I often fancy myself as something of a business consultant. If I walk into a shop or business, I often notice if something is wrong or could be done better. There is part of me which wants to tell the owner how to change and increase the popularity / success of his business.
But, the British reserve rarely says anything. Instead we complain in silence and then don’t go back or just put up with it. Also, there is no point in saying anything, unless there is some receptivity to hearing suggestions. Also, advice is easy to give, but it is much more important to deal with our own problems first!
Recently, I’ve been watching a series on television about failing businesses who ask a business consultant to come in and offer advice on how to turn the business around. It is an interesting insight into human behaviour!
One episode focused on a clothes shop which was losing money and was stuck in the past. The owner was passionate about clothes, but didn’t have much business sense and a mixed consumer service, which was good in parts, but also involved insulting consumers.
The business consultant suggested many changes which would help revitalise the business and reposition it in the market.
There is an inevitable resistance to change when we have been used to doing something in our own way for a long time.
Step by step approach. After suggesting several changes, the consultant realised it was too much. The business owner didn’t want to change the name of the shop. Although, he could see some of the benefits of changing, there was still an attachment to the previous ways of working. The consultant saw this and cut back her suggestions. Rather than make complete change, she suggested business owner make the changes he felt comfortable with. The owner had to be happy with the change they implemented.
Accentuating the positive strengths. The suggestions of change were met with resistance and uncertainty about moving out of their comfort zone. Rather than keep hitting on about the need to change, the consultant set up a day, where they would be able to show their skills of retailing in a different environment. By allowing their strong customer skills to come to the fore, the owner gained more confidence in the process of change, and how these skills could be at the centre of the business. Always we need a mixture of stick and carrot. Not just the stick!
Moving out of our comfort zone. From an outside perspective the changes seemed very rational, common sense and you could see the business sense. Yet, for the owner, it was very challenging to move beyond his comfort zone. There was a mixed feeling. Some positivity at seeing the improvements in the store, but also the difficulty of letting go of previous modes of working. We all have an attachment / pride to our existing way of being / working.
Ingratitude. The interesting thing is the relationship between the owner and the consultant. The owner both appreciated the advice and the revitalised business, but at the same time partly resented her presence and influence. In a good moment, he was grateful, but in other moments, he expressed frustration and negative feelings. It felt very much like the rebellious teenager who is helped to overcome a difficult situation by parents, but at the same time the pride of the teenager doesn’t find it easy to be grateful for the parental concern.
Lessons from this
Sometimes, people want us to tell them how good their way of living / working is. This is fine, but if we offer false flattery, the business will fail / the person will keep making mistakes. If we really care about someone, then we may need to challenge that person to try different modes of working and approach to life. This is difficult because when we push someone’s boundaries and move them out of their comfort zone there is much resistance.
If we ask for help, we have to have some humility.
If a business owner doesn’t ask for our help, we have no right to tell them what to do. But, if we become aware of a problem and realise a business is set to fail, we may ask for help. But, if we ask for help, we can’t expect to be told we are doing everything right. If we want to seek help, we also have to be willing to embrace some form of change. It makes no sense to be aware our way isn’t working, but when someone suggests a different path – we reject it and stick with our old way.
Only the person themselves can make the change. A consultant can offer a path of how to progress, but ultimately, unless the person themselves sees the wisdom and embraces the different path, it won’t work.
A good teacher may set a high goal of complete change, but also he has to be adaptable. If full change can’t be managed, he will begin with encouraging small, step by step change.
It takes courage to admit things aren’t working out and seek help. Many businesses may be making mistakes, but the owner is never willing to seek help / look for another way of doing things – and then they go out of business. If things are going wrong, it takes a certain moral courage and willingness to seek help. This is not a sign of weakness, but strength.
Spiritual Master and disciple
This example was from the world of commerce. There was a business owner and business consultant. But, I see many parallels between that of disciple and spiritual Master. Seekers seek a spiritual Master because they feel there is no satisfaction in their lives and they hope there is a better way of living. The spiritual Master can lovingly encourage the seeker to make changes which will result in more happiness.
However, often our initial enthusiasm for change diminishes and we see the Master’s suggestions – not as tough love, but we struggle to move out of our comfort zone and accept the challenges to our own limited self. The secret of the spiritual life is to remain willing to make gradual changes; to have the humility that there may be a better way of doing things and always be willing to change.