Your future can hinge on just one critical conversation.
The problem is that many of us don’t like critical conversations.
These often deal with tough issues, and most of us prefer to avoid confronting these, hoping whatever needs to be dealt with will just go away.
There was a time, in the 1990s, when my father could have salvaged $1 million and saved his business. Instead, he was forced to sell and declare bankruptcy in the process.
It is a rich case study that bears in-depth analysis and conversation. But for the sake of this topic, let’s focus on the breaking point.
My father’s controller walked in one morning, looking as though she had just suffered a death.
“I have to tell you something,” she said. “It’s not going to be easy to hear.”
My father looked up and said, “Janet, we’ve always been able to talk about the tough stuff. You and I have been together in this endeavor for 30 years. What’s happening?”
“We’ve lost a million dollars,” Janet replied.
“We’ve…what?!” my father gasped.
“We’ve lost a million dollars,” she repeated.
“That’s not possible,” Dad croaked. “Where is it on the books?”
“It’s not on the books,” Janet answered. “The books say we are fine. But it’s not in the bank…”
As the story unfolded, my father watched his business future melt away before his eyes. The billing manager for Medicaid had been stuffing paperwork in her desk drawer, rather than filing for reimbursement. For a year. Over $1 million was lost on the paperwork sitting in her desk drawer.
I’m not going to pretend to know why. There’s so much in this story for analysis that we could hold a week-long seminar on it. Who’s minding the store, protocols and process, checks and balances, accountability…so much…
But the pièce-de-résistance was that Dad’s controller had known about it for some time. She was just afraid to tell him.
The window of opportunity to send in the paperwork for reimbursement had passed. (There was a one-year limit on filing.) The controller knew long before the year was up that this was a problem.
But she had been too afraid to admit to Dad that she had not overseen the billing properly. That she had discovered this months into the process. That when she discovered the problem, she was unable to rectify it by holding the billing manager and the process accountable.
So she figuratively put her head in the sand.
Again, the story is much too long, full, and rich to share here. But my father was faced with having to sell the business because of the loss. And in the process, the buyer forced his hand by requesting that he file bankruptcy or lose the sale.
Dad bankrupted. Against every fiber of his being. Morally speaking, he didn’t agree with not paying his debt (and by the way, bless his soul, over the last 20 years, he has paid back every creditor personally from his own fixed income.)
But he lost a fortune and a future.
Outrageous? Unheard of? Not really. You’d be surprised at the losses in the business world due to just one critical conversation.
What critical conversation are you avoiding?
Patti Cotton helps executives optimize their effectiveness in leading self, others, and the enterprise. Her areas of focus include confidence, leadership style, executive presence, effective communication, succession planning, and masterful execution. With over 25 years of leadership experience, both stateside and abroad, Patti works with individuals, teams, and organizations across industries, providing executive coaching, leadership development, succession planning, change, and conflict management. She is also a Fortune 500 speaker. For more information on how Patti Cotton can help you and your organization, click here.