Business is not supposed to be this difficult. Even if you are caught up in issues and problems, finding solutions is part of the job – and since you’ve already love the business enough to start it, chances are, you are most willing to look for solutions. I am always happy to stay up late, work longer hours when needed or attend to problems even at 3 am in the morning. I’m generous with giving time or money to the business, or to myself so I can invest to learn more just so I can improve in it.
It’s people who make it hard.
But business involves people – from all walks of life, with past experiences and different background. Yet it’s unavoidable to work with people. They form the business chain, that makes your business existing in the first place. People in your business involves your customers, followers, suppliers, collaborators, providers, shareholders, investors or naysayers. When people get involved in your business, then it gets harder. The more people to manage, it gets out of hand. The more people who disagree with your way of doing things for your business, then it gets emotional.
It’s inevitable that in order to run a business, potentially retire from it – one of the main key to be a good business owner is to be able to manage expectations of people, and their character without pulling down yours. You cannot expect people to carry the same principles as you, because they’ve learnt their own lessons (or lack of) and mature differently from the experiences they go through in life. They might be a pain to deal with, but hey, you can also be a pain to deal with – in their perspective.
There is no right way of behaviour, only acceptable ways of behaviour.
What’s acceptable to someone else, may not be something you be willing to tolerate. People can behave whatever they want – positive or negative – but the question is, if you let them behave that way around you.
The battle with people.
Sadly, in certain circumstances, you have to lower your expectations of people or deal with things you usually don’t put up with – for the benefits of your business sustainability. A common saying “When you mix with the sheep, you go “baa.” When you mix with the cows, you go “Moo”‘. You have to adapt to the way people do business, or behave in business because for the time you are there – you want to learn, achieve or get the most while you tolerated them.
Based on my experience dealing with people, I almost wanted to give up right from the beginning. Which would ultimately be a shame, because I did not think my idea is bad and I was all geared and ready to execute at all cost. One of the cost, as I learnt later on, is the tolerance of people and the intent to lead them well.
Here are some of my tips, to guide you in mastering the skill of dealing with people.
In business, you are putting yourself out there to open opportunities to grow your company. That means dealing with people, from all walks of life each with a certain mindset that was groomed from the circumstances they’ve gone through in their respective lives – that means, there is no one way of dealing with them. Due to the many differences, there is a way higher chance of a miss than a hit, in other words – disputes. And before you go on hating disputes, believe it or not, you get that everyday when you combined two different people together – in a room, in a business, in any spot. It’s what human do, they seek differences and sometimes, defended theirs over someone else’s. But increase your tolerance, by changing that mindset before you work with a person – that he or she is potentially different from you, and you will encounter a dispute in a matter of time. When you expect that, then you would have rectification plans lined in order.
This is a challenge for most people, especially those who are raised in a country or a household that encourages freedom of speech and expression. Yes, everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and verbal speech but remember – what you say, always has implications. It can hurt someone else’s, belittle others, defame the innocent, kill the relationship, close possible opportunities, monetary loss and emotional guilt. To practise the restrainment of emotions, temper, tantrum is to stay away from things that easily worked you up. You know yourself, cut off as many things or limit interaction with people or conversation that triggers you. And if you really have to deal with them, then take time off (even for a 5 minutes break for fresh air) before you come back to respond to them. It helps to calm you when you move away from the negativity, and you most likely think better on how to respond to others professionally after that. Sometimes people may never entirely know how you feel inside, and guess what, that is okay. You may never really like someone, for the way they behave and they may never know. Chances are mostly likely, people won’t change if that is their way of character for many years before you know them.
This is a fine line about being a kind boss and a mean one. Sometimes it happens when you try to be kind, and in return – you get taken advantage of that kindness. I learnt that from the people I personally hire and I have to say, it’s true. I am sure that are many people who trade their best with the kindness you gave them, I just have not met many of such people yet. Not everything will go your way, and before you make unjust decision to a matter, make sure to identify the entire circumstances that lead to the issue. It will involved people, and the decisions they make – so be open to their explanation, listen to them first and if it makes sense, show sensibility to their reasoning. At times, their decision would have cost you losses, but losses is something expected in doing business. The question after that, if you choose to let them do the same job.
Never Abuse Power
Power only keeps its true meaning, when it’s rarely used. Anything that is commonly and frequently said or exercised, loses its meaning. Power is not something that naturally comes with people sitting on the higher end of the hierarchy but the people with ability to control that authority and use it when it’s really required to. You can remind people of your power, by making them understand your role as a decision maker overwriting theirs and that way – you earn respect. But the abuse of power, is to dictate and not lead, to punish more than listen, to command instead of politely requesting – that will kill your relationships with your best employee. And the price of losing great people, will directly implicate in your financial loss statements.
In my honest opinion, the benefit of social media is on the same benchmark as the dangers lurking when you connect with people online. People use social media as a form of building a reputation and people who had issues with you, use your same reputation to tarnish. Several handful of people I’ve met doing business with, when comes a dispute, would always threaten the use of social media to shame and/or defame.
This sounds like a personal satisfaction from a point of weakness, more than a business decision from a point of practicality.
There are many ways to handle a dispute in a business starting off with negotiation and if need be, a legal intervention. It sounded appalling to me how people think at their discretion, they have the liberty and privilege to use someone else’s online reputation as a bait to get their way.
This is how great business people work. They have disputes, trust me, worse than you’d imagine – but reacting on social media, ranting and whining online and threatening another party sounds all way too childish for me. And a child mind is not recommended to run a business.
Always be fair
When you hire teams and make collective decisions – always be fair. Making the time to invest in listening (not necessarily follow) is a crucial factor to keep people involved and engaged. And when there are opposing opinions, listen to both and most importantly, keep the time investment to each opinion equal. Do you realise that if you let one party talks to you more of his opinion, then you most likely will head towards his preference? So be organised enough to listen fairly, from all aspects. And be stern at stopping someone when you’ve identified they’ve overly dedicated to influencing (or brainwashing you). Keep the ground rules at work place, with fair treatment and implications to anyone who support or go against them.
Judge by seeing, and not hearing.
People have the tendency to use words as means of power over you – whether to influence, change, pressure, stress or suck you up. This is something you need to see beyond a person, not through what comes out of their mouth but what their actions speak of themselves. I’m never a big fan of rumours and politics in the office – but I see what’s going on, from what people do, I work out their character and values and I selectively choose who I trust more and who less.
People are a reciprocate of you. If you are one who never shouts, most likely people who deal with you have subjected their minds to behave the way you are. It is almost awkward for someone to raise their voice to you, when they know that you are never a person who would in any circumstances and most likely to not welcome that behaviour in your conversations. People get psychologically trained to treat you how you treat them. So by maintaining politeness and courtesy (even if you are boiling inside!) is not for other people, but for your self peace and calmness.
Accept before Change
To be able to implement change or seek solutions to fix a problems, you have to start off accepting it. When you accept something that has happened and all the results from that, then you be more ready, more willing and more vigilant at finding solutions. You must understand a problem enough to learn ways in order not to let it happen again. And to understand a problem well enough is to accept it so your emotions will no longer cloud the fine details of the problem. These details are the significant part of the problem that needs fixing, and your cloudy sight and emotions must not get in the way.
Learn to let go
I know this is challenging. If you have lost time, money and investment on people because of how much you trusted them and that did not turn out well – then letting things go is hard. It’s easier to blame other people, and that was what I did when I turned bankrupt in 2015. I was going around pointing fingers of people who worked for me, questioning their every behaviour while they work in my company that I assumed led me to failure. I was angry and upset, because of the mess they’ve left me to clean. But when I changed that mindset to take blame for what happened – I focus to work in improving my leadership skills, analysis of people before I hire them, prepare more safety nets and do calculated risks – I became a better person in managing business today and progress.
What lost is already lost, but the past do not dictate the future. You must look beyond all the bad things (and good) that happened to you and find that lesson you take with you, to guide you through the future in both your business and personal life.
Manage your expectations of people.
My last advice is expect what is reasonable of people, from where they come from and what they can offer. If you tell a fish to climb a tree, it will think it’s stupid for the rest of its life. Be willing to find their strengths, and not penalise their weakness. Tolerate to a certain degree that does not break your principles hard, and be sensible for people’s plight when you make a decision over them. Take disappointment as part of grooming your character, and make the best of the working relationship no matter how negative it can get. Anything that triggers you to be the person you aren’t, take a break from it temporarily and eventually leave it permanently when it has defeat the purpose in your life. Stay calm at all times, and hold back your anger from lashing it to someone who actually matters.
You will never deal with people, and not expecting disagreements and disputes. For without people, no idea or business then makes sense.
Entrepreneurship (business) is a journey.
Business is a journey and not a destination. This is journey that is mostly about you, more than anyone else. It’s through the experiences with people you meet, that groom your character and wisdom – not the actual business idea itself. In this same journey, you learn more about yourself: where you belong and what you are truly made of.
Eventually, it does not matter what happened to you. But more so, who you became in the end.