Yesterday we launched our CEO Engagement Challenge, encouraging leaders to complete simple and fun health, well-being and work challenges for 21 days throughout the holiday season. I couldn’t wait to sign up and learn from other leaders.
Day 1: Reconnect With An Old Friend
This was a hard challenge to start with. Who should I call? What should I say? Do people do this kind of thing? I decided I wanted to call someone who has given me great advice in the past, and who I just like to talk to. Someone positive who would brighten my day. But who?
I thought back to 2003, when I was in a training session at financial software company Intuit. Surrounded by people much higher-ranking than me (including our SVP), we were asked us to share how we really felt about a real-life business challenge. Always an arm-raiser, I had the gall to speak passionately about a recent—in my view capricious—decision our SVP recently made that changed how customers would be forced to register their software.
I shared how the decision SHOULD have happened, and been communicated, boldly and in the face of our Senior VP. Were there some pent up frustrations? Maybe a little. I spoke up because I cared, because I wasn’t scared and because I wanted the development team I worked with to have a champion. Years later, I now know that they (and we) deal with pressures I could not fathom at the time. But the younger me was still 100% right.
I gave it my all. The room fell silent. Afterward, other VPs and Directors, my boss included, said “Whoa! I can’t believe you did that!” and “What were you thinking?” We were supposed to raise real issues and speak plainly. Did I get too real and plain? I looked at the SVP and people gathered around him. My moment of bravery had passed.
My friend and colleague (and brilliant business person) Brian Stern walked up to me and said in an Orange County Jeff Spicoli meets Harvard MBA accent: “Dude, that was AWESOME! You had so much power in your voice. You should always do that. You should do that for a living.” I will never forget that moment. In fact, thanks to Brian (and StrengthsFinder) I started looking for more ways to do things that I felt powerful doing, and I incorporated “speak plainly” into my business life. It is now a Limeade company value.
To complete my Day 1 of the CEO Engagement Challenge, I called him. We talked for a half an hour, and agreed to meet for a game of golf in May when I’m traveling to Orange County. I found out that he is still with his delightful wife and that his two girls and boy are jocks like him. His business Bright Smile is rocking. Speaking to him reminded me of all the reasons I wanted to start a company in the first place. He reminded me of what a special place Intuit was for us as well as the great friendships a great corporate culture can foster.
So Day One is complete. A great start. Thanks to Brian for reminding me to be grateful for supportive friends who help you find your passion. I challenge you to reconnect with an old friend. You never know what you’ll learn.