I was in a sales meeting recently where I made a mistake. Not a huge mistake, or a particularly damaging one, but it represented an opportunity to learn so let me process it here with you.
It started with 8 people around a conference room table. About halfway through, I was called upon to answer a question posed by the client. I'm wired to enjoy opportunities to display competence, so being asked a question and providing a helpful answer is a strength and something that excites me.
Except in this moment that strength became a weakness.
Rather than pausing to think, or to ask a clarifying question of the client, I launched into lecture mode. I took up nearly 3 minutes of a 30 minute meeting. At one point I even stood up to illustrate my point by acting it out.
The problem was I wasn't answering the client's question. I was answering what I thought was the client's question. Mercifully, a colleague of mine interrupted, redirected the conversation to something actually useful and I silently took a seat.
In retrospect, I realized my primary concern was being-perceived-as-competent. It wasn't a terminal error, but it reminded me of a truth I learned from someone far wiser than me:
A strength becomes a weakness when it's:
used in the wrong context.
Next time, I'll make sure I'm more interested in answering the client's question than displaying my competence.
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