In 2006, soon after I had started a new position with AT&T, I was called upon to make a presentation on a major deal I had negotiated. The forum for the presentation was a monthly conference call where 4 Vice Presidents would listen to and debate my proposal and approve or nix my deal. I needed this deal to be approved to make my commitment to the firm for the year.
I had seen other presenters on this recurring call be abruptly shut down when a single apparent flaw was found in the presentation. The VPs at times had seemed like they were purposefully intimidating the presenters. I was a bit nervous.
I joined the call early, and the VP who was hosting the call, who barely knew me at that time, told me to be relaxed and take my time making the presentation. The presentation went great and the deal was approved. Even my own VP, who the night before had told me my presentation was “worthless”, was sending me instant messages during the call about how great things were going.
The comment to relax and take my time really struck a chord with me. Not long after, I was assigned to work directly for that VP. He had already won me over. While not everything went my way while I was working for him, that original experience convinced me he was the kind of person that I would give a second, third and fourth chance, and more, if needed.
Why is this? His leadership style was one of supporting rather than sitting in judgement. I call this collaborative leadership as opposed to authoritarian leadership. He embodied the inverted pyramid, a principal that was taught to me early in my career at AT&T, where we put our teams above ourselves in importance and work to make them successful, which by way has proven to make the leader and the firm successful.
I have made it a practice when encountering someone in a daily business transaction, who seems a bit frustrated, by slow computers or inability to get a needed contact on the phone with us or something of the like, to tell them “relax, take your time”. This destresses the situation. I am convinced that they respond more quickly and more accurately when I am not adding to the pressure they already are putting on themselves.
Try it. Let me know how you perceive the results.