Wednesday, February 5, 2014

They Like Me. They Really Like Me!

Since the time Sally Field received her Oscar for Best Actress for her role in 1984’s “Places in the Heart,” her acceptance speech has been misquoted more times than it has been properly repeated. In keeping with the misquoters, I have taken liberties with her speech to talk about a problem I have.

“They like me. They really like me.” For the past 24 years as a business owner, this has been my modus operandi. I’ve committed to these words as a personal philosophy, of sorts. It chants in the back of my head when I deal with difficult patients and it taunts me during those challenging moments with team members. Recently, I have started to ask myself if this mantra has brought value to my business life or if, in fact, it has created additional and unnecessary stress.

I’m a people-pleaser. I’ve always been a people-pleaser. I could write a whole paper on why first-borns struggle with the need to make people happy but, I’ll save that for another time. Suffice it to say, people pleasing is kind of “ma thang.” Inherent in the need to please people, of course, is getting that warm fuzzy feeling when your mission was accomplished. That people are pleased and, maybe they really like you (an added bonus), is success!

Well, that has been MY measure of success. It turns out that maybe, after all of these years, my success barometer has been a bit corrupt. Because, while I have been working my tail off my entire career — my entire life, actually — I am exhausted. And, I have little to show for trying to make them like me.

Oh, lots of people like me. That’s what I’m good at. But have I earned their respect? Do my patients and team take me seriously? Am I a good leader and effective manager? Is getting people to like me an effective business strategy? I’m not so sure.

My practice is growing, and quickly. That’s the good news. With growth, the drama and conflict have increased. That’s the bad news. And, in my constant analysis of the situation, the common denominator turns out to be me. “Nice” does not generate effective business methodologies. What to do?

Perhaps, the wisdom that comes of age can serve me here (and make me feel better about the whole age thing). I need to remind myself about the people who bring value to my life and to my career. I don’t really have to accumulate a boatload of insincere likes anymore. Maybe the respect that I show others will allow them the freedom to make their own choices about me. And, ultimately, straightforward communication can ensue. No more pressure to make people happy when I need to make difficult decisions and then follow through with them. What a concept!

There will be no more killing them with kindness. At the end of the day, it’s really killing my effectiveness. Keeping more team members and more patients in a growing practice all happy and liking me will kill me, metaphorically. Don’t panic. I’m not going to become an “owner-zilla”. It’s not in me. But I am going to try to be more mindful of the health of both my business and my psyche as I try to hone better leadership and management skills. These are skills that I was able to elude when my practice was smaller.

Thank you, Sally Field, for allowing me to parse and ponder your famous misquote!

In case you were wondering what Sally Field really DID say in her acceptance speech on March 25, 1985, here is the actual quote:

“I haven't had an orthodox career, and I've wanted more than anything to have your respect. The first time I didn't feel it, but this time I feel it—and I can't deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me!”

Claudia Anderson, DDS


Anonymous said...

I, too, believe people pleasing is an inherent part of my personality and something I like doing and feel like I'm good at. Essentially, "ma thang" as well. I'm still in dental school though and I have already seen it kill my productivity and efficiency. And though my patients like me, it would probably be more beneficial to them if my productivity, and therefore experience, was increased. Any recommendations on how to pull back on the people pleasing?

Unknown said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for the comment and for sharing your concerns. I started out my dental career hell bent on making all of my patients like me...and like you, my patients did/do like me. I quickly found, again like you, that being liked wasn't always the same as being taken seriously. I was pretty sure that my patients respected me but I wasn't so sure that they took me seriously. It took me some time to figure out how to meld those two assets so that they worked for me...and here's how I did it. I continued with what made me feel comfortable by being nice and creating "nice" relationships...I spent the first part of the appointment sitting next to the patient and "catching up" and being a great listener. Then, I would gently end the "catching up" time and begin my exam. From that point on, I was the serious (but kind) professional dentist. When I needed to talk to them about treatment, I was the serious version of me...I would still sit at their level, but I got right to the serious point. By not interjecting banter at this serious moment, it keeps the patient focused on the fact that I mean business. It's worked for me...keeping that line between having them like me and having them take me seriously very clear. Since you are still in school (I teach at Marquette so I see this happen all of the are not alone!) there is plenty of time for you to hone your skills of kindness into skills that include having people take you seriously. Let me know if this helps!


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