Ask any Quantum Physicist about position, momentum, vector, space and time, and suddenly zigzag becomes straight, flat become a matter of relativity, and uncertainty principles emerge and, well, …the whole cluster of variables spirals out beyond my pay grade.
Having been a sales leader in a scrappy startup that traversed it’s way through all these variables to quantum results, it’s precisely in the middle of this cluster of variables that we encounter our greatest leadership lessons, indeed lessons for being human, that lead to enduring results.
Here’s one example of how I learned this the hard way.
The zigzag path of vulnerability
It was mid-February in 2008, and I had just given a spirited keynote speech at a national sales meeting, the main point being, “Don’t go for the win — build the relationship.”
Not a week later, I ate my words.
With barely two years into my management career, while working with one of my Account Executives presenting a new product rollout to a key account, like a slip hanging embarrassingly below a hemline my lack of leadership began to show, as I proceeded to go for the win.
Short of the long was a power struggle between me, and the customer.
The tension in the room was palpable; evident by my carotid artery rising and falling from my neck, as our customer’s neck stiffened into his shoulders.
Although we made the big sale, my heart knew what my head was not willing to admit: I had gone for the win, and both I and my sales rep knew it.
When the customer called the following day to say they were retracting their order — claiming they felt “strong-armed,” it was, frankly, unsurprising.
Ouch — that left a mark!
Messy, but authentic results
Humbled, and doing my best not to fall into a pit of despair, I called the customer, expecting nothing in return other than to express my heartfelt apologies, admit my mistake, and accept the consequences of my actions.
With no excuse or story shielding from the truth, I felt vulnerable and exposed.
To my surprise, he accepted my apology and was willing to start over.
This exchange taught me an invaluable sales — and life lesson — about the power of vulnerability in all our relationships, business, or personal. Which in this case didn’t cost my company more than my bruised ego.
It is the badass Brené Brown who has given new meaning to Vulnerability lately, defining it as; “… uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure… it sounds like truth and feels like courage… is the birthplace of love, belonging, joy, courage, empathy, and creativity.”
To arrive at these deeply relational moments is a zigzaggy, and emotional risky path… to be sure!
Also, it may feel like a quantum leap to be that exposed, show our soft underbelly — because it is!
Scary as this may be, vulnerability is the only way we genuinely feel know our own pain, and once we have felt ours we are bale to have true empathy for other’s.
This is Kryptonite against the scourge of superficiality and short-term results, over the reward of enduring gains.