This morning I hit the McDonald’s drive-thru for breakfast, and for the second time in a month I fell into the same trap! I saw the picture of the Egg McMuffin and got a craving for it, bought it, bit into it and was monumentally disappointed when I was reminded that I haven’t liked Egg McMuffins since I developed a taste for real food when I was 18! Why do I keep remembering Egg McMuffins with some level of fondness that makes me want to have one, when in reality they aren’t what I remember and I don’t like them? As I continued on my drive, suffering through the sandwich because I was starving, I started to wonder, how many things do we remember inaccurately? How often do we try to return to something from the past that was never really as great as we remember it being?
I recall one business owner who had an employee he had a lot of trouble with. He was constantly on and off the fence on whether to let her go. Eventually, she resigned and took a job elsewhere. Two years later, she was looking for a job and he was considering re-hiring her. Now, if the conversation had been about how she might fit into a better role, or how she might have grown to become a better fit for the company – great. But it wasn’t, it was simply about putting her back into the same role, with no apparent changes on her end or the company’s. The boss kept remembering things she did well – and was completely overlooking the things that had him so frustrated. Repeating something that didn’t work without changing anything isn’t going to magically deliver a better result now. But in his hindsight, he was nostalgically remembering his experience completely different from reality. Fortunately, she wasn’t! And after a few conversations she spoke up and said, “I really appreciate you talking with me, but let’s be honest, this sounds like it isn’t going to work for all the same reasons it didn’t before. I’d rather have a good relationship with you than work for you and damage that.”
So often we want to return to the days of “back then” because there is something we connected to then that we are missing now. Or maybe the familiarity of the past seems safer and less scary than the unknown of the future. And let’s face it, sometimes it’s easier to just repeat a decision than to go through the uncertainty and responsibility of making a new one.
In this example, the business owner was missing the connection he used to feel with his employees. Back in those days it seemed all his team members believed in him and his vision. Though this particular employee wasn’t a fit in some ways that monumentally aggravated him, she still was passionate about the company’s vision and had a tremendous amount of respect for the owner. He was missing that feeling of “all for one and one for all” and was overlooking the things that didn’t work about the situation. And he almost made the huge mistake of rehiring her, which would have hurt his business, his confidence and a relationship with her that was still one of respect and mutual goodwill.
So, it can help to ask yourself, “What was it about this situation that I AM missing that would make me want to return?” It often isn’t that you want a repeat of the past; you are simply searching for something from that time and place that you are missing in your now. You don’t have to repeat past mistakes to get it back. Simply identify it, and then search it out in your now, in a way that works. If you are missing a connectedness with your employees and a feeling of unity and passion, find a way to build that. Hold a team retreat to share the vision of the company and why you do what you do, and help each employee find their passion keys to put them in touch with why they do what they do at your business. How does it fulfill them and make them feel like they make a difference? Use the Passion Keys exercise in Don’t Be a Yes Chick’s Chapter 2: Passionate Chick – Find passion and fulfillment in your job.
And remember, hindsight isn’t always 20/20. Be intentional about what you repeat and what you don’t!