I am not pretending to be a state negotiator, but I think you could fairly say that my working life is based around conflict resolution. It is never easy to critique someone’s beloved business, however much they may think they want the help.
As Channel 5’s Hotel Inspector and as The Fixer for BBC Two, I am asked to go into a business and very quickly analyse what the problems are and suggest and implement solutions. This is inevitably hard for the business owner. The solutions I suggest are sometimes an implicit – and often explicit – criticism of the owner, their decisions and work practices.
This is hard for both the owner and me. It is not easy to be honest and see how hurtful an owner finds it. I agonise, even after 10 years, about how to do it well and effectively. I do not aim to wound, and yet criticism is almost inevitably wounding.
Often my business owners are at the end of their tether. They have invested their money, time and hopes for the future only to be disappointed. They have an unrealistic vision of their business.
They hope that I will come in and agree with their analysis; that I will see it from their point of view rather than agreeing with their negative customer feedback. This has never happened.
I often have to confront anger and hostility. Almost every time, I make an owner cry. I have become better at dealing with this over the years, and I have learnt to be much less defensive when a conflict arises.
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