The Benefit of a Really Big Rock

canstockphoto10048726Have 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.

This entry was posted in Positive Psychology by Shannon Polly, MAPP. Bookmark the permalink.

About Shannon Polly, MAPP

Shannon M. Polly is a corporate communications trainer, facilitator and speaker and founder of Shannon Polly & Associates, a leadership development company in downtown D.C. Shannon works with executives, managers and employees of Fortune 500 companies in two areas: executive presence/presentation skills (based on over a decade of experience as a professional actor/singer in New York) and positive psychology. Shannon is one the first 100 people in the world who have received her Master in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) degree from the University of Pennsylvania under Dr. Martin Seligman. She also holds a graduate degree from the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art in classical acting and a B.A. with honors from Yale University. She also holds a coaching certificate from the Georgetown Leadership Coaching Program.

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