And Now for Something Completely Different

If you’re a Monty Python fan then no doubt you recognize the phrase, “And now for something completely different.” That’s how they opened each weekly television episode and the phrase applies to something new I’m about to try with my weekly readers.

My newest book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, came out late last year. It is a business parable to teach readers about the power of ethical influence at home and the office. I pitched an idea to LinkedIn Learning to take a similar approach for a new course. We’re still in talks.

What I’ll do starting this week is share the story as I envision it. It will follow the journey of Pat, a young woman who is promoted to a leadership role but finds it more challenging than she expected. Fortunately she has a wise, trusted mentor – her former basketball coach – to help her. I hope you’ll “tune in each week” to find out what Pat learns and tries as she attempts to build a more cohesive and productive team where she works.

Introduction

Pat had just come out of her six-month review. It was her first review since taking over a small learning team at her company. In her late 20s, Pat had been with the company just over five years when she was promoted into a leadership role. She had a passion for learning, loved the work, and was usually the first person in the office and the last one to leave. She believed what her department did made a big difference professionally and personally for everyone in the company. It was those traits that made her the natural choice to lead the department when her former boss decided to take a similar position with a competitor.

Despite her passion for the job, Pat felt deflated and frustrated after the meeting. It was apparent to her manager that her enthusiasm for learning had not translated to the team. In fact, there was grumbling about her leadership style. However, the bottom line was the quality and quantity of work from the team was not what her manager expected when he promoted her. He let her know that in no uncertain terms. She knew a similar review at the one-year mark would not be acceptable.

How often has a scenario like this been common for a new leader? Far too often! Being a top performer doesn’t necessarily mean you understand people and know how to lead a team. This is what Pat was facing. Perhaps this is what you’re facing.

Let me share with you Pat’s story because, if you’ve experienced anything like Pat, I believe her journey can help you. 

Bumping into an Old Friend

Pat felt too overwhelmed after that early afternoon meeting with her boss to go back and face her team. She pulled out her phone and sent a message to everyone to let them know she was taking the rest of the afternoon off. She decided to go to her favorite coffee shop to grab a caffeine fix and think about what had just happened.

As she stood in line, she noticed someone a few people ahead of her. It was her old college basketball coach. Pat had played four years of varsity basketball at a local, mid-sized college. A two-year starter, she was named captain her senior year.

“Coach Smith,” she said in a slightly raised voice as she waved her arms. 

He turned and suddenly a smile came over his face. “Pat? It’s been ages since I’ve seen you. How are you?” he asked as he grabbed his drink and made his way over to Pat.

Not one to hide her emotions, Pat tried to avert eye contact and replied, “Not so good today.”

Coach said, “I have a few minutes. Would you like to talk about it?”

Suddenly Pat remembered the many times over her four years where coach would take her aside, lend a listening ear, and always offer sage advice. No matter the issue, talking with him always helped her gain a new perspective and feel better. With that thought in the forefront she answered, “I’d really appreciate that Coach.”

She began to share what had transpired in her career, the promotion, and the devastating review earlier that afternoon. She confessed she was at a loss as to what to do. Then she said, “Coach, I recall our senior year started off badly. If I remember right, we lost our first four or five games, and everything seemed to be in disarray.”

Coach Smith laughed and said, “Yea, we were a motley crew. With only two seniors on the team and you being the only returning starter I knew it would be an uphill battle. However, I didn’t expect it to be as tough as it was.”

Pat went on, “And yet somehow you were able to pull us together, and we began to turn things around. If you had asked me early in the season, or even around the halfway mark, whether or not we had any chance of competing for the conference championship again my honest answer would have been no. You had us playing the best basketball of our lives by the end of the season and we won the conference tournament. How did you do that?

Coach Smith said, as I just noted I knew it was going to be a tough year given the loss of four starters. Someone had suggested that I pick up a book prior to the start of the season. It was about how to influence and persuade people, how to change their thinking and behavior. As I read it, I was fascinated because it was based on research from social science. You and the other players didn’t realize it, but I was methodically putting into practice what I had learned from that book.

Then he glanced at his watch and realized he needed to go. He said, “Pat as much as I’d like to stay, I really need to get going. But I tell you what, if you’ll pick up a copy of the book, I’d be happy to meet you here next week around the same time to start talking about some of the concepts. How does that sound?”

Pat, in a much more encouraging tone replied, I’d really appreciate that coach. I’ll get the book this afternoon and meet you here next week.



Installments

  1. And Now for Something Completely Different
  2. Coach’s Lesson on Liking
  3. Game Time for Pat
  4. Coach’s Lesson on Reciprocity
  5. Tis Better to Give
  6. A Lesson on Peer Pressure
  7. Putting Peer Pressure to Work at Work
  8. A Trusted Expert
  9. Becoming a Respected Leader
  10. Ask, Don’t Tell if You Want Commitment
  11. Less Directive
  12. Wins and Losses
  13. Don’t be a Downer
  14. Self-sacrifice
  15. Pay it Forward

Brian Ahearn, CPCU, CTM, CPT, CMCT

Brian Ahearn is the Chief Influence Officer at Influence PEOPLE. An author, TEDx speaker, international trainer, coach, and consultant, he’s one of only a dozen people in the world personally trained by Robert Cialdini, Ph.D., the most cited living social psychologist on the science of ethical influence.

Brian’s first book, Influence PEOPLE, was named one of the 100 Best Influence Books of All Time by BookAuthority. His follow-up, Persuasive Selling for Relationship Driven Insurance Agents, was an Amazon new release bestseller. His new book, The Influencer: Secrets to Success and Happiness, is a business parable.

Brian’s LinkedIn courses on persuasive selling and coaching have been viewed by more than 400,000 people around the world.

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