In this rise of authenticity, it’s time talk about the real issues in business, the things we struggle to articulate, because it’s not just about profit, sales pipelines or tax returns but matters just as much, in the life of a business person.
I’ll be writing a series of articles around this topic. The first is:
The Harmfulness of Encouraging Hope in a Hopeless Situation
Last week whilst listening to a group of impact entrepreneurs share their personal and business journeys, Ian Calvert, Impact entrepreneur and co-founder of Further Impact commented on a story that had just been shared, “Rather a quick no, than a slow maybe.” It made me think of the number of times I’ve held on to the hope of getting work, because the person/s on the other side said they would love to work with me; or thought my idea was great and that they will get back to me.
Here is what has happened, with me, in such situations – I’ve gone for one too many presentations or follow-up lunches or coffees where I have shared copious amounts of my ideas and IP – in the hope that the “maybe”, will turn into a “yes”. In that period of living in the “hope-land” of a slow maybe, I have wasted time and money which could have been reinvested elsewhere in my business.
The biggest lesson I have learnt in business, comes down to this simple life lesson – “treat others, as you would like to be treated”. So, when I heard this comment, I wondered if I have been on the other side, if I had been such a culprit and given someone a “slow maybe” – therefore wasting their time and money. I realised that I had, and this is how I found myself, on an early Monday morning, mistakenly calling an associate of mine and asking for a meeting. He’d called me a few days prior proposing a solution for something I had been working on. I told him what I was already considering for that solution, but I didn’t give him an outright “No, I won’t be needing this” response, because I didn’t want to seem horrible or hurt his feelings. Instead I said I would be open to hearing him out. I then bumped into him later that week, where he showed me additional work he had done on this potential solution and how he thought it could work for me. I missed another opportunity to say no – this time my excuse was “It’s such an awkward place to give feedback; I’ll wait till I find a better time and place”.
A quick “No” as painful as it can be when hearing it, is a blessing for those of us in business.The thing is that it is human nature to hold on to hope. Hope keeps us motivated and focused especially when times are tough. An article I came across on Psychology Today called The will and ways of Hope, talks about the Hope Theory, created by positive psychologist Charles R. Snyder and it says that “Hope comprises of agency and pathways. The person who has hope has the will and determination that goals will be achieved, and a set of different strategies at their disposal to reach their goals.”
When you look at the high probability of failure in business or in start-ups, you have to at some level agree with me, when I say that entrepreneurs and business owners are generally optimistic individuals and who have extremely high levels of hope. Hence why a ‘slow maybe’ is problematic because we will keep hope alive and over-invest in something that has a slim chance of happening.Instead of dealing with our disappointment quickly and moving onto the next opportunity or fixing whatever may be wrong with our solutions, we get stuck and waste time in a hopeless situation. Next time some bright-eyed optimistic individual comes to you with a solution, service or product you don’t need, after listening to them, say “No” quickly and please, if possible, give them the gift of feedback, and explain why.
There’s an article in the Harvard Business Review, which talks about how “Feedback Should Be Clear and Actionable, Not ‘Nice” and Vague,’” which is advice along the same lines and something we can all relate to whether from a management, employee or entrepreneur perspective. What stood out for me was the pointer about avoiding language which could be misconstrued or obscure your meaning. They use the examples “likely” and “a real possibility” – phrases that don’t mean the same thing to everyone. I’ve also spoken about using the word “just” to soften emails etc, when straight talking would be a more direct and efficient way of communicating,.
As the music group Death Cab for Cutie sang “Sometimes the best intentions are in need of redemption.” Would you agree?” As a fellow small business owner who has been negatively impacted by the “slow maybe” I certainly needed to redeem myself and my conscience pushed me to do that. On Monday morning, as I picked up my phone to call my mother, I mistakenly dialed my associate’s number. We later had an open and honest meeting, where I told him that I don’t need the solution he’s proposing and apologised for not saying “no” sooner.
Founder of Matoyana Business Solutions and Matoyana Media and Creator of the Warrior Women Series
Matoyana Media is a subsidiary of Matoyana Business Solutions;an entrepreneurship development consultancy based in Johannesburg.We produce content for creatives, freelancers and small business owners to inspire & empower them to grow and thrive.