.  Paying attention to both what we say and how we convey it also avoids misunderstandings and mistakes.  This means putting yourself in the listener’s mind and ears as you speak. Will the listener comprehend what you are saying?  Are you assuming prior knowledge, thus skipping a piece of needed information?  Are you using hot-button words or phrases which previously elicited a negative reaction?  This latter point is particularly profound in family businesses when emotions run hot and the negative reaction may have occurred years or even decades ago.

While this may sound like hard work, the benefits in higher morale and fewer mistakes are well worth it.  Plus, as you practice, it becomes easier and eventually a natural reflex.

Still, there are times when this can be exhausting and your only thought is: “Where can I just be myself without having to worry about every word?”  One author suggests that he solution is to hire a confidential advisor or coach.  Another alternative is to join a group of others owners in a confidential, non-competitive and supportive environment where you can freely state what is on your mind.  Such a group can also provide outside perspective from the other owners whose own experiences mean they can relate to and understand your situation.  The outcomes are better decisions and better results.

I am currently building such a group specifically geared to Small Businesses.  For this peer advisory group, I am looking for business owners with a growth mindset; integrity; and who are open to both share and receive honest assessments of, and from, each other.  Since it is a non-competitive group, each business category is limited to one-member company but I still have openings in a few categories. If you’d like to see if your category is still available and learn how advise from your peers can benefit you and your company, connect with me via email or call me (717-439-6254).

Life brings us lessons every day.  Sometimes from expected sources.  And sometimes from sources and situations we never would have thought possible.  Either way, they are a gift found. I am fortunate to find these types of lessons regularly and wanted to share them with you with this weekly series of “Lessons Found”.
Did you recently receive the gift of a Lesson Found that has helped you with management, marketing or another aspect in business? I would love to hear about it. Comment below or send me an email to let me know.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS: All images from Pixabay