Take the Lead

I remember my reaction when it became apparent that business development, or put in more practical terms, cold-calling, was going to be my responsibility because Steve was too busy doing the work to also do the outreach. It was something along the lines of “You must be joking!” But as I’ve written about in my other blogs, it’s a part of the job that I’ve actually begun to embrace.

So last week, Steve and I were standing outside the office of a company’s CFO, waiting for her to finish her phone call so we could begin our meeting. We were there to talk about redesigning their website ““ an opportunity that came from my cold-calling.

As we are standing there, Steve sizes up the situation. He’s thinking something along the lines of, “Colleen is the one who made the contact with this company, their website says it’s a woman-owned business, and the CFO we’re waiting to meet with is a woman, young enough to be our daughter. So with all this in mind, he turns to me and quietly says, “Why don’t you lead the meeting?”

I react to the question as if he had suggested that I run the meeting”¦in my underwear. “What? Are you crazy, I’m not ready to be in charge!” After all, he’s the one with 30 years of experience, not to mention that he’s really good at explaining the process to a potential client. And me? During meetings I’m happy interjecting a comment or two and taking notes, but I fear that if the focus is on me, I might be exposed as inexperienced.

Steve can tell that I’ve dug in my heels and he’s certainly not going to be able to convince me that I am most certainly capable of running a meeting in the minute or two we have before our prospective client gets off the phone.

Even as we introduce ourselves, it’s obvious that the woman we are meeting with is expecting me, not Steve, to take the lead. Steve spearheads the discussion but at almost every point, she looks to me for affirmation. Maybe I do remind her of her mother and if mom agrees it’s worth doing, then it’s important.

On the drive back to the office after the meeting, we talk about it. As stubborn as I am, even I can see that this particular situation would have been an ideal one for me to step out of my comfort zone and take on a new level of responsibility. Plus, this was a safe place to do it because Steve was there to back me up if I needed it. And the truth is that I have been paying attention during the four years that we have been working together and I do have experience to draw upon.

I vowed that the next time a similar opportunity arose, which happened to be the following day, I would not shrink from running the meeting. In this particular case, the woman and owner of the company related more to Steve than me, but I went into the meeting ready to be an equal partner with Steve.

The topic of what level of responsibility I am capable of handling, reminds me of a discussion Steve and I have had several times. He says that if for whatever reason he could not run the business, that I would be able to take it over. Sure, it might not be exactly the same business we have now, but he believes I could continue to keep our marketing business up and running.

“There’s no way I could do that!” But I do stop and think about it. And then I keep praying for his continued good health.

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