August 29, 2014
Do you watch Mr. Selfridge? It’s on BBC and it’s a lot like Downton Abbey, only more about business.
During the first season, one of Mr. Selfridge’s employees apologized for making a mistake and he responded to her, “No apologies. No explanations. As a general rule, it’s always worked well for me.”
I could have used this piece of advice way back in the day (hehe) when I co-owned QuoteCatcher with my business partner, Greg. You see, I had a nasty habit of over-explaining my ideas. Greg said my emails were like novels!
When I had a new idea, I wanted to explain it to him so he completely and thoroughly understood what the idea was, and why we should do it. However, most of the time, he understood and agreed after the first sentence…the rest was just overkill.
Earlier this week, I received an email from one of my team members and was transported back in time…right into Greg’s shoes.
The first sentence of the email had a great idea, which I understood and agreed with. The remaining two pages explained the idea in great detail, which I didn’t need.
My response to the email?
“Great idea! Next time, leave out the explanation. If I need it explained, I’ll ask. Save that time to do something more productive.”
I don’t know if Greg ever said that to me, but if he didn’t, he should have. If he did, I probably wasn’t ready to hear it.
Now, I realize an unsolicited explanation is just an apology wrapped in lots of words. My subconscious was telling me that my idea was terrible (even if my conscious mind knew otherwise) so I was apologizing for the mere suggestion of doing something different.
It’s like the quiet kid who sits in the back of the classroom and never says anything. Then one day, he decides to share his brilliant idea and starts by saying, “I know this is probably a terrible idea, but….”
It takes a mind shift to change this nasty self-talk and subconscious behavior. When I stopped apologizing and explaining myself, it felt really weird at first. There was definitely some inner turmoil going on. I was consciously fighting my subconscious…and that’s not an easy thing to do!
Mr. Selfridge helped, though. Hearing the wisdom he shared with his employee really clicked with me. Now, if I catch myself writing a long email or justifying my position, I repeat his simple motto in my head or out loud…
“No apologies. No explanations. As a general rule, it’s worked well for me.”
Greg would be so proud! (and relieved)