by Andre Nataf
If you are responsible for hundreds of millions of dollars a year like me and the sole source of that revenue is restaurants and retailers, there is no doubt that 3/20 through 3/21 has been a time like never before that we will probably, hopefully, not see again in our lifetime. I say this having led through many recessions, natural disasters, and social and political unrest, but never something like a worldwide pandemic of this magnitude. As the restaurants and retailers most impacted start to turn the lights back on, I wanted to ask myself what lessons I could take away not only for myself but to share with you in this article. After all, it will be for not if we do not become better from the experiences we have all just gone through. The following are the three lessons I hope will get you started in asking yourself how you and your business have changed over the last 12 months.
We have changed — all of us — and if we do not try and see what is for the better and what is for the worse, it could cause us to lose a huge gift we may never receive again. For me, I better understand the importance of clear communication in every engagement. Recently, a group of Heartland Sales Leaders like myself was asked to partner up and sit back-to-back in order to have one person describe a picture and the other redraw it on a blank piece of paper, solely from the communication that was given. It was humbling for all of us who consider ourselves great communicators and it drove home the point that when we are face-to-face, it is much easier to see a confused look than it is on video chat or phone, email, or text. I pondered about how many times over the last year I thought I was being clearly understood, or was clearly understanding someone else when in fact, I did not completely have the whole picture. What tools have you learned to better communicate that you can continue to improve on even after the pandemic is long gone? I started scheduling 10-15 minutes per call to prepare myself so that I am not just shooting from the hip and going call to call, but ready to effectively listen, ask clarifying questions, and yes, communicate clearly myself.
People are people. If you are like me, sometimes you may forget this. We often use the expression “business is business” or “it is just business” but we forget that it is a business of people first, no matter how large or small. The relationships we have with each other are often the best leading indicator we have of how well things will go, and revenue follows. I am incredibly proud of our Dealers, Customers, Colleagues, and Vendor Partners we have attracted at Heartland and Global Payments worldwide. At the beginning of the pandemic, we tried everything from virtual happy hours to virtual dance parties to remain connected but we quickly realized that was not for everyone and became fatigued. It was then that we had to go “old school” to try and relate to one another. We needed to meet each other’s needs with grace. Once we turned it over to that methodology, relationships became unbreakable, although many times tested. I am so grateful to be reminded that we are all people and putting love first always wins out over any challenge that comes along, no matter how great. Putting our best foot forward and being empathetic to each other is all we can do. For me, I want to make sure I understand the context of the other person’s point of view before I assume I know it. It is about getting all the context and then honestly speaking each other’s truths. I realized that at the end of the day, we need to assume positive intent and give context to one another. What we all want is to get it right, not necessarily be right, and we need to be reminded of that every day (at least I do).
Live an authentic life day by day. This is a lesson that, if I am being honest, I thought I was doing pre-pandemic, and as the stress mounted, I realized that my behavior was not aligned with how I want to show up in life. Like some of you, I have taken many, many personality tests aimed at finding my core beliefs/personality type. The results always determine that the most important thing to me is leaving the world a better place than when I came into it by being of service to all that are attracted to my path. I love that and have noticed that I am my happiest, highest self when I feel that way, and the opposite when I do not feel that way. However, I had forgotten the old proverb, “I can only hold myself accountable for that which I can control.” Although I tried, I could not control the impact of the pandemic on the world, myself, my business, and those I love and serve. How did you do with that one? For me, I needed to let go and realize that I am exactly where I needed to be and that meant I was the right person for the role I served. Therefore, I needed to get out of my head and do what I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to do, and that is to serve with the grace and leadership that has gotten me where I am today. Maybe you need to do the same for yourself to get back to what your Dealership is really great at and the rest will follow.
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