Making People Believe in Themselves

One of the things I think contributed to the outcome of the Miracle on the Hudson and I speak and teach is about the two key tenets of personal leadership; resourcefulness and the ability to make a decision.

I learned this early in my business career when I was in a senior sales position with one of the Big 5 accounting firms.

This position was a “first” for this firm as for years, sales were the responsibility of the partner in charge of the account. This firm hired a group of seasoned sales representatives to drive net new sales in certain industry groups. The industry group I was assigned was Consumer Industrial Goods.

As I shared in my blog “The Strategy to Selling in a Post-Trust World”, one of the things I did to act on this was I was always open to take on a sales territory that was open and called ” net new.” Net new territories are ones you have zero current accounts to work, and you need to develop and prospect from scratch.

Like most Big 5 firms, this firm had existing relationships with many Fortune 500 companies. My charge was to go after the Fortune 500 consumer goods companies that the firm did not have any relationship with.

One of those companies is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. The challenge was, the firm didn’t have any existing high level relationships. So I executed the strategy I wrote about in my blog, “The Strategy to Selling in a Post-Trust World,” Access to Influence.

Once I was able to gain access, find a connection, build and invest into a relationship, affinity was obtained. One step left, gaining influence in the account.

But as we went through the prospective client’s buying process, we ran into two major challenges. One internally with the firm, one externally with the prospective client.

Internally, this prospective client’s major competitor was a current client with the firm and the partner for the current client didn’t want to disrupt that relationship, even if the prospective client’s opportunity was over 5x larger than the current client.

That is when I had to get resourceful. I had to find a way to develop a win-win solution with the partner of the current client. How I did that was leverage internal and external resources who had influence with the partner. And then I put my own “skin” in the game and put my job on the line as if we didn’t pull this new opportunity across the finish line, I’d leave the firm. I had to go “All In.”

Internal challenge done.

Externally, the major issue we had is we didn’t know how the prospective client evaluated and made decisions. Again, I had to get resourceful and leverage the relationship I had built affinity with to understand the real concern. What I found out from this relationship was that the prospective client had a very demanding legal process.

I did my research and found a former associate of the prospective client who was the head of their legal counsel. I met with him and he was open to help us but for a price, $10,000.

Normally, the firm did not pay for services like this but I was all in. My managing director finally came around and said he would pay the retainer for this service but if we didn’t win the opportunity, that $10,000 would come out of my salary.

As I was all in, I made the decision to accept that offer.

I believed in myself more than anyone else believed in me.

Ultimately, by using the strategy of Access to Influence, resourcefulness and decision making we won that $5.8 million dollar opportunity, gained a net new client which paid dividends for several years after.

This strategy, access to influence, resourcefulness and decision making, was what I used that day of the Miracle on the Hudson, with decision making during crisis being the most important.

One of the things I speak about and teach in my workshops is what I call the “Leadership Quadrant.”

What I have learned is there are two key components to decision making if you are a leader.

Being able to make the decision and the timing of the decision and if they don’t come together, you can have tragic outcomes.

If you make a wrong decision at the wrong time, many people can be hurt and companies can suffer. I use the example of Hurricane Katrina. A major hurricane, direct hit, and a leader needed to step up and make critical decisions. Unfortunately, a leader didn’t step up for a few days, wrong decisions were initially made and it was devasting.

You can have the right time for a decision but make the wrong decision. This happened when Prime Minister Chamberlain met with Adolph Hitler and gave up territory for peace. It was the right time, before a major war broke out, but wrong decision to give Hitler anything as Hitler just started to take more and more and you now have World War Two break out. Right time, wrong decision.

Making a decision during a crisis is a valuable trait but if it’s at the wrong time, it can extend the crisis. Robert E Lee made the call to cross the Potomac River and head to Gettysburg. Lee said more than once that he believed his men would be invincible. Lee sought to press his advantage, launching massive assaults on both sides of the Union line. The hesitance of his subordinate generals acting on that decision allowed more Union reinforcements to arrive, strengthening their defensive positions and enabling them to stall the rebel onslaught. Lee retreated. Right decision, wrong time.

But when you make the right decision at the right time, not only do you grow, but miracles happen. That is what happened on January 15, 2009. The crew, some passengers and myself, made the right call at the right time. The crew made the call to go into the Hudson River, giving everyone a chance. The crew, passengers and I had to be resourceful and make split second decisions ,such as climbing over the seats to escape, cutting the lifeboat from the door of a sinking plane or holding onto the lifeboat so it didn’t float away that turned the turmoil of that moment into triumph.

Right decision, right time.

One of the ways to help people believe in themselves, is to show them how to be resourceful and make decisions at the right time.

Then they will have a model for personal leadership so the next time a challenge shows up in their lives, they have a reference that if they employ resourcefulness, step up and make a decision, they can

EMBRACE the uncertainty, IGNITE an opportunity to serve which will TRANSFORM not only their life but those they serve.

And they will be on the path to having a Limitless Life, where anything is possible and they will have

Freedom of Time, Freedom of Money, Freedom of Mission and Freedom of Relationships and

Isn’t that what we all want?