Story Time: Risky Business
Our Story Time series brings you real, personal examples from business life that shed light on specific ways to lead with trust. Our last story told of the upside of being willing to walk away. Principle pays off in today’s story.
A New Anthology
When it comes to trust-building, stories are a powerful tool for both learning and change. Our new book, The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook: A Comprehensive Toolkit for Leading with Trust (Wiley, October 2011), contains a multitude of stories. Told by and about people we know, these stories illustrate the fundamental attitudes, truths, and principles of trustworthiness.
Today’s story is excerpted from our chapter on risk-taking. It vividly demonstrates the potential upside of sticking to your guns.
From the Front Lines: Telling a Difficult Truth
Lynn P., a career systems consultant serving largely government clients in the United States, tells a story about taking a risk under pressure.
“Eleven years into my career, I took over a major project. A key phase, testing, was way behind schedule, and the Testing Readiness Review was only two weeks away. Passing the review was a very big deal: it meant completing a milestone and getting a payment for my company.
“I was due to present to all the clients and the senior managers of my own company. It was intimidating—and I was intimidated.
“I was under significant pressure to keep the program moving by passing the review. I also knew that we were not ready to pass.
“Knowing it could cost me my job, I went line by line through our assessment, citing the facts as I saw them. I said we did not pass the review and that we would need to delay to correct the critical items.
“There was complete silence in the room.
“My top executive asked, ‘Are you sure?’
“I said yes.
“After the meeting, both my client and my senior managers approached me informally to commend me for ‘sticking to my guns’ and recommending what I believed to be right.
“Apparently, I had created trust—a lot of it. Over the next 18 months, I was given roles of increasing responsibility, and was eventually promoted to program manager.
“I now believe it was this event that drove the client to increase my role. The experience gave me greater confidence in my own judgment and skills. And finally, it was this program’s success that ultimately propelled my career to the next level.”
The willingness to take a risk by being principled can pay off hugely—as long as you’re doing it for the principles, not the payoff.
—As told to Charles H. Green
When have you stuck to your guns? What payoff did you get?
Read more stories about trust:
- Being willing to walk away
- An unexpected approach to developing new business with trust
- Leading with trust in the C-suite
- An unexpected way to recover lost trust
Listen to a podcast interview with Andrea Howe and Charlie Green on Trust Across America Radio.
A few years ago, well, quite a few, about a year into my own business when every sale was a welcome relief to the bank balance, a prospect wanted to buy a certain product. This was a product which I could certainly source and sell to him but it was the wrong product for his real needs and I said so. He decided that it was what he wanted and if I didn’t sell it to him he’d go somewhere else. I reiterated that it was the wrong solution to his problem and I definitely would not sell it to him. He bought it from a rival, and a year later admitted to me that he was wrong. He offered me the chance to say “I told you so.” Instead I offered him a deal on the right product and a way to onsell the wrong product to someone who could use it. Over ensuing years that attitude earned me a lot more business, not necesarily from him but from people he referred me to.
I agree. Stick to your principles (we don’t so much go for guns down here in NZ).