“Never argue with stupid people. They will drag you down to their level and then beat you with experience.” —Mark Twain
Oh, boy. I’ve gone off and offended someone. Again. Seems like that’s easier and easier to do these days—and I wasn’t even trying this time. Maybe the Presidential debate’s got everyone so on edge they’re walking around looking for someone to punch. I could go on to show you their e-mail to me, complete with pictures of the newsletter article that offended them, a bulleted list of reasons why it was offensive, and their finger-wagging shaming of me suggesting I tar-n-feather myself for being so insensitive to another human being. I could, but I can’t find it because I deleted it the moment it came in.
On its tail came two more angry e-mails from the department of “Robin’s marketing doesn’t work.” Again, I’ll save from publishing them here because they’re irrelevant ramblings based in no fact, without any details, and certainly not in the spirit of “I’m not getting the results I want, can you help me.” Just cowardly drive-by flaming turds chucked out a window onto my porch. One will actually be addressed because I know the member is just in a tough place and is lashing out because of the stress (he will be helped and has already apologized for the tone of the e-mail). The other was also abruptly deleted, the person put on a special list we have named after a 7-letter anatomical part. I’ll let you guess what we call it.
Now why would I share this with YOU? Particularly knowing that there are potential new members reading this who don’t really know me and could, based on this little window of information, come to the conclusion that they made a bad mistake, that I am horribly insensitive and uncaring person who doesn’t give a rat’s butt about customers’ results or about their complaints. The new members don’t know three complaints popping up like this in one month are a rarity, and don’t have the context of knowing that for every p.o.’d client I’ve got hundreds that are thrilled with their attachment to me, successful with my material, unquestionably loyal, and entertained and inspired by the same comments offending a rare few. Truth be told, I’m amazed I don’t get more “hate” mail because I write with the purpose to TAP ON EMOTIONAL NERVES. I’m not doing it with the intention to offend, but whenever you take a tough stance on a subject like achievement and openly point out and attack people’s laziness, bad habits, excuses, fears, and failure to achieve the result they want, you won’t be welcomed with open arms everywhere you go. As the saying goes, we’re all self-made, but only the successful will admit it.
It’s time to toughen up and think like a leader
I share this with you because YOU will undoubtedly be the target for complaints, shaming, and criticism in your business, not only from clients, but prospects you’re attempting to sell, employees, friends, and even family members. How you respond to this is CRITICAL. Most will instantly second guess themselves and everything they’re doing, shrink back, feel bad, apologize profusely, and crawl back into a hole to lick their wounds. That is NOT how strong leaders respond, and you cannot grow a business if you’re timidly filtering every thought, every action, every step, and every decision through a “who’s going to be offended by this” lens.
I recently had a client come to me for advice on how to deal with his wife who bitterly HATES the marketing he’s been doing, but he is getting results like he’s never gotten before. He wanted me to give him advice on how to get her to come around. Damned if I know. If the FACTS and the money don’t convince her, I’m not sure what I’m gonna do. Another member wanted advice because he sent out a campaign to a list of attorneys and got one angry e-mail from an office admin stating they are a “professional” firm that would never respond to such marketing. A lawyer. Need I say more about the irony of that? Yet another wanted my advice on how to get their employees to “get” with the marketing program. That was easy. Fire them and find someone who will.
“You don’t have to be so harsh!” you say. Yeah, actually, I do. And I’ve got news for you—anyone setting out to accomplish anything big, from a CEO to an NFL head coach, has tendencies to be harsh, rude, abrupt, and direct. Look into Steve Jobs’ autobiography. Ask the guys who won games under Mike Ditka. Spend a little time with Robert Herjavec’s team (Shark Tank star and CEO of the Herjavec Group, a $150 million managed security firm). Jeff Bezos gets flamed regularly for his treatment of workers. Check out Walt Disney’s background. If you’re not getting complaints and criticisms, you’re either not trying that hard, or you’ve surrendered and sacrificed yourself to the point of being ineffective.
Far too many people waste an enormous amount of time and brain power pussyfooting around the issues, holding back from saying what needs to be said, and trying to find a way to accomplish an objective that will be palatable to all involved so we can dream in pastels. Pfui. Mellow Yellow isn’t the color of success. Politics aside, one of the reasons Trump is winning is because he’s finally someone who is saying what many feel needs to be said, and they are willing to even overlook his offenses when saying it. (P.S. Save the political hate mail for someone else. I’m sick of it. You can send your complaint to www.idontgiveadamn.com).
If no one’s criticizing you, you’re doing something wrong
If you’re going to lead a team and grow a business, you better develop some thick skin, learn how to make tough calls, and ignore much of the backlash and criticism for it. If you’re unwilling to do this, you’ll end up in a position where a lot of people are—willing victims of their business, their employees, their customers, and their situations. They live tortured lives of unhappiness and desperation because they’re trying to please everyone, trying to conform, trying to be friends with everyone, trying not to offend. They live in places they hate, married to (or paying salaries to!) people they don’t trust, don’t respect, and don’t like. They have finances they despair and worry over, when the key to getting out is sitting in the lock ready to be turned.
So remember this: If you’re getting criticized —bullied even—it means you’re probably doing something. Striving. Expanding. Initiating change. Blowing up the status quo. Your campaigns warning of cybercrime and data loss will be considered “fear mongering.” Your recommendation about monitoring workstations, smartphones, and other devices will be criticized as an invasion of someone’s privacy. When you demand your employees actually follow procedures you’ve outlined and produce results or be fired, you’ll be called a demanding, irrational, micro-managing, heartless a**hole.
You will make mistakes, say things that you shouldn’t have said. You’ll have times you wish you could go back and do things a little different. That’s everyone—but do NOT for a second let it cause you to second guess yourself, hold back, or stray off the path. To quote Donny Deutsch’s book cover, “Often wrong, never in doubt.”