“Be as gentle as you can but firm as necessary, be firm without getting mean or mad and be gentle without being a big sissy.”
I am preparing to travel to Costa Rica this weekend with friends I have never traveled with before. We were discussing restaurants and as it always does my, self admittedly, odd food quirks came up. Long story short, food is all about texture to me. At least 95% of my food choices are driven by how food feels in my mouth. Taste is important but if it feels weird it is a no-go! As I was telling my friend that I “don’t so squishy or slimy” I realized that is how I feel about people too.
I have a very hard time with people who can’t back a decision (squishy) or who lie to your face (slimy). There is a lot of irony between this and what I do for a living. You could say a lot of my job is attempting to make people and their processes less squishy. I spend my time with companies who have 10 ways of doing the same thing and I try to bring them as close to one way as possible. Inevitably the leaders of these companies tell me they haven’t been able to make change because their employees don’t listen to them. In the majority of these cases the reality is that the leader is squishy and the people around him have learned that.
In my last blog post I talked about asking with expectation, but communication is a two-way street. It is just as important that the recipient hear with expectation. Squish gets in the way of that hearing! And more importantly ignoring squish is a taught habit.
How many of us over 40 grew up with the phrase “just wait until your father gets home”. It was the moment of terror. We feared dad stepping in because dad wasn’t squishy. Mom was the epitome of squish. She would start to count to three and we would laugh, because we knew when she got to two she would start with “2 ½, 2 1/4” and nothing would happen at 3. Don’t make me come over there or no dessert was the same empty threats and we knew it. Over time we learned to play this game with her, knowing full well nothing was going to happen. We knew we held the power. But dads of that generation were a different story. When dad spoke, we knew he meant business and we listened knowing we had to execute. We knew he wasn’t squish.
As leaders and bosses we often feel unheard, disrespected, ignored or over run. We look at the people around us and place the blame on them when in reality we have taught them we are squishy. Do you set deadlines or give ultimatums and then don’t follow through or give in? Do you set rules but there is no ramification for breaking them? Do you harp on the same points over and over and nothing changes? Do you allow the same bad behaviors to routinely occur and let them slide? If so you are squish! And more importantly you have taught those around you to treat you like squish!
The best part about dealing with squish, be it food, horses or people, is that it is typically very easy to fix. A little heat applied to squishy food changes the consistency completely. I’d avoid steak tartar like the plague but give me a medium well done rib-eye any day!
The same applies to people. All it takes is a little Dr. Seuss logic. As Horton so well put it “I meant what I said and I said what I meant”.
Two simple rules is all it takes to get rid of squish.
1) Don’t say it unless you plan to enforce it
2) Don’t ever not enforce it if you have said it.
That is all the heat it takes!