Have you ever been asked to do something at work that was so far beyond your abilities that you felt like Sisyphus pushing that rock up a mountain? But you think that this time it’s different? If I just analyze how the rock goes up the mountain, if I lift weights, if I push REALLY hard – I’ll be the one to make it up there?
Well, a few years ago I was asked to facilitate a full day session on Negotiation Skills. So I said yes. And then I panicked. I know nothing about negotiation skills. I have never really negotiated for anything. I lived in New York City so I didn’t own a car. My broker took care of our apartment. And in discussions with my husband, I usually win!
I was terrified of facilitating something I really don’t know….So I analyzed that rock. I studied. I read Getting to Yes. I pored over my husband’s notes from Negotiations Class at business school. And I showed up to a tiny, cramped, windowless room of eight 25-year-old male traders who had just been promoted. And they didn’t need negotiation skills for their work….the market tells them within a few basis points what they can negotiate!
They would leave the room for ‘meetings’, check their PDAs openly and question the content. I was getting so frustrated that I inadvertently resorted to sarcasm with one participant. Reading his evaluations, I was horrified as I read, “Probably not a good idea to humiliate your participants in front of everyone.” Not only had I failed in presenting the material, but I had embarrassed a participant.
It was the worst work day of my life. It was a three tissue day.
After the three tissues (and finding the participant’s email to send an apology), I had a realization – that I was lucky. I had an opportunity the next day to redeem myself. The next day, I was facilitating presentation skills – my forté. I decided that this was going to be the best training session that these participants had ever had. I went into that room and I let go of all of the fear I normally have – worrying that if I’m too enthusiastic someone will think I’m weird. I didn’t care.
I told them: “I love facilitating this subject. This is my absolute favorite thing to do.” And I proceeded to throw out the agenda I had planned and I tailored the whole session to what they needed. I was flying! I had more fun than I have ever had and I thought of responses to their questions that I didn’t even know I knew. The day was over before I knew it and a strange thing happened. The participants didn’t leave! They just stood there looking at me with this strange expression. One of them said, “I actually wasn’t going to come today, but I am so glad I did. This was the best session of the whole week program.”
It was the best day of my work life.
I realized that I had created a new benchmark for myself. Up until that point I had been coasting. Now I knew that every training session I do can (and should) be as good as the one I did that day. I just needed a really big rock to show me that.