I’ve had the unique opportunity to work for many different types of organizations over my career and, in turn, I have experienced a variety of management styles and personalities. From an entrepreneurial retail shop in San Francisco, to a public accounting firm in Nebraska, to a large national airline, to a Fortune 500 Company, I’ve seen the gamut in business size and culture.
This is the first in a series of blogs, where I will be sharing some of the management techniques I’ve observed along my journey – some good, some bad.
You Can Catch More Flies with Honey Than With Vinegar
In my current position with Organizers Direct, I have the privilege of working daily with our founder, Neil Balter. Neil started California Closets® while still a student back in 1978 and has been credited with launching the wildly successful home organization industry. Neil’s success is largely due to his bigger-than-life personality. Anyone who has spent more than 5 minutes with him, knows that Neil has a repertoire of catch phrases that he uses frequently to illustrate his points. We call them “Neil-isms”. One of my favorites is, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.
Honestly, I’m not sure where this cliché originated. I don’t know why anyone outside of a baseball outfielder would want to catch flies but the point is well made. Whether you are dealing with a vendor, an employee, a supervisor or a customer, you are more likely to get what you want by being nice. It’s just that simple. Here are 3 ways to “catch flies” from my personal experience:
1. Be a Mentor – Be a teacher, not a principal. I started my career as an auditor for a public accounting firm. It was a small office so during the “busy season”, the tax department recruited staff auditors to help file tax returns for clients. I had no experience in tax and was in way over my head. Every time I submitted a completed project to the manager for review, I would find a list on my desk the next morning with all of the items I had missed or had recorded incorrectly followed by several exclamation points. Many items were in all caps as if he were shouting at me. There was no in-person conversation, no education, no understanding of what was expected. Just a page full of intimidation.
Fortunately, there was another manager in the tax department who took pity on me. Although she was overwhelmed with work herself, she took a few minutes out of her schedule to explain the job to me. She helped me understand what the partner wanted to see and why. She showed me where to get the information I needed and how to analyze it effectively. It took less time for her to teach me than it did for the other manager to belittle me and have me start over, no more the wiser. More importantly, however, was that the mentoring manager had gained my trust and respect.
2. Be Open-Minded – Listen and Learn. At another company where I worked right after graduate school, we used an outside marketing company to manage our advertising campaigns. The director of my department usually met with the agency representatives to review their proposals. The director at the time was very skilled at analyzing statistics but had a very aggressive, arrogant personality which tended to put people on the defensive.
One day, the director asked me to go to the meeting for him even though I was only an analyst. We did not like the campaign the marketing agency had created and did not agree with the tactics. During the meeting, however, I just let the agency talk, asking a few seemingly innocent questions here and there. After hearing their point of view, I better understood why they were making the recommendations and they had some valid points – but we still did not like the proposal.
To start the conversation, I first conceded that there were some items that I initially disagreed with that they had convinced me were actually correct. I also told them what I liked about their presentation. At that point, they were more relaxed and we were able to discuss our concerns with the proposal, what we didn’t think would work and why.
We had a very productive conversation and were able to come up with a campaign that was better than what either party could have developed on its own. The difference was honey. If I had come in with a vinegar attitude and not really paid attention because I already knew I didn’t like what they were going to say, the outcome would have been much different. They would have been frustrated and either given up or come back with a different strategy that was hastily put together and not as well thought out. And, if I had to guess, our rates just might have gone up to compensate for dealing with a difficult client.
3. Be Helpful – It’s not always about selling. We used to advertise in a particular magazine. I recently had a woman call to ask me what I thought of the publication. She was thinking of advertising in the magazine, saw that we had advertised there and wanted my opinion on whether or not the publisher was above board. While I had no problem with the publisher, I took the time to find out about the woman’s business and what she was trying to accomplish with print advertising. I could tell she was a new entrepreneur and did not have much experience with marketing her business. I spent a few minutes asking her questions and then gave her some suggestions for alternative marketing channels that would generate more leads at a lower cost for her business. She was incredibly grateful for the helpful information and even said she wanted to come visit me if she was ever in town.
I was really busy that day. I have no idea why I even took the call. She will probably never become a customer but it was nice to help. But, who knows? Maybe she will refer us to someone she knows who will become a customer.
I have many more examples of how our company has received better service from a vendor, recruited better talent and grown leaders in-house just by using more honey than vinegar. Of course there will be conflict. Of course there will be reprimands and difficult negotiations. Being “nice” does not mean being weak. It is how you approach the situation that determines the outcome and the reputation that follows. Go catch some flies!
If you have ever dreamed of owning your own business or if you already have a business and are looking for a new perspective, take the next step towards an exciting opportunity with Organizers Direct. Learn more about becoming a dealer.