It is glorious June. The shops are full of flowers tempting us to plant and nurture. My garden is rampant with clematis; the geraniums are planted and we are set for summer. People are thrilled to see and feel the sun. The weather kindly presented us with a magnificent Bank Holiday. Barbeques seemed to be grilling away in every garden; there was a tempting smell of delicious food and there were lots of happy children enjoying half term.
Of course that is the upside. We are all still concerned about the virus. Most of the eligible population has had its vaccinations but because of the newly identified virulent strains we cannot relax. Here in Bedford there is the conflict between high numbers of infection and the weariness of lockdown. The struggle to remain vigilant and yet to see our family, friends and colleagues. It is stressful and none of us are as relaxed as we would like to be.
And what a week it has been for stress – changing relationships. We all saw a very public outpouring of vitriol. I wonder how many years of frustration went into seven hours of downloading “my side of the story”. It was a classic case of getting his retaliation in first.
And then there was a secret wedding. It was the happy ending, the very stuff of chick lit. One friend said to me “it was a case of some people think I am a shopping trolley but I know I am the romantic hero!” A bit naughty but we do see ourselves through our own lens and not necessarily the eyes of others. Yet again I recommend the Johari window and touching base with how others see us and why. If we are open and perceptive a quick check on our spoken and body language can always yield useful information.
We have all been there. We have had a relationship in the family, with a friend or at work and it has started brilliantly. In particular at work when we start a new job we might be filled by the imposter syndrome but the organisation is desperate for us to be its messiah. They want us to bring fantastic results, to right everything that is going wrong and bring harmony.
In some ways it is easier if you sell a product. I have just had a birthday and been deluged with fantastic cardboard boxes. There have been plants and flowers of course with providers desperate to outdo each other in presentation or variety. There were brownies in gorgeous boxes, chocolates displayed in a clever birthday card. There was a cheese eaters’ hamper with three types of cheese, two sorts of crackers and a selection of chutneys. I was very fortunate and the products were delightful. Bless my friends they made great selections. Their purchases lived up to expectations.
However buying a service is a different thing. Just recently I have been working with clients on their proposals. Let’s face it writing a proposal is one of the most difficult parts of the relationship. You have been on the first date and like what you see and hear. (I also think we like what we smell – pheromones are as important for human beings as for any other animal). You want to take the relationship further and the potential client says send me a proposal. Result! So now you have to describe the service you will deliver and all its fantastic benefits; you have to touch all those aspects that the client sees as important, whether they are as important for you as they are for them; and you have to make clear what the client must contribute to secure the results they seek. You might have an additional set of terms and conditions – we all want paying! This document is fundamental though often the first date has been so compulsive a client is carried along on its momentum. However the proposal needs to be agreed. Most of the time it becomes merely a document of record. However it becomes vital when there is a disagreement. If the client says, “Why have you not supplied XX?” If you said you would, you should; if you never said you would then it was not part of the agreement.
It seems to me that often relationships fracture because we change the rules but do not have a clear understanding and agreement of how. I once had a great boss who taught me to write “for the sake of good order” letters. This sounds very old fashioned these days but an email that says “we have discussed xx and agreed that we will do yy” is not old fashioned it is common sense and a development of the original contract. It could also save a great deal of hurt, worry and legislative angst further down the line.
Now a certain senior adviser says he pointed out times when his boss was not doing what he had said he would. I wonder about this. As human beings we often talk about the things we agree about and do not talk much about the things we disagree over. Worse we even assume that because we believe in the same things we agree how to make them happen. Did he say what he saw going wrong in such a way that it was clearly heard and understood? I guess we will never know and it will be one person’s word against another – the worst type of disagreement.
I love the soap operas where someone suddenly becomes the worm that turns and pronounces “I’m done!” And then stomps off. Without doubt this adviser stomped off with his cardboard box and we all saw it.
I once watched a relationship between a PA and her MD boss come to an end. She was a thoroughly nice woman with good values and great skills. She had protected him through thick and thin. One day he just went too far – I have never been sure what he did, he brought his usual grey balloon to work but something additional happened. This normally mild mannered and amazing woman ended up saying with the door open, in a strident voice that we had never heard before “Enough! You are impossible. I am going and I am taking my geraniums with me!” And she did! It must have been June.
If you do not want any of your professional relationships whether with colleagues, suppliers or clients to end in this way then monitor them – are you doing what you promised? If there is a proposal, a contract or other written agreement are you fulfilling it? Have you asked them if they are happy with how things are going? If something is not quite right what can you do to fix it? If the relationship has truly fractured then can it be ended elegantly and quietly? And with no long term damage to either of you.
So if you are reading this and it resonates with you; if you like my ideas and values; if you want to develop your business or yourself; then please give me a call. I love speaking with people, off the meter, to help them explore possibilities and whether/how to take them forward. Maybe you have a proposal you would like someone else to look at or just want an objective view of how things are! So pick up the phone now.