At times in our lives, weve each made the occasional business mistake. Most of the time, there are no financial ramifications for our errors. But what if you are a self-storage site manager and the blunder of all blunders is about to be made by your owner? What do you do?
First, do not cross the line. Wheres the line? Youll know when youre just about to cross it, or the second after youve stepped over. I crossed that line once with a boss, using a line akin to Johnny Paychecks musical hit, Take This Job and Shove It. Im not proud of letting things get that far out of control.
Thankfully, my supervisor had firsthand knowledge of what I was facing and knew I had been pushed to the breaking point and beyond. As we backed away to our opposing corners, there was time to breathe, reflect and determine how to best handle an emotionally charged situation. We were fortunate enough to move forward to a highly profitable and, most important, mutually respectful arrangement. We survived the tension-filled circumstances. Hopefully, youll take away information from this article to help you if you ever face a similar one.
Disagreeing With Tact
While disagreements between employees and superiors can be sparked by any number of things, lets use marketing as an example. This is the place where Ive seen the most discourse between self-storage owners and site staff.
Lets say the boss wants you to execute a marketing idea you think would be an embarrassment to you and the facility. Your first thought? This guy is nuts. Of course, thats not something you should blurt out. In fact, dont knock his idea from the word go.
Instead, since youve already built a good rapport with your owner, ask for some time to mull the idea over. This buys you time for evaluation, and youll have the ability to research and gather some ideas, facts and figures to dispute the concept without making it a personal attack. Or perhaps you can add or enhance the idea to make it more workable.
Abruptly dismissing anyones idea outright may lead to a negative confrontation. The idea-maker will naturally become defensive, and youll find yourself in a battle of egos rather than on the path to creating a great marketing program. Dont inject emotions into the discussion; keep it based in fact.
You also need to learn the best way to approach your boss with ideas or changes. Some people have better analytical or critical thinking skills, while others are more emotional or reactive thinkers. This doesnt mean one type of thinker is any more intelligent; its just a natural predilection of the individual. Some people are more inflexible in their thought processes, so you may need to adapt to their thought methodology to get your ideas across. The goal is to identify the other persons preferred methods and adapt to meet him in the middle.
Weve all made our share of mistakes. Taking ownership or responsibility for an error in judgment is a good place to start; forgive yourself and move forward. Accepting that others suffer from the same human faults is another good starting place. Besides, what will happen tomorrow? A new day will begin with yet another opportunity to make a mistake or a good call. Each day is like a do-over with the knowledge gained from the days prior.
Building Respect and Trust
What if you dont have a good rapport with your boss? Dont fret. It can be developed. Interpersonal relationships require mutual respect and trust. Your boss is already showing you trusthe trusts you with his facility. You know your paycheck arrives promptly so, in a subliminal way, you trust your owner too. Continue on that path and think about other ways you trust one another. If you find there are places where theres no trust, move in a positive direction to rectify it.
Respect is another trait thats very important in any relationship. Even if you dont believe your owner is the sharpest tack, he does own a business and you are working for him, so respect that hes made a few good decisions in his life. He did hire you, didnt he?
Open Communication Lines
Another critical element is opening the door for honest conversations with your owner. One of the best ways to accomplish this is to meet with him off site in a non-work-related environment. This is the time to present issues important to you, your site and your owner. Meeting outside of the trappings of your office provides a place where the flow of conversation wont be interrupted by customers or co-workers.
Another benefit: You wont be stressed about performing per script as you would in an office setting. An offsite location is conducive to a more laid-back dialogue. In this comfortable locale, armed with your facts, figures and research put together in a professional manner, youve got the start of a great way to address a concern or combat a bad idea.
Plan ahead, get your bids, suggestions or other items in place before the meeting, then review and study them. Analyze your own perspective, and have someone play devils advocate for you. Put yourself in your owners position while reviewing the appropriate topic. What other information might you ask in his position? Get the answers and be ready to share what youve learned.
Dont write volumes, instead focus on bullet points that are easy to present with one- or two-sentence leads. For example, I believe we need to consider addressing this issue. Please take a look at these bids (or ideas or my reasons) at your earliest convenience and let me know your thoughts. Then drop the subject and move on to a friendlier, non-threatening topic of conversation such as the latest game scores or a new play in town.
Be a Team Player
Despite your best efforts to turn any idea or project around, there may still come a time when you feel the boss is completely wrong. What do you do? You have two choices: sit back and watch his concept potentially fail, or jump in with both feet and help. One of two things will occur: Your owner will realize you were correct after all, and may then appreciate that you were so astute and on target. Or, by jumping in despite your take on the situation, youll show yourself to be a true professional and a real team player. Either way, you must give the owners ideas a chance to succeed or fail as they may.
People sometimes have to learn by making mistakes, and your owner is no different. As adults with the perceptiveness of hindsight, we know when we would have, could have or should have in past decisions if given a second chance to rectify our errors.
Whats the absolute worst that can happen by trying even a really bad idea? Sure, there may be an I told you so moment, which you, of course, will not use as an opportunity to gloat; and you could even be slightly embarrassed along the way. On the other hand, you could learn something new, make a friend, or discover a new skill.
Be a team player, even when you think someone else is completely wrong. You can prove to yourself and your team that youll put forth 110 percent even if you disagree, and youll gain respect along the way. How you overcome objections or less-than-optimal ideas by others within your organization is something you should accomplish through tact, grace and compassion. You have nothing to lose, but much to gain by working together in a non-threatening, mutually respectful manner.
Gina Six Kudo is the general manager of Cochrane Road Self Storage in Morgan Hill, Calif. She has more than 16 years of self-storage experience and a strong customer-service and sales background. She can be reached at 408.782.8883; e-mail [email protected] , visit www.cochranestorage.com .