One of the coolest things I have ever seen...
When reflecting on our careers (and the hundreds to thousands of situations we have found ourselves involved in) there are always one or two that stand out. Why they stand out will be as unique as our individuality — this is one of mine.
As you can appreciate I have changed all the names and will be a little vague with the business situation, but for the event itself I will try to help you see what I saw because it really is one of the coolest things ever.
So sit back, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy the "spinning" of my tale.
The company I worked for at the time had a very strong and historical relationship with a business partner who distributed their product through us — for very complicated reasons we were asked to take on a sub-distributor as part of their overall distribution supply chain strategy. Let's just say it was one big hot mess from our perspective and a road trip was needed to discuss the situation, and if we got our way, have the whole god awful situation dissolved. We were to meet with Malcolm the President and Susan his VP of Sales and Marketing. On our side it was the GM, the sales leader, and myself representing marketing — we all knew why we were there because they'd heard our "shit storm" story before.
You know when you are on your game... when everything moves the way you want it to, you are two answers ahead of the discussion, and it unfolds as if you had written it yourself? This was one of those moments.
Discussion point after discussion point Malcolm was engaged and he leaning more and more to dissolving this sub-distributor contract. We could literally feel it... it was on the tip of his tongue... he was about to say those magic words, "We have to dissolve this arrangement because it's bad for our business" (or some words to that effect).
It was to be glorious day!
Then it happened.
Susan, who had been sitting next to Malcolm all this time (and saying very little actually), put a single finger on his forearm and said, "Malcolm... we should talk about this before you make a final decision". There was a short cryptic conversation between them regarding broader business ramifications and those magic words never came. The meeting was over. Our good old college try was appreciated but ultimately we walked away with our umbrellas open back into the storm. It happened so quickly.
So why do I still look back on this business moment with a certain fascination?
The momentum change for one thing, it was like a pin touching a bubble, but it was Susan's simple act to be sure — the way she symbolically pushed the button with her finger and tossed a wrench in. I had worked with Susan a number of times, respected her skills (as well as her leadership), and would have worked for her in a second. There was no doubt she was a trusted business confidant and important part of Malcolm's leadership team.
And maybe that is why to this day I remember it all so clearly; it was because of the team Malcolm had created. What I saw was a glimpse into his team, how they operated, his leadership, and the people who surrounded him.
Tim Ferris is quoted in saying, “But you are the average of the five people you associate with most, so do not underestimate the effects of your pessimistic, unambitious, or disorganized friends. If someone isn't making you stronger, they're making you weaker.”
I wonder if he has met Malcolm because he did a really good job with who he surrounded himself with.
The symbolism of that simple touch on the forearm will forever resonate with me because it really was my first peak into something I know now as a simple truism — GOOD PEOPLE ARE EVERYTHING.
So there you have it...