The Toughest Call Of All

A_Stressed_Man_Hiding_Under_His_Desk_Royalty_Free_Clipart_Picture_110215-138171-971053I sat under my desk with my head in my hands, shaking with fear. I am shamed by the reason. But now I know how to deal with it.

My Chifley Square coffees with Andrew Cohen always leave me energised. We were chatting about when things go wrong, and the client gets upset. Andrew told me a story. “So the client called. I knew what he wanted, that he’d be pissed off, so I answered it and ….” That’s a key difference between Andrew and I. You see, he has courage. Particularly, the courage to:

Always take the tough call.

He never avoids them. He just picks up the phone and faces challenge.

All my life I have ducked and weaved to delay taking a phone call when I knew the other person was disappointed or upset with me. On one occasion, a client was after me following a disastrous article from an interview we set up. I got so freaked by the conversation I had to have with him, and knew he was trying to reach me, that I actually sat under my desk to hide from taking the call. My secretary walked into my office looking for me. I sat silent.

Now- that’s not good. That’s a little weird. It’s ridiculous! I’m not proud of it. But it happened. And not that long ago.

I have always admired those who answer the phone when they know it is a cranky me calling. I respect the backbone. Strength. Character. And it applies just as much to making that tough phone call, or having the guts to tell someone bad news.

I hate it, fear it, avoid it, delay it. Maybe it’s because I don’t want people to think poorly of me, or I don’t want to hurt others. Not sure- but what I do know is that it has caused me huge anxiety, wasted big time, damaged relationships and made me less effective.

When Andrew told me he always takes the tough calls, I took a powerful message from it.

Face reality.

Have the guts to stand up for yourself and your actions, and take the heat that inevitably will come from time to time.

Make a decision TODAY to ‘always take the tough calls.’ That means making the hard phone calls, having the tough conversations, answering the phone when you know you’re in for a butt-kicking.

Don’t follow my track-record of weakness and fear. Be strong. Stand tall. Step up. Take the tough calls. Always.

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18 Responses to The Toughest Call Of All

  1. Rowena Arnold April 27, 2016 at 8:08 am #

    Great advice Chris. Another point to follow on further us to never leave a tough call till tomorrow. By delaying a tough call only amplifies the situation and wakes us at 2am when things seem 10 times worse. Make the call before you leave work!

    • Chris Savage April 27, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

      Very true, Rowena. Chris

  2. Jason April 27, 2016 at 10:07 am #

    I used to keep this Winston Churchill quote printed on my office wall – it’s great advice along the same lines.

    “One ought never to turn one’s back on a threatened danger and try to run away from it. If you do that, you will double the danger. But if you meet it promptly and without flinching, you will reduce the danger by half. “. Winston Churchill

    • Chris Savage April 27, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

      Jason- perfect quote! Thanks! Chris

  3. Eda April 27, 2016 at 10:17 am #

    I’m sure I will be taking some tough calls but also glad that I have support around me to help me deal with them. More on that at our next Killara Dinner.

    • Chris Savage April 27, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

      Thanks Eda! Chris

  4. Jayne Albiston April 27, 2016 at 10:43 am #

    Awesome and good on you for having the guts to write this and put it out there Chris. I took a tough call not so long ago and it was horrid. I hated every moment of the call but at least when it was over, it was over and done. I will never be a fan of these kinds of calls because I think there is nothing to gain with being angry or agitated with people but I definitely agree that it is best to just face them head on and get them over and done with. We can’t control others’ reactions. We can only control ourselves and what helps me is realising that others’ negative reactions often say more about them than they realise.

    • Chris Savage April 27, 2016 at 4:46 pm #

      Well said Jayne! Thanks as always. Chris

  5. Tony Spencer-Smith April 27, 2016 at 10:47 am #

    Hi Chris
    Once again you have shown yourself to be fearless in telling it like it is and exposing your vulnerabilities. Writing that piece took courage beyond the call of duty and more than cancelled out your admittedly somewhat craven performance under the desk! I wish more people in business had the honesty to be fully human – then we might be able to do business like humans.

    Best of luck with your new enterprise.

    • Chris Savage April 27, 2016 at 4:45 pm #

      Thanks Tony. Appreciated. Chris

  6. Jenet Depke April 27, 2016 at 10:55 am #

    Good morning Chris

    Firstly, I would like to congratulate you for being so honest with your followers, for sharing some of your issues you have faced in your business journey. And how you have managed them, albeit, your blog this morning put a smile on my dial for the following reasons, our world class genius and guru friend tells us he is so sensitive and so kind that he does not wish to hurt others or make the tough call sometimes, just like most people do not which is very insightful.

    For your interest, an Executive speaking at a recruitment event many years ago shared the following with his audience; when you have serious issues with your clients fast track and meet them face to face, they are like you; an adult and also may also be struggling with how to deal with the issue at hand. Excellent advice.

    And at the end of the day they too need to be given the opportunity to assist with trying to resolve whatever the issue. From my experience not many executives do NOT enjoy difficult cases. Therefore, I have insisted on mostly face to face meetings if possible, on some ocasions in the past 30 years and it works like magic generally. Showing our clients our genuine personalities, and the opportunity to formally apologise face to face speaks volumes about our courage and professionalism.

    Your honesty and transparency of your character traits is always inspiring and motivating, to assist all of us to face our future challenges we are met with confidence and courage so that resolvement or closure or a win/win can be achieved when we are met with adversity or any difficult issues in business.

    Always proud of you for being so courageous and bold so we can all become even better, proud and professional leaders, standing up and make the tough calls with confidence, resilience and fearlessness.Taking the good with the bad so we can continue to shine and become even more successful and empowered.

    Thanks and gratitude once again for sharing this wisdom and wise counsel today.

    Blessed are all the folks who read your newsletters. May great fortunes continue to follow your path.

    Warmest Wishes:)


    • Chris Savage April 27, 2016 at 4:44 pm #

      Thanks Jenet- always appreciate your interest and contribution. Thanks again. Chris

  7. Niall April 27, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    Its never usually as bad as you think its going to be, we tend to build things up in our heads when in fact a rational call can show you are genuine about resolving any issues that cropped up. You’re right, don’t delay, just make the call so you can all move forward

    • Chris Savage April 28, 2016 at 10:27 am #

      Thanks Niall- appreciated. Chris

  8. Rosanna Covacich April 27, 2016 at 8:18 pm #

    I love the tough calls much more than gushy conversations with happy clients. The chance to use words, tone of voice, silence and psychology to achieve the outcome you want. Before you call, choreograph the conversation, plot the finale and enjoy the intricate dance of the power play than ensues. You will win every time. It’s exhilarating when you start with victory in mind.

    • Chris Savage April 28, 2016 at 10:27 am #

      Thanks Rosanna- you clearly have a proven approach to managing these circumstances. Thanks for sharing. Chris

  9. Linda Richards April 29, 2016 at 9:32 am #

    Thanks, Chris. I like that you acknowledged that it takes just as much courage to make a tough call. Those who are honest and open about their disappointment are often just as nervous about saying so. But tough, honest feedback should be respected for what it is: an indication that the client/friend/acquaintance believes enough in the value of the relationship to have the courage to try and put it right.

  10. Louise Harris October 30, 2017 at 12:56 pm #

    There’s one thing worse than the tough call and that’s no call at all. No call means the other person has given up on you. The tough call means you still have a chance to put things right or at least lay them to rest.

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