• Jerry Phillips

Proactive Communication

This past week we started to see the effects of the winter storm and the hard freeze. Our live oak trees started to drop leaves early. Our landscaping took a substantial hit. We spent most of Saturday trimming and raking and cleaning up the debris. We were not alone.

We had raked the side yard and bagged all the debris and it looked good. On Sunday, my neighbors landscape people blew leaves from their yard, into our freshly cleaned yard. While it made me smile, it also was something that needed to be addressed. I have great neighbors, without question. It wasn’t something they did or sanctioned. When I sent a text to request their landscapers not blow the leaves into my yard, I received a text back. His landscapers had told him to tell us not to blow leaves in his yard. Again, we both had a to smile at that one. My immediate reaction was they realized they had done something wrong and were being proactive to tell the story. My wife saw it differently. My wife saw it as this; our yard was clean, so they thought we had blown it into their yard.

There are a few lessons in this situation. The first is being proactive in the conversation. Reaching out and asking questions when there is an act that you don’t want repeated, keeps issues to a minimum. You, your employee, or your customer, doesn’t have the issue grow on its own, based on assumptions. Second, don’t assume you know why someone did what they did. Ask and understand. My wife and I had completely different views of what happened and why, based on our experiences and perspectives. Third, have a sense of humor. Assume it comes from a good place, and don’t take it personally. I know my neighbors and they are not evil. They are great people. These suggestions apply to our business as much as our personal lives.

We are fortunate to have great neighbors who live behind our house as well. We have a tree filled easement between our backyards and we put a gate in our back fence to allow us to go back and forth and hold our happy hours on our patios. We lost a few large branches that had sheltered the views of the back of our houses, so we planted a few trees in the easement to block the views and give us each additional privacy. The first thing I did this morning was send them a text that we were planting the trees and that it wasn’t personal. It’s not that I thought they would feel that we were doing anything negative, but I wanted to let them know we were not adding barriers to our relationship. I felt it hit on each of the lessons. Proactive conversation; Ask (or tell) to understand; Have a sense of humor. They don’t need to see me walking around in my pajamas in the morning…

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