Coach Lew Johnston (Photo: Andy Hilton/recruit757)
How are you handling diplomacy?
by Lew Johnston (a special contribution to the Coaches Corner)
A retired teacher/friend of mine stirred up a hornet’s nest last week! She is a member of the same fitness center that I belong to. A very nice lady, but don’t push her. She is a bulldog.
She approached the Manager of our club about putting closed-captioning on the TVs in the fitness area. so that those of us who aren’t blue-toothed into the tv remote can read what the people on the different channels are saying while we walk the tread mill or eliptical. She was also concerned about those members who are hearing impaired being able to read on the screens as they work out.
Well… you’d think she asked the manager to eliminate all monthly fees for the members! He hit the ceiling— berating her for asking for such an outlandish change. “Nobody else has close-captioning in their gyms! Why should we put it in here?!” he snorted. She was embarrassed and a little angry at his response. She checked around with the local YMCA and other private clubs and… wouldn’t you know— they DO have closed-captioning! So back she went to the manager at OUR club.
Now… he’s the one who’s embarrassed and angry.
“Why did you check with our competitors? Why did you post your question on Facebook? Don’t you realize that you’re costing me business?! People are going to join other clubs and not this one.” the manager stated. She tried to explain that IF he would put in closed-captioning, maybe people would come to HIS gym. He was out of line and totally unreasonable! He was so ugly to my friend that she went over his head and reported it to senior management in the company. Guess who got “called on the carpet??!!”
Let’s apply this to your situation as a head football coach. Suppose that a parent of one of your players calls to complain (*key word there!) about… I don’t know… how her son has missed the activity bus a couple of times after weight-lifting and she had to drive all the way to school to pick him up. Legitimate complaint? Maybe… maybe not! HOW do you handle it?
My first bit of advice is: most people just like to complain! It’s become the way of the world. If you listen (*first key) and respond politely (*2nd key!) and say something like “I will be glad to look into the situation and get back to you, Mrs. Smith”…. that may be all you need to do! Again, most people just want to complain. They really don’t expect anything to be DONE about it— they just like to spout off!!!
Then, it is important that you check with her son and find out WHY he’s missed the activity bus after practice. It is probably something that can be rectified quickly and easily.
However, let’s go back and “flip the script!”
The mom comes with her complaint. Your body language is “screaming” at her that “you are a pain in the butt, lady. I need to get home so hurry up.” Then when she’s finished, you immediately blame it on her son. Point the finger at him. (THAT will earn you “good will points”) Then conclude with, “There’s really nothing I can do about this, Mrs. Smith.” Shirk the blame. Refuse to help and, oh, don’t take any responsibility for trying to solve her problem! This is where I got my title of: Pick Your Battles!
It’s usually a no-win situation when you choose to “fight” a parent. Just like my friend went to upper management when she was “blown off”… parents are going right to the principal or school board member that they know to get you in trouble for failing to take her problem seriously.
When you let her know that you will look into the problem… you also tell her that “I will get back to you within the week with an answer.” Set a time limit that is reasonable (a week is enough time to get some facts AND let her cool down!) and then…. like you promised— call her back!
In most cases, I found over the years that if you treat parents with respect and show some integrity (get back with her if you promise to get back with her— your “word” is good!) they will show respect in return. Yes, there’s going to be that parent who is totally unreasonable! The first person that you let know that “something” is going on between you and this unreasonable parent is your AD and then your principal! Keep them informed. It means you’ve gotten your side of things to them first and keeps them from being “ambushed” by an irate parent. What’s the adage? “Forewarned is forearmed!”
Oh, by the way… as I did my elliptical work-out this morning, I was able to “read” what the people on ESPN were saying. Yep! Closed-captioning running on every TV screen in the building.
– Lew Johnston