I had a tough day last week. I received a critical email from a member of the team. It’s the only downside of having an “open-door” policy… people will genuinely tell you what they think!
The team member made a number of observations about how I could be a better boss. It’s never easy to hear people outline your flaws – especially when you don’t necessarily agree with them all.
One of the points was about how I show appreciation for a job well done. Whenever a member of the sales team signs up a new customer, I whoop and dance around the office. It’s something I’ve always done. “Why don’t you do that when a RoadCrew Customer Service or implementation member gets praise?” I was asked.
This isn’t the first time I’ve had to take criticism on the chin. Back when I was growing my last business, Masternaut, the economy turned. We made it through the 2008 banking crisis, but we needed to reduce headcount. Out of a team of 220, we had to lose 50 people. It was tough.
Needless to say, employees weren’t happy, and weren’t shy in telling me that morale was low and people had lost motivation. To try and tackle the issue, I brought in a neuro linguistic programming (NLP) expert, who worked wonders.
NLP helps you retrain your brain to aid communication and resolve conflict. I sometimes wonder if I should appoint a company doctor here, an expert to act as a middleman and hear gripes from both sides and help to resolve them – without me getting any critical emails. As much as I hate to admit it, I always learn a lot from criticism.
I don’t think I can stop dancing round the office when we make a sale. I’m like the Premiership footballer who gets carried away in the moment. You shout at the TV, asking, “Why did you lose control?!” The answer is passion. The adrenaline takes hold and I just want to dance. That same passion drives me when something goes wrong. It motivates me to solve every problem.
But that email showed me that I need to work on how we praise people who don’t work in sales. Many organisations struggle with the resentment between sales and the rest of the company. The sales team may get the orders in but everyone else has to deliver the work, yet they have the big salaries and nice holidays. Maybe we should buy a company sports car and let the Star of the Week drive it around… Could that work?
As an entrepreneur, people will always be your greatest strength, but they may also be your biggest weakness. We are all human. I’m trying to learn how to cope with criticism. I’ve learned that I can take anything as long as it’s delivered face to face. I can’t stand it over email. I’ve also learned that I need to be better at communicating some of the pressures that I face. Perhaps, employees will go easier on me if they know all the things I am juggling each day.
I emailed all my team asking them to arrange a 20-minute chat with me by booking a slot. There is nothing better than a face-to-face meeting. It is so much better than emails, telephone calls and second-hand conversations via other parties.
Let me know what you think and thank you for reading.
All the best
Founder & CEO