It had become a joke. The question was not if Victor (my son Tyler’s pitching instructor) would cancel our scheduled lesson, but when.
Since I am a man on a very tight schedule, this was a joke I did not find funny at all. In fact, messing with my time is just about the most irritating thing to me in the world.
So as our 5 p.m. lesson approached, I was ready to be annoyed. In the past — knowing Victor’s proclivity for considering our appointment merely a placeholder in his calendar to be moved at will — I had texted him a few hours before to confirm. But what I realized was he often used this outreach as the perfect opportunity to reschedule. Thus, on the day in question, I declined to make the opening gambit. I arrived for our lesson about 4:50 to, of course, find Victor nowhere to be found.
“Do you think he’ll show up, Dad?” Tyler asked, knowing the background of the situation.
“Well, see,” I said, stewing inside.
At 4:55, I texted our habitually tardy instructor with a simple: “We are here.”
“Hey Anthony,” he said, but I immediately cut him off.
“Hey Victor. We’re here. When are you going to get here?”
“I’m stuck on the Parkway in some traffic,” he said on the car speakerphone, which was a bit hard to hear.
“Yeah. When are you going to get here?” I said curtly.
“Uh. The problem is I have a 5:30 … ” he said.
Again cut him off. “Yeah, you’ll have to reschedule them. We’re here and I have to get the kids to the dentist at 6:30. You cancelled us last week so we’ve got to do this lesson today.”
“Uh, ok. Let me see what I can do. Maybe I can get one of the other coaches to do that lesson,” he said.
“Whatever. We’ll see you when you get here,” I said.
As my blood continued to boil, I looked over at Tyler, who was looking up at me with wide eyes.
“Tyler, let me tell you something,” I said. “We’ve been more than accommodating with this guy, but now he’s just messing with us. When someone starts treating you like that, you have to push back. Remember that.”
At this point, I didn’t know what Victor would say or do when he walked in the door, but I was ready to ask for a refund if he didn’t do the lesson right then and there. I told Tyler as much.
Luckily, he had gotten the message and so made other arrangements for his 5:30 lesson. We resumed our cordiality, perhaps with a better understanding of my boundaries going forward.
At the end of the lesson — which concluded the 5-pack of half-hour training sessions I had paid for — I told him how it would be going forward.
“Hey. I’m not going to do any more packages. If I want to do a lesson, I’ll text you, and I’ll give you cash at the end. Good?”
“Yeah that works,” he said sheepishly, probably realizing this was the best deal he was going to get.
When we got in the car, Tyler asked about the new arrangement.
“It won’t guarantee he’ll show up, but I bet he’ll have a little more incentive to get the lesson done if he hasn’t already been paid.”
Confrontations aren’t pleasant, and maybe that’s why they aren’t covered in most leadership material, which seems to prefer focusing on the happy-go-lucky aspects of setting a shining example and empowering all. While those things are important and very valid, there is a need for — and an art to — knowing when to confront and how. It’s critical stuff because not everyone responds to love and kindness. Some just need to be called on the carpet when their behavior crosses a line.
As such, you’ll soon see a session of our “CIO Leadership & Career Development” webinar series on this topic (with the next coming on 5/21), because all leaders need to recognize where being accommodating ends, and being made a fool of begins.