LIVING BEYOND EXPECTATIONS
From the Desk of Sarah Nadler Troutdale, Oregon
This week on The BE Movement Show, I'm sharing a story of something that happened to me, and how I overcame it.
Before we get into my story, let me ask you this question: Have you ever had someone spread false information about you? Did it cause you trouble?
If so, then you might have had the realization that reputation management is kinda important.
Now, in my book The C-E-O Method, I share rules I've learned or created around building a lifestyle business, and Rule #7 is:
"If you had the knowledge of how to do something, were skilled in it, and did it, it wouldn’t be broken."
So if rumors, lies or haters are destroying your life, it follows that there must be something about them you don’t understand.
One of the hardest, worst, most painful and horrible experiences I’ve ever had was not losing my sister to cancer, the divorce of my parents, being cheated on by my deadbeat boyfriend, having a baby left on my doorstep or drowned in credit card debt.
It was actually the two years I spent as a cleaner in Los Angeles.
See, in 2010 I got fired from my corporate job after a series of political maneuverings and office rumors spreading lies that defamed my character. It was all sparked by one woman - let’s call her Chloe*.
Chloe and I met for the first time in the cafeteria at work. She was on the midnight shift, and I was just coming in. Little did management know, but the cooks had taken to kicking those on graveyard shift out of the cafeteria so they could clean - something Chloe and her coworkers weren’t happy about.
I often came in earlier than anyone else and had found a nice spot in a corner office where I could eat my breakfast in peace. When I saw Chloe being rebuffed by the waitress, I offered for them to come sit with me. The grateful look on her face was worth having to share my breakfast with a bunch of tired strangers.
A few days later, I was surprised and pleased to get a nice thank you note on my desk from Chloe.
While we never became friends, we were friendly acquaintances.
Two years later, Chloe was promoted into HR.
And when the office rumor started flying around about me - that I had cheated on my husband with a coworker - I went to Chloe and asked for her help.
That rumor was completely false. I had been spotted talking alone and very animatedly to a coworker alone in a cubicle, and some idiot jumped to conclusions.
Unfortunately, my husband worked in the same company. And so did his mother, and several of our friends.
When my boss came to me about the rumor, I told him the truth. He didn’t believe me. Instead, he suggested I see Chloe and told me “fraternizing with a coworker on work hours is enough to get you dismissed, Sarah.”
My husband was told the rumor by his mother that same week. And suddenly I was facing a divorce as well as the loss of my job.
I went to Chloe in pure desperation. She listened, hmmed thoughtfully, smiled at me...and I later found out she went straight to my boss and told him she thought I had done it and was lying about it.
The shock and pain I experienced when I found that out wouldn’t leave my heart for two years.
Inside those two years, I was dismissed. I lost my husband. Many of our mutual friends turned away...and I soon found to my horror that I had become infamous in the industry! Perfect strangers, even a year afterward - upon being introduced would comment, “Oh, aren’t you the girl who got fired from…?”
After I crashed and burned, I wound up back in the cleaning business. But not as the owner of my own company - oh no! My emotional baggage from losing my sister, coupled with the betrayal I felt at Chloe’s passive aggressive behavior and the divorce left me in a sort of mental shambles.
I got a job at last as a janitor. It was the only thing on my resume that didn’t elicit pointed remarks about what had happened to me.
I took a managerial role at a local commercial cleaning business, and found myself for the first time in charge of a ragtag bunch of social misfits who hated their jobs, couldn't find a better one, and would rather do anything than spend one moment longer in a bathroom than they had to.
Taking these uneducated, often rebellious blue collar workers (who gave me more “attitude” than I had ever dreamed of in my wildest teenage days) and turning them into competent professionals with some sense of pride in their work ... while being looked down on, yelled at by rude customers and verbally abused was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my career. It taught me an extraordinary lesson in leadership.
But before we go any further into that, let’s pause here a moment and look at what just happened.
...Um...what just happened?!
Well, I’ll tell you exactly what happened: I encountered a Crazy Hater.
To this day I have no idea why Chloe did what she did. Maybe she truly believed what she said - that I was cheating on my husband with a coworker and violating company rules. Maybe not. Maybe there was pressure from above and she succumbed to office politics.
In the end, WHY doesn't really matter.
What matters is that I lost something I had never realized was valuable before: a good reputation.
This is something most entrepreneurs and business owners don't really think about ... until someone starts attacking it. You do your best for a client or customer, and assume that it's obvious you are doing your best. You assume that others see you working hard, or getting results, etc.
But that's the problem with assumptions, right?
Most of the broad public is pretty ignorant about what actually goes on inside your business. Most employees have never been a business owner and have no idea how hard you work.
And most customers or clients don't see all the good you've done for them when they encounter an error or mistake or oversight...all they see is the mess up.
Then there are the crazy ones. I had a client one time who insisted she was doing everything right, and was completely unwilling to ever admit that she might have room for improvement in anything.
This as you can see causes a big problem when you need the cooperation of your client or customer to get the results you have promised. It's called being coachable...but I like to call it being responsible for your own results.
I’ve taught workshops, stood on stages, done 1-on-1 coaching and written books.
And in every business model, I encounter people who can’t be responsible for their own condition in life.
It actually makes me sad for them.
No matter how gently, with all the love in your heart you explain to them...
...that if they just confronted making a few tiny changes to their approach,
This personality type just keeps saying it’s everybody else’s fault.
“You’re blaming me!” Is the common phrase such people use.
No babe, I’m not.
I’m helping you.
All YOU have to do is take some responsibility and be willing to change what you’re doing that’s causing it to hurt, go slow, feel miserable, etc.
I can’t live your life for you.
Some people WON’T be helped. Because to admit that they were wrong...even a tiny bit, feels SUPER dangerous to them.
It isn’t something to laugh at them for.
Getting angry at them helps nobody.
Even when they attack you because you tried to help...it still remains true that your only “crime” was to be honest and caring.
But that doesn’t mean you can blame them, either!
Take an honest look at how you can improve your EQ (emotional intelligence), your sales presentation, your coaching style to get through to these types of personalities.
But never forget that we are ALL responsible for our own condition.
And never let this personality type:
So you get one bad review, or one person attacking you!
If you have dozens or hundreds or thousands of others saying thank you...don’t sweat it.
It isn't possible to live your entire career without ever encountering a single crazy person or making a single mistake.
So when we do, and someone tries to tear you down ... regardless of whether they're totally right and you messed up, or they're totally crazy and irresponsible and trying to blame you, there is a science and an art to managing the reputation of your business in these moments.
For those who are new to the blog, Sarah Nadler is a Life Coach & inspirational speaker with twelve years of experience helping clients reach relationship, career and Big Hairy Audacious life goals. Her work has been featured on Enterprise Podcast Network, The Sierra Leone Times, and her latest book Walking Past Expectations was rated #6 on Lifney's list of Best Books to Read On The Beach This Summer 2019.
When faced with a rumor, lies or misinformation spread by someone about you, the first instinct you have is probably to fight it. You jump up in the person's face and angrily shout, "That's not true!"
This is the wrong thing to do.
Public Relations is the art of changing public opinion about someone or something. Remember that definition. Sun Tzu's The Art of War is a great resources for this, as it teaches you how to use strategies to arm yourself against lies and false accusations, and how to defeat them when they appear.
First, there are a few laws I want you to remember and follow. Never let these laws be violated by you, or someone claiming to "help" you defeat the rumor, lie or disapproval of others:
With those three laws under your belt, let's take a look at another gem from Sun Tzu's The Art of War and how we apply this to repairing your reputation.
There are two important elements to Public Relations: you've got to do something, and then tell people about it.
If you don't do anything good, there's nothing to talk about.
If you do good works but don't talk about them, you leave yourself open to attack, rumor and lies that harm your reputation.
The solution is to do good things. Donate to charity. Join a soup kitchen. Mentor a new employee at work. The list of good works you could do in society is almost endless...and certainly the world needs help!
But when it comes to repairing a reputation that has already been damaged, whether it's your parents' opinion of you, a friend, coworker, your boss or spouse, you better concentrate on doing good works that the person/group accusing you feels are valuable.
This might take a little investigation on your part. Observe them. Ask questions. Find out what they consider "good". For one woman I worked with, whose family had shunned her after she dropped her corporate job to start her own company, it was a matter of finding out what her parents actually expected of her.
Remember, we are not trying to shape our lives to fit the neat package of what other people need or want.
That's not us!
This episode is about moving past expectations and building your life the way you want it. Please note, that is exceeding their expectations, not failing to meet the standards of others.
So, the first step really is finding out what other people actually expect. What would it take to meet their standards? This might require a little soul-searching on your part. Do you actually need or want their approval? If so, then it's time to start exceeding their expectations!
Start with the things you've already done or are doing. Talk about it. Drop it casually in conversation. Tell their friends, so the person hears about it from someone else (not just you).
This needs to be subtle, and it can take a little bit of work to figure out how to get someone else to tell your mother, or your boss, good things you did. Especially if you are a bit of an introvert, which I certainly was in my early 20s!
Learning to speak up for yourself; to say that you did something good, is hard because society constantly tells us to shut up about ourselves.
This is seriously wrong-headed.
So self-esteem issues can get in the way here. If needed, speak to a life coach about how you can improve your communication skills so this feels natural. I have a special communication course I am trained to deliver. If you need help - don’t hesitate to ask me.
One of the biggest barriers I ran into when trying to do this with my friends and family was that people don't like to admit they were wrong.
You can spend a heartbreaking number of hours with someone, going over all the evidence, showing proof that you're telling the truth, only to hear or see in their face that your words are falling on deaf ears.
Has this happened to you? Well, next time you start to feel a frazzled or dismayed by the stubborn disbelief or disapproval that defies all logic and fact - remember this tool:
In case you're not familiar with this comical slang term, a "mic drop" is the gesture of intentionally dropping your microphone at the end of a public speech or performance.
It is used to emphasize that the discussion is at an end because your point has been made. In other words, when you do a "mic drop" you are implying that you are extremely confident and there is no room for argument.
The most effective tool I have ever used to disprove the lies I faced, to people who were unwilling to admit they might have been wrong about me despite ALL evidence I brought to the table, is to deliver the communication with a "mic drop".
"I didn't do it. Here's the evidence. End of story." Turn and walk away!
You don't need to argue with them. Remember, you are learning the art of war: "...to subdue the enemy without fighting." - Sun Tzu
If they don't look at the evidence; if they refuse to even read it, listen, etc., then don't waste your time! The fact that you GAVE them all the evidence and they didn't look at it can be used in the next step to make other people pay attention.
Once you have gathered evidence to prove your point, you have to spread it as far and wide as you possibly can, to anyone who will listen. Just keep doing Step Two - disprove the lies.
Eventually, you will have this division amongst your friends, coworkers, etc.,
The way you convince the second group, and solidify the truth in the minds of the first group, is by calling out the liars.
Now we come to another rule by an equally famous military leader, which is very important at this stage of the war:
"Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake." -Napoleon Bonaparte
Remember at the end of Step Two, I said that people who refuse to even look at the evidence are handing you a weapon to use to make other people pay attention?
Here's the weapon: when the person refuses to listen, they are obviously proving that they don't have your best interests at heart. Say so!
"I gave Joe all the evidence, and he wouldn't even look at it. Wonder what he's hiding!"
See? Now the focus becomes about Joe. What is he covering up? The focus stops being on you and what you "did wrong". That leaves you room to go apply Step One even more: do good works and talk about them. Now people believe you.
This may sound too simple. I thought so too. In fact, I struggled to apply it for years, wasting time and effort and sobbing tears of frustration because I was fighting with people. Don't fight. Just apply these steps. They are magic!
Even after you have done all the work of the steps I described above to handle this rumor or lie, you will find that you are still in a dangerous position with some people. They trust you now...barely.
Now is the time to start building your life. Create hobbies, or renew your membership with a gym. Get moving in the direction of your goals. Don't stop doing good works, and talking about them, but the incident is over. The war will be won not on a battlefield but in life, by going out and making your goals a reality.
Start by writing down what your goals were before the incident happened. Which ones are still worth pursuing? Get started on them, and let nothing and no one stand in your way.
A PASSION FOR ABLE PEOPLE
I'm Sarah Nadler and I help "able" people take back control of their lives, so you can live a life beyond your own expectations.