Here let me read it to you. Best to listen straight off Spotify though, the browser version is buggy.
I’m not proud of this, but …
I’m not proud of this, but I absolutely lost it in a phone conversation last week. Shouting like a madman. The whole episode goes to the core of essential time management and prioritising skills.
I’m normally the calm guy in sticky situations. I don’t find full-on combat a productive way to get stuff done. In sixteen years of our business I’ve had just two shouting matches in the office. They were good ones and productive in their own way, but if you lose your shit often, it just becomes white noise people can ignore.
But you have to draw the line sometimes.
The incident in question was a slow build of mindless bureaucracy from a company I spend a lot of money with. For the second week in a row, it’s an airline. Sorry for the repetition but airports are my life. (Plus last week’s Alan Joyce story did mad numbers).
I won’t bore you with the details, but it was a flight status credits issue. Their failure to deliver on an offer, then weeks of dug-in refusal to fix it up, had me in a mood.
I’ve been way past Platinum with those guys for at least a decade, which I felt should get me some basic level of respect. Wrong.
You, the customer, are wrong and should be grateful
After two rounds of cut-n-paste responses on email, I phoned their call-centre. I really do my best to be nice to call centre staff, because their life is tough. But I may as well have been speaking to an AI bot. An endless loop of “our terms and conditions clearly state this”. Like their terms and conditions are the unshakeable foundations that orderly civilisation is built upon.
I started to get pretty irate at the service agent’s third run through the loop. She was defending 30 status credits like I was trying to burgle the Crown Jewels.
Then she rolled out what she clearly believed was a slam-dunk closer:
“What you must understand is …”
Gotta say this is not a promising opening when talking to a long-term high-spend customer.
It reeks of your focus on your internal company rule book, and how stupid your customer is for not understanding the objective truth of your fine print. I knew she was all lined up and ready to bring it home in a way that would really piss me off.
Yet I couldn’t have predicted how far beyond expectations she’d take it. She took it straight from the qualifying rounds into the world cup final of customer offence.
“ … we are a business, not a charity.”
It was a deeply shocking, what did you just say moment. I absolutely lost it, into full put-me-through-to-your-manager-right-now yelling mode. I couldn’t count the number of ways it was offensive, but it was a lot. Half an hour of phone-hold later I had a calm conversation with her manager who fixed the problem.
Fuel for the ongoing struggle
I don’t want to go full Grant Cardone here, but I’m a busy business owner. I had a queue of urgent items and decisions on my list that day that had a net commercial value of a shit-ton. By our standards anyway.
Any time management expert would say: Ian, this is a problem. Your priorities are askew. Why did you devote the first hour of your Friday to a battle over airline status credits when you already have lots of them? What is wrong with you?
And they would be right.
Still, I’m going to be me.
I delegate lots of stuff. I don’t even work directly in our businesses. The time management guru would tell me to delegate this to a personal assistant. Yet a PA would not win this battle. They would be more sensible than me, and they would lack the unhinged energy to see it through.
It’s not about win-at-all-costs. We’re usually kind and collaborative with suppliers. There are plenty of times you let people have a win because it doesn’t really matter, or because it suits your long-game plans to get them have a win now. That’s all cool.
But when you lose because people are just being dicks, where they’re taking advantage of their size, bureaucracy, rule books and general complacency to inflict wrongs on you, the customer … you must fight.
Or a least I must. It’s high in my personal rule book. Our business was started on that anti-bureaucracy principle. It’s still a massive priority for us. It fuels me for the ongoing struggle.
The size of the battle is irrelevant
Some of our wins have been through my ability to not give up on things, way past the point of reason. People around me will say: let it go. It’s stressing you out and other things are more important. It doesn’t matter.
No. The size of the battle isn’t the point. It’s your willingness to be fucked over. And if you let it happen on the small things, you lose your match-fitness for the bigger things.
I’ll stew on that stuff for days, examining it from all sides in my head, constructing arguments, like I’m preparing the impassioned closing address for a landmark Right v Wrong court case. Rather than some trivial rats’n’mice service annoyance.
It’s not a deliberate choice, it’s just there, happening. I can’t not do it.
If I’d let that fucking airline win, it would have put me in a mood for days and interfered with the rest of my work and general sense of self-worth. (By the way I did get through the rest of that list by the end of Friday.)
You be you
Could a psychologist help realign my priorities and make me a better person? Probably. I’ve found psychologists useful in the past, but on this topic I’m happy where I am.
I’m probably wrong but I don’t care.
My point, if there is one, is that other people’s logical advice is good for them and makes total sense. As it does for most people.
For time management people, like many other sources of advice, time management is the most important thing of all. Of course they think that.
You don’t have to take everyone’s advice. Cherry pick the good bits, but beware of trying to correct the beliefs and values that got you to this point. There’s no rule book.
You be you.
PS Before you change things, think about Chesterton’s Fence if you missed that useful rule. It’s here along with the Streisand Effect in Low hanging fruit and the helicopter view: people are not idiots.
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