Feel your disappointment, then move forward

We’re told not to be emotionally attached to the outcome. I couldn’t disagree more.

I want you and your team to care about results.

The easy emotion is feeling the rush of excitement when your team nails it. Celebrating, high-fiving and doing the victory dance. It’s the uncomfortable feelings we try to avoid: disappointment, regret and frustration.

There we were, five of my best movers standing around a storage vault, peering in on the damaged furniture. There was a rock in my stomach. This was the third vault in two months. We prided ourselves on having one of the lowest damage ratios of any moving and storage company in the country.

As a recovering Pollyanna, I used to dismiss uncomfortable emotions. I’d rally the troops with “it’s all good” and look for the “silver lining” and the “lessons learned.” I’d lean on “there’s a reason this happened.”

While there’s still value in seeing the bright side, it wasn’t until I finally let the disappointment hit our shared ego and pride that powerful progress was made.

The first instance I brushed aside as a fluke. The second instance made me nervous, but again, I avoided making the team “feel bad.” I leaned on my mantras of “we’ve got this” and simply asked the core crew to refocus their efforts and be more careful.

But here’s the problem, if it’s always “all good” then there’s nothing to change, nothing to do or shift. Which, if you think about it from a team member’s perspective, is concerning. If the boat is sinking and “it’s all good,” we’re all going to drown while our leader is in state of denial.

Harness “negative” -- (read “not fun”) -- emotions to galvanize your team and motivate them towards action. When you visit* disappointment, regret and frustration, you start to ask why. It ignites a fire to change and improve and you begin to evaluate, how did we get here?

The third time, I got mad. Calmly and with gravitas, I gathered my entire team. I had each of them walk by and take a good long look inside the vault. I wanted them to feel what I was feeling. The first question asked:

“Who was on the crew that loaded that vault?”

“Good question,” I responded.

“But not the one that needs answering. Because this isn’t the first vault, this is the third and each time it was a different crew.”

I continued, “This vault belongs to the Jamison family. They entrusted us to fulfill on our promise of ‘Providing Peace of Mind, All in One Piece.’ As a company, as a crew, we have failed to keep our promise. We pride ourselves in being one of the top moving companies in the country. We pride ourselves on excellence. Because I know how committed you all are and because I know you’re the best of the best, I didn’t think much of the first vault. I figured it was a fluke. The second vault I was still hopeful.

But this time, I had to wonder, where’s our integrity? Our pride? Our dignity? This is unacceptable. This is carelessness. This is not who we are. This is not who I know us to be. You all know there’s no room for slackers here or people who don’t care. We care. That’s what makes us different.”

I paused, then I looked around the room, making eye contact with each mover, “We are a stand for excellence. We’re not hypocrites. We don’t betray our customers’ trust. We don’t do this work alone. Every day it’s up to each and every one of us to uphold our hard-won reputation.

I paused again, and I said, “Here’s one more thing I know. I know you all to be men of your word. I want us all to recommit. Recommit to excellence. This includes me -- because truth be told, if I was truly committed to excellence, I wouldn’t have waited for a third vault. If you’re willing to recommit to bringing your best and to supporting one another in being the best, stand up.”

They all stood up and stepped up, ready to problem-solve. We talked through tangible solutions. They were fully engaged in answering questions such as, what worked before that we’ve lost sight of? Which details were falling through the cracks and needed tending to? What additional training was needed? What processes needed tweaking?

Last but not least, we did a round robin. What was each person specifically and concretely going to do to step up their games?

With aloofness no longer an option, we recommitted to creating outcomes that reflected what we were working towards as a team and aligned with who we said we were in the world. We reattached.

*One caution. I say "visit," because you don’t want to stay there. Disappointment can become a black pit of despair and shame if left to wallow. You want to be proactive, not paralyzed. Close the gap, work toward a solution that brings your team together and creates a level of newfound pride.

 

Kris Boesch is the CEO and founder of Choose People, a company that transforms company cultures, increases employee happiness and boosts the bottom line. Her new book, "Culture Works: How to Create Happiness in the Workplace," launched May 1.

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