Posted by Colin Ransom on 08 Nov 2012

Yesterday I attended a workshop on managing stakeholder relationships. A word that was bounded around a lot was the word ‘acceptance’, and how this fits into the context of our working lives and in particular, the hospitality industry.

By stakeholder I mean literally anyone who has a hand in your business: Customers, staff, suppliers, contractors, officials, members of professional bodies.

We have the power, to a degree, to control the professional behaviour of our staff through training, coaching and if necessary, performance management tools. But what about these other groups of people? I’m sure everyone can relate to this. I think the most obvious example is “awkward” customers. We’ve all had them and in fact, all probably feel we could write a book on the subject. And just when you think you’ve seen and heard it all, you realise you actually haven’t, yet.

I worked for a number of years for a well-known restaurant chain here in the UK as a general manager. It would always amaze me back then how behaviour that to me seemed abhorrent, would be perfectly acceptable to others. This would serve as a pretty much constant source of annoyance and even anger for both me but more so, for members of my team.

Why is this though, and what can we do about it?

One of the reasons there is discord in professional (and indeed other types of) relationships is because of the forming of unrealistic expectations of one another. Now I’m not excusing poor performance in any way. But when there’s nothing I can do (which usually there isn’t) to change this person’s behaviour, then I just need to accept it, and all the emotions that come with it. If I’m feeling anger or resentment towards this person, then it’s actually me who needs to change. To change my expectations. I have to ask myself a question: Am I going to carry this negativity around with me, or am I simply doing to let go of it? Carrying these negative thoughts around makes me feel heavy, tired and unable to focus on things that are important. I’m sure most people can relate to this or have experienced it at some point during their career. This can be tricky, though, until we get the hang of it. It takes practice to become good at it, just like most other things that are worthwhile.

Respond, don’t react.

Let’s face it, losing your rag just isn’t cool yet still we see this, and the end result is never a good one. The concept of responding and not reacting was introduced to me some years ago, and I was asked to imagine I was dealing with a small child or someone I care about very deeply. Try this technique. It really works.

I have invested part of me in this person, why aren’t they behaving how I expected them to?

Subconscious thoughts like this  can arise and lead to a sense of hurt or even loss. We expect our nice, friendly, accommodating behaviour to be reciprocated and when it isn’t, we’re at a loss as to what it is we’ve actually done wrong. But ask yourself: What am I learning? In every situation there is benefit, and an opportunity to learn something. Not only about myself, but about my customers. Those dissatisfied customers are often our greatest teachers, so welcome the feedback.

What am I going to do to get back on track?

In a nutshell, I need to be prepared for every outcome. Then, there’s no scope for any of the above negativity to creep in. Put a full stop to it. Forget and move on.

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