I’m going to tell you a story. It’s a story of a time that I am not proud of…but am grateful for. Grateful because it established in me a commitment to never repeat this behaviour.
It occurred about a year or so prior to me buying my dental practice in Brighton, Victoria. I was working with a great team; High energy, happy and supportive. I was receptionist and one of my responsibilities was to arrange the monthly staff meetings. Every practice in Australia appreciates that it is quite a task. Getting all staff in the one room at the same time when there are different shifts and routines, I have since accepted and embraced, is often not an achievable result. But at this stage of my career I still possessed that youthful and incorrect perception that others should feel compelled to do what I ask…
One of the people I had worked with, Vivienne, (not her real name), was one of a kind. She hailed from Canada. So very polite, so very gracious. Vivienne never had a bad intention towards anyone, only love and support. She was so sweet that others upon meeting her would ask me, “Is she for real or is it an act?”
I approached Vivienne with the plans of the staff meeting. I was pleased as punch as everyone else had said they were able to attend. However Vivienne said she would not be available. I felt the frustration rise in me. I heard that youthful, misguided voice say out loud to Vivienne “Whatever Vivienne. Everyone else can come so the meeting is happening.”
BANG! Peaceful, loving, gentle Vivienne slammed her hand on the coffee table. I jumped. “You will NOT speak to me that way!”
For Vivienne to react to my poor attitude in such an instant and obvious way told me that this had not been the first time that I spoke to her with disrespect. I was horrified, and became more horrified as the moments ticked by. In all my years working with Vivienne I had never heard her raise her voice or challenge anyone. I had allowed her sweet manner to mean that it didn’t matter how I treated her. And now she was reacting like this…because of me.
I apologised to Vivienne. I sat down with her and assured her that I knew I was wrong. That she did not deserve to be dealt with in such a flippant and hurtful way. And, because she is a beautiful person, Vivienne forgave me. It never happened again.
I reflected over my intentions when I responded so badly. What did I expect? For Vivienne to turn and say “Oh no, I didn’t think my absence would upset you Julie! I WILL BE THERE!”
As I stated, I am grateful for this experience. It is unfortunate that at times we need something dramatic in order for us to make fundamental change. I came away with a lesson that I still live by today, and will so forever.
LESSON: Regardless of what is happening, always address people with respect.
Taking this lesson through my practice ownership was imperative to my success. It is imperative to your success, too. Forcing people to do what you want them to do is a sign of bad leadership. As leaders – as team members – we will be successful if we inspire. Inspire enthusiasm and participation in others. Work with people on solutions rather than forcing people to fall in line.
There are many roads to Rome. Disrespecting those around you in any way, is not one of them.