I was catching up with an old friend this past week and she told me about an incident at her job. She’s an amazing engineering manager at an enterprise software firm. The firm had a difficult customer, who was almost certainly going to churn - the writing was on the wall.
She was angry since everyone else at the company had given up. Not her. She rolled up her sleeves and setup regular office hours with the customer for two hours every week over a six month! period. Nobody at the company cared, the sales people had moved on, the marketing team had taken thier prior testimonials down, so they didn’t mind (cared) that she was trying to save the account.
Slowly, she built trust with the customer and helped them implement the product in their regular workflow. The customer had seen the light and the product spread like wild fire. She did all of this without skipping a heartbeat on her regular duties. Six months went by and the customer renewed a multi-seven-figure-a-year deal (a 5x increase in recurring revenue from the customer).
Everyone was besides themselves and she ended up saving the quarter. She went to the CEO, but left with just a pat on the back. She was heartbroken and resolved to ‘stick to her job’ in the future. The CEO had screwed up and she had lost trust. What could have been a moment to be a great leader and mentor turned into disappointment.
She called me last week to vent and explained what had happened and didn’t feel that she was appropriately recognized or rewarded for going above and beyond. My advice to her was that she had learned an amazingly valuable skill all on her own: to solve a customer’s problem and get them to become an advocate for the product. This is a superpower in an enterprise setting and will forever distinguish her. Further, while without doubt, she should have been recognized, but concluding that she was going to stick to her job in the future was a huge mistake. She’d be harming her own development in the future. If this company continues to not recognize her, there will be 10 others who will.
I think she really wanted permission to become formidable, but the in reality, the beautiful thing about becoming formidable is that you no longer need permission. The end state of being formidable is that you no longer need (or care) about anyone’s permission (or approval).
There are infinite ways to become successful, but there’s no “map” for how to get there. There is, however, one general principle: become formidable. Learn to get (and stay) out of your comfort zone.