Jocelyn Ring’s company is called The Ring Effect. She is one of those supernovas who helps companies with brand strategies and leadership development (the latter in partnership with …. horses!)
Here is her train wreck conversation with a client. See how she turned it around.
So I had been hired to a big strategic rebrand of a company and that entails six months of research and then another six months to, you know, put things together like websites and logos and colors and fonts, all the visuals that come out of that first six months. And, rollout plans to tell everybody in the community and beyond like, here’s what we’re doing and here’s our new direction. And one thing that the CEO wanted to include, in this exercise was new materials for the sales team.
And, I have my process and I know what kind of the capacity of what we can do in these projects. And that request was beyond the scope, but wanting to really deliver, I said, “Okay”. You know when we have the rollout, we have the All Hands meeting and then I’ll do some sales training.
So Lesson One is, trust your process, know your process and do not compromise even if you think you’re going to be pleasing your client. So I walked into this team, this room with the very senior level sales executives. I see the VP of marketing was there and the CEO was there too. So I have my PowerPoint presentation and I launched into how it’s important when you’re branding to have everything aligned. And part of that is, you know, the sales materials because that’s how we create a consistent brand.
So I started rolling through the deck and I was telling the sales team, okay, here’s what you’re going to use. And this was the first time they’d ever heard anything about it.
So I’m looking out at the crowd and if looks could kill, I would have been half dead at that point because they just, they could not believe like who is this branding person coming in and telling us how we’re going to sell? Does she know anything about selling? So I’m still trying to use all of my communication skills and project my confidence and getting buy in. But, I did not do anything beforehand to get buy-in. So, then people start raising their hands and it wasn’t, a question here or there it was, “who do you think you are? We can’t use this stuff and this is never gonna work.”
“This is not how we do things around here.” And it became very confrontational very quickly. There was a group in the corner that was having a sidebar, and the sidebar got louder and louder and I was getting insulted.
The CEO was seeing everything devolve and I was pretty sure that, despite all the success of the rest of the branding that based on this, I was going to be fired and run out of town. So there was really nothing left to do. But I kind of wrapped it up because we were out of time, thank God. I literally folded my laptop and half and backed out of the room.
It gets worse…
I’m six foot one, so I’m not, I’m not a small gal. The CEO is about six feet, six or seven inches, very athletic, probably played football in college type build, and also very intense energy.
Also you do not ever have to guess, you know, how he’s feeling or what has gone on. So his energy was very big and the words were, you know, his voice was raised and it was, it was very intimidating. And I didn’t really have anything to say back because I knew I had royally screwed up.
So that difficult conversation, my part of it was just to be on the receiving end and I knew it wasn’t really time to try to defend myself or explain away what had happened. He’s saying that I lost control of the room and I should have done better, I should have prepared the sales team, which is all true.
When You Can’t Speak Back…
But, I was not given the latitude to do that before. So it was, it was one of those situations where I wanted to defend myself, but being in the kind of provider to the client relationship, I just had to take it. And that was so unfortunate because all the other goodness of the day of this rollout was just completely demolished.
I took what he said and just said, “Okay let, let me just think and regroup on this. I don’t think we’re dead in the water and, I know the importance of this relationship with the sales team and let me just, well let me just think.” That’s an important thing in difficult conversations too.
Sometimes when you’re in this situation, don’t feel like you have to resolve it at that moment. It’s perfectly fine. Take a time out so that you can just pull yourself back together. When it’s very emotionally charged your logic and reasoning kind of go out the window.
After the Shellacking…
After this shellacking, I went home and I think honestly I just went to bed that night because there was nothing I could do. A good night’s sleep will help this.
So then when I woke up in the next morning, I realized, what I alluded to a little bit earlier, is that I knew my process. I knew we weren’t going to be able to do this properly, but I said “yes” any way because I wanted to really overdeliver.
So my first difficult conversation was back to the CEO to acknowledge yes, that was a terrible meeting. Um, probably did take a few steps back, you know, with my trust, with the sales team. I asked if I could go back to the sales team, could he arrange a meeting without the CEO there? It would be possible for us to start over.
Finally A Light!
I said, “Let’s have a meeting where we get together and you tell me what you need and we can go forward and co-create.” By this time he had cooled off a bit, because he too had overreacted.
Note I had to restrain myself, to keep from saying that, “well, if you had not pushed this forward, this never would’ve happened.” I, I did not do that. I suggested, “let’s, let’s kind of clean the slate. Let’s start over with the sales team.” And he thought about it for a minute and he agreed to make that introduction and see if the sales people would be open to it.
Well, what sales person is going to say no to the CEO if you aren’t asking. Right. That was smart. So, um, I did not do it in that week. I let them kind of cool off and get back to work as well. So I just created a little bit of space for everybody to forget what had happened. And then, went back to the meeting a week later and the whole team was assembled.
The energy was still a little bit off where it was like, “Oh God, here she comes again.” But this time there was no PowerPoint. I had no computer. I apologized for, you know, kind of railroading and trying to take everything over. And you know, in the beginning everybody was stiff, the body language kind of sitting back, arms crossed, not really open. And when I approached with a little bit of humility and authentically, like I, I like co-creating, working together so, let’s do this.
They actually opened up and it ended up being one of the best meetings I’ve ever had. That is so cool. I didn’t, because you had worked so much on this project, it wasn’t that you were just, you know, pulling something out of your back pocket. They had not been included in it. Right, right, right. I didn’t know. And of course then people are left out. They, they have a negativity bias because nobody has asked their opinion.
Train Wreck Take-aways
- Know ahead of time how things should flow. Jocelyn calls this “know your process.” Don’t let intimidating people throw you off.
- There are moments when it’s best to keep your mouth shut.
- You don’t always have to resolve a conflict in that moment. A time to cool off clears everyone’s heads.