Bunch: The Truth Shall Set You Free

April 21, 2023
Few things are as crucial to shop owners as getting good constructive criticism. Columnist Greg Bunch explains.

“The truth shall set you free, but first it’s going to p*** you off” is a line from the hit show Ted Lasso. The line is from a performance coach/psychologist talking to Ted Lasso in regard to facing reality in order to deal with it. I found myself quoting that line a few times this week in my own companies, with my family and while advising other shop owners. 

If you grew up in a family that adopted the philosophy of “let’s just ignore it, and it will go away,” or “we need to keep the peace at all costs,” or, worse yet, “when things get hard, we just run away,” then you may have issues in your life and business that will keep you stuck. Human nature tends to shy away from conflict and disagreements. Good leaders know this leads to unresolved issues, bitterness, unforgiveness, judgments and the loss of good employees, clients and friendships. 

If this is you, it’s time to face reality and work on being an assertive communicator and breaking the family curse. It’s time for us to become the leaders our companies need. 

Do you have people in your life who tend to tell you what you want to hear? Do they tend to blame others rather than take ownership of the situation, or at least self-reflect? Do they not tell you the whole truth in order to spare you additional stress?

Let me ask you: have they shared the whole truth with you before, and you didn’t react well, telling them subconsciously not to do that again? Does it start with our ability to listen rather than react?  

Steven Covey said it best in "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People": “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Easy to say, but not always easy to do. 

Do you have people in your life that you can always count on to tell you the truth, even if it hurts, upsets you, stresses you out or angers you?   

In the end, which people do you want around you? Take advice from? Or be on your leadership team? 

Getting the Feedback You Need

Let’s start by looking in the mirror. I have not met anyone who didn’t want their businesses to provide world-class customer service and virtually zero comebacks while making a reasonable profit.  

What is the definition of “world-class service” anyway? What does it mean to you? Can your employees define it? Most importantly, what do your customers think this means, and do they think you are providing it consistently? Do we dismiss customers who complain, or do we heed what they’re telling us even if it seems ridiculous? Do we tend to jump to the defensive earlier than we should? Do we invest in training customer service, or do we just expect our staff to know what it means and to provide it? 

Most of us believe that we are providing a better customer experience than we actually are. We believe our quality is higher than it really is and we think our customers and employees love us and will never leave us. After all, that’s what they have told us! (Usually, a few weeks before they give notice.) 

If we all want to say we want our industry to be better, attract new talent and build sustainable businesses, we need to hear the truth about where we are and what conscious and unconscious biases we have to grow out of. 

Whether you pick up the phone and call a group of your customers or send them a survey, it’s time to get their opinions of the service you provide. An incredible amount of truth can also be learned by listening to your telephone calls, both from your team and what questions are being asked of by your customers. For example, did your customer hang up the phone more or less stressed than when the call ended? 

Giving time to hear from your team in one-on-one meetings where you are genuinely asking for honest feedback can be a fantastic way to get the truth out in the open. It can also be productive to host meetings where your team can share their frustrations and perceived roadblocks. 

Another resource for potentially hearing the truth is during an exit interview. You are more likely to hear the truth when someone doesn’t have to fear repercussions.  

If you are like me, you will find that more time and resources need to be invested in training and accountability. You will find that the roadblock to growth may not be your marketing plan, but that your staff is not taking in cars when it’s convenient for the customer. You may find out that your team isn’t functioning like a well-oiled machine. So investing in culture development may be better than a new lift. 

You may also find out that you are working too much in the business instead of on the business to even think about all this, which is the first place you need to start. I know it is for me! 

On mission with you to transform our industry, 

Greg Bunch 

I would love to hear your feedback at [email protected]