I’ve been the owner of a small advertising agency for nearly a dozen years now. In the early days when I did everything, including the media buying, I would get frustrated on occasion when dealing with incompetent people. I rarely ever yelled, but I didn’t hesitate to call out what I perceived as stupidity when I saw it.
It didn’t take me long to realize that our relationship with vendors was significantly more productive when I was nice to them. That benefited our clients because our negotiations on their behalf were more fruitful. I also realized that sometimes I was the stupid one. By using basic manners, being polite, and listening to the other person/people, I was able to work through the issues in a non-confrontational yet productive fashion.
I’ve found the same to be true when dealing with my kids. Yelling at them might make me feel better temporarily, but most of the time it doesn’t resolve the issue. Because I see and deal with my kids everyday, the emotions are much closer to the surface and harder to control. When I exercise patience trying to get my point across the results are generally better and I have more success in eliciting the desired behavior. Of course, sometimes they just need to be yelled at.
I’ve experienced several instances over the years of business people yelling at me. One of them was a major league sports team that wanted to sell one of our clients a sponsorship package. It was the only time someone has ever tried to make a sale by shouting at me on a conference call. I was so shocked that I didn’t really say much. Needless to say they didn’t make the sale.
It’s rare that anything gets solved by raising your voice in anger. On the other hand, if you can keep your cool while those around you freak out, you’ll be perceived as a rational leader who can function even in high-stress situations. Who would you prefer to work with in a business relationship? The jerk that tries to intimidate everyone around him or her? Or the person that recognizes there is a problem (or opportunity) and makes your life easier by taking charge and finding a solution?
Although I don’t succeed every time, I’m trying to be the person that finds a solution. Age seems to have provided me with more patience, and business ownership with perspective on what’s actually important.
I’m reminded of the old adage “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey,” and I find the journey more enjoyable when I’m having a good time and the people around me are doing the same. Every journey has challenges, and if you can keep your cool more often than not, the challenges may turn into opportunities.
The cliché police are probably coming for me right now, but damned if it doesn’t turn out they’re all true.