I did it again.
I swore I wouldn’t, but I did.
I allowed myself to get sucked into watching one of my all-time favorite “guilty pleasures” movies last night; Roadhouse with Patrick Swayze as Dalton, the philosophical bouncer hired to take on a bar…and a town…full of tough customers.
I’ve seen it probably a few dozen times, and I rarely admit it. It’s a GREAT, terrible movie with cheesy lines, bad acting and TONS of stereotypical characters. This time was different, though. Rather than just sinking into my recliner and allowing myself to become immersed in the story (again), I decided THIS TIME I’d devote some time to uncovering some clues we can ALL use…Chamber and Association pros alike…in the hopes that we can learn something very important about ourselves, our organizations, our members and how we can do a better job supporting one another. You see, Dalton gave his staff three rules:
- Never Under-estimate your opponent. Expect the unexpected. Even if you wear your Mission Statement like a flag wrapped around your body and you follow it to the letter every single time, there will STILL be people who will want to pick a fight. They’ll disagree with the Mission. They’ll make up stories about you, the organization or the people you serve. They’ll say unconscionable and unthinking things, stretch truths, create outright lies just to serve their own cause. The tactics they’ll use will astonish you. Worst of all is when it’s someone you NEVER would have expected leading the charge against you. But if you’re expecting the unexpected, if you remember to never under-estimate those around you, you’ll be ready. You’ll respond more quickly and more appropriately because you weren’t caught off-guard. When I’m training membership sales professionals, I often teach them about defusing the landmines they see before they step on them. If you know you hear the same objection over and over again, design your presentation AROUND that issue so that the prospective member can’t use it against you letter. Be prepared…it’s the same issue! Less reaction time often leads to a better reaction!
- Take it outside. Never start anything inside the bar unless it’s absolutely necessary. OK, this might be a bit of stretch, but go with me here. When dealing with conflict, it’s important that we get outside of the actual problem, and maybe even just outside of our normal environment. We certainly don’t need difficult issues disrupting the rest of the office. In Roadhouse, it meant taking problem customers out to the parking lot to deal with them. In organization management, it’s often advisable to do the heavy lifting outside of the office. Invite that instigator to lunch. Meet in a neutral, third-party location when you try to defuse these situations. Just don’t beat them up in the parking lot.
- Be Nice! Dalton goes on to say that he wants everyone working for him to “Be nice”. I can’t quote the words that were actually used, but as the other bouncers kept questioning him about “What if they say this…” or “What do we do when they do THAT…”, Dalton says “I want you to be nice.” In perhaps the single line that most translates from the big screen to your Association or Chamber, Dalton tells his crew, “I want you to remember that it’s a job. It’s nothing personal.” Guys, I know that we are all passionate about the work that we do. I get that! Sit down with me for 15 minutes and you’ll be INUNDATED by passion. But we have to remind ourselves all the time that what happened was simply a case of two or more people having a difference of opinion on something they find important. It’s usually easy enough to be smile, be nice, have a conversation and work things out. That doesn’t always work though, does it? As Dalton says “I want you to be nice…until it’s time to NOT be nice.” In OUR world, I want you to ALWAYS be nice…even when it’s time to fight. We advocate and lobby for our members at the top of our lungs. We negotiate like billionaires and we scrap like prize-fighters. But we smile and we shake hands and we do it as bridge-builders working to close the gaps we know divide us.
At the end of the day, we can find lessons just about everywhere. Keep looking and keep learning. I’m dedicated to sharing what I find with you, and I hope you’ll share with the rest of us by commenting below. Finally, let me just say that I love working in this industry, side by side with some of the most passionate and motivated professionals I’ve ever met…almost as much as I love that damned movie!