Naming the Demon

by Jeannie Walters

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Last year was tough. Not just for me, I know, but for many of us. I had a rough year because after 12 incredible years growing a great firm, we were in the fight of our professional lives. Circumstances beyond our control, and some, in hindsight, definitely in our control, were causing us to rethink the entire organization.

Layoffs were imminent.

Shortly before that fateful day in 2009, I started to slip. I wasn’t aware of it, but my body, brain and spirit were calling foul. I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t able to focus and I was DOWN. I’ve never been down like that.

I soldiered on. I soldiered on through cleaning out the office, continuing to service our clients and eventually coming to the painful (but right) decision that it was time I tried something on my own. But it was the end of an era. 12 years – oh, and did I mention I worked with my brother? My smart, witty brother who had essentially given me every opportunity I asked for was now going to be my “former” business partner. Heavy stuff, indeed.

This soldiering on thing worked until it didn’t. I was so emotionally raw I would burst into tears when asked about work. I cared deeply about the people who had worked for us, and my level of worry for them at that time is hard to articulate.

My friend, a social worker, finally put things in perspective for me.

“You’re grieving. It’s a huge loss.”

It was like someone lifted a curtain and showed me that there really would be a light at the end of this very dark tunnel. I don’t know why this brought me such profound relief and perspective, but something about putting a name to this agonizing process helped me get out of it. I could step back, realize I was justified in feeling this way, and forgive myself. I didn’t need to clean out that box today. I couldn’t. And that was ok.

So how is this related to anything remotely close to business?

In some ways, it’s not. This is personal, clearly. But it shows the power of naming the demon. If you can look at the imperfect way things work, you identify where you can go next. It’s not just true as individuals, it’s true for organizations. So be brave, look at the hard stuff, and name it. Name it whatever honestly resonates, but if you identify a process as “bad hiring practices” or “anti-customer customer service” in your company, you now have the power to move on.

Just like I did.

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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