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Things We Don’t Talk About

Things we don't talk about

It is 5:46 am, and you make the daily walk to the restroom.  As you shake the morning cobwebs from your mind, you think about the conversation you are avoiding with your sales manager.  You feel the guilt of knowing this discussion needs to happen ahead of today’s sales meeting and the truth that you are avoiding a crucial conversation.  Cognitive dissonance rears its ugly head once again, and you look for ways to rationalize your way out of the confrontation you know is necessary.  These are the things we don’t talk about.

You are driving to work, eating a protein bar, and sipping black coffee with one yellow packet of a Splenda substitute from Walmart.  You think about calling Ansel, your accounting manager, to check the status of accounts receivable.  Some checks are outstanding, and cash flow is concerning.  Will you be able to make payroll this week?  What will your board think about you when they see the monthly numbers?  Are you the best person to be leading this business?  You work hard yet doubt your effectiveness at times.  Should you be working harder?  Your mind jumps to your youngest daughter’s soccer game at 4 pm.  It is out of town, and you will need to leave at 3 pm to make it on time.  The guilt gremlins are attacking your mind.  You question the decision to leave work early when things are not going well.  These are the things we don’t talk about.

When you arrive at the office, you notice Carson’s truck is not there again.  He has not called or sent you a text, so you are concerned.  Check that.  You are frustrated because he is not there again.  The business is under stress, and your key employee is out of the office.  He should have the same sense of urgency that you feel.  You question his priorities and wonder if you can count on him during difficult times.  You tell yourself you will bring this up next time you talk with him and avoid the simple act of calling his mobile number programmed in your iPhone.  Deep down, you know you are avoiding another difficult conversation again.  You quickly start thinking about your first meeting in twenty minutes.  Oh, and you notice the parking lot striping is badly faded and needs repainting.  You file that action item away for another day.  These are the things we don’t talk about.

When you get to your office, your operations manager, Tina, informs you that six people called in sick due to Covid and Covid exposure.  She tells you they are all out of the same department.  With that many people out of one department, it cannot function, so she has moved the remaining workers to another department or cleaning in the plant.  You quickly run through some calculations in your head and become frustrated with the extended lead times and your recent promise to a key customer.  There is no way you will honor that promise now.  You curse yourself for not thinking ahead or having additional people trained to perform their jobs.  These are the things we don’t talk about.

You decide to eat lunch in your office and miss the business luncheon you promised to attend the previous week.  You rationalize this decision by saying there is too much going on at the office.  You need to be there for the team.  There is nothing you can do about the current situation, and the business luncheon gets you company exposure for a long-term benefit.  You should probably go to the luncheon.  You committed to more networking this year.  Honestly, you are in a terrible mood and do not want to be around a bunch of smiley chamber-type faces.  You prefer to sulk in your office and avoid contact with others.  You can prevent fake smiles and deal with your own toxic feelings by reverting to your introverted nature.  These are the things we don’t talk about.

Around 2:24 pm, your assistant informs you that a board member wants you to call him about some rumors he is hearing.  You have no clue what he might be referring to and immediately feel stressed about walking into an ambush with a contentious board member you think has never liked you.  What in the hell could he be hearing?  You google your company name, look for anything that may indicate what he is talking about, and find nothing.  You then google your industry, recent events, and websites bookmarked on your computer and still find nothing.  Before you realize it, you have wasted 45 minutes, and you are now feeling stressed about your lack of preparation for a call with your banker at 4 pm. You will call the board member tomorrow. You forgot about the soccer game or at least that is what you tell yourself.  It is just another thing your ex-wife will criticize you about when given the chance.  These are the things we don’t talk about.

It is nearly 6 pm, and you are leaving your office.  Your wife texts to remind you she has a meeting at 6:30 pm and will not be home for dinner.  You are on your own for a meal.  You usually love to cook; however, after the day you have just had, you opt for fast food on the way home.  You have no desire to be in the kitchen until 9 pm.  You rationalize the Taco Bell burrito and two beef soft tacos (to go) as a logistical convenience since it is close to your home.  After eating, you feel guilty since you committed to less fast food and feel like you are a complete failure at eating healthy.  These are the things we don’t talk about.

Can you relate to this day in the life of a modern CEO?  Being the chief-decision-maker can be a lonely place.  Everyone around you has agenda, and they all expect you to be on top of your game all the time.  Most people fight the head trash more than they admit.  It would be valuable to have others like you to share these thoughts with occasionally.  You desire people in your life who understand the pressure, judgment, and guilt associated with being in your position.

In 2016, I visited a CEO mastermind group in Fort Worth, Texas.  The leader of that group is a dear friend who retired after selling a company.  Not wanting to be disengaged from the business world, he started the group a few years before.  I was amazed at the complex similarity of the members in the room.  We spent an entire day talking openly and helping each other work through issues and opportunities.  I left the meeting mentally exhausted in a good way.  The conversations were honest, candid, and powerful.

That day impacted me so much that I started a similar group in my local community in 2017.  Each month, a dozen or so of us meet to take a break from the grind and help each other work through similar challenges.  It gets emotional at times, yet we all leave the meeting better for the investment of time no one can spare.  It is a day to work “on” the business rather than “in” it each month. I get something valuable each time.  The value for my time can remind me of a relationship I am neglecting or a resource that will make my own business more effective.  I always get something meaningful from the meeting.  On that day each month, these are things we do talk about!