I'm sure I remember back when I started work things were a whole lot more chilled out. People were steady, productive, had a laugh and always went to the pub after work. So why does everything feel so much more highly strung these days?
Well we all know the answer -
Not enough time
The 'R' word (can't even bring myself to say it)
Too many emails / demands
Too many clients to look after
Too much pressure on targets and performance
I'm not sure these are valid excuses actually. It's easy to blame extraneous forces but we're only human and we can only do so much.
Perhaps we should look at this differently and consider the simple theory of accountability...
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we business folk have become accountable for our actions. Shock horror.
Businesses run by bean counters and hard times have put inordinate pressure on companies to justify their existence to their customers, their shareholders and various other groups of stakeholders. Even government!
However, we need to take a step back and look at what the future of business is going to look like now that we all have to prove our worth and make sure we're 'adding value'.
For many years I've been boring people about the importance of a humanistic approach to business and sales in particular, the need to balance the rational and the emotional, and that without great relationships businesses just can't survive.
Is it any coincidence that businesses run by assholes go bust more than most? They don't keep their staff, they have crap relationships with suppliers and spend their whole time brown - nosing their clients. This just isn't sustainable.
(By the way, I can't prove this but I have seen it many times).
Businesses are looking more at how they communicate internally and how they can look after their people, which is a good thing, but to the man and woman at their desk it possibly doesn't go far enough.
Stress at work is endemic and is that something we're just simply prepared to put up with?
Well maybe we don't have to.
I think people get to work and operate as their work persona. It's still them but it's the work version of them. Trouble is, the bit they leave at home is the bit that could make work-life much more bearable.
I'm talking about soft skills, relationship skills, patience and the all important openness and honesty that we often attribute only to our private lives.
Think about it; after your Xmas party with colleagues you always feel better connected to your team mates because everyone has relaxed, got pissed (probably), let their guard down and opened up.
All I'm asking is that people bring more of their life values into business with them. React more to colleagues as they would to their friends and see the whole picture rather than becoming embroiled in politics and the trappings of business.
I spent the best part of four months last year working with sales and customer service folk who thought that if they were more expensive than their competitors then there was little point in trying to compete.
It was no coincidence that the ones with the best relationships were able to make sales even when out on price. Those who just did the rapport 'thing' were never as successful.
Going beyond rapport into relationship is the much missed opportunity by sales and customer service guys. Companies that recognise this and train up the soft skills of their teams will win, of this I am sure.
So this will surely influence what kinds of sales and customer service teams you hire won't it?
Perhaps sales is not so much about the sharp suits and the pointy shoes these days - it's about how you truly connect.