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Trust that Builds People Up

Blog | Life and Leadership   |   June 15, 2017

by Chrina Cuna-Henson

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into a meeting with a potential client all by myself. Today, I smile at the memory of that meeting, but I’d have to admit that my 23-year-old self was pretty terrified.

My boss scheduled a meeting with a multinational organization to pitch for a video production job. I was invited to tag along for some experience that might help me in the future. Little did I know that the “future” was coming in about 30 minutes. I was driving to the meeting when my boss called to say he got caught up with another client, but that he was confident I could handle the meeting on my own. He gave me a few tips and shared a few ideas with me that would be helpful in case the client had any questions. I tried to convince him to reschedule the meeting, but he insisted that I would be fine managing the meeting myself. As I write this, I now wonder if it was all a set up.

I parked my car and made my way up to the client’s office while trying to do a mental playback of every client meeting scene I had seen in a movie. I whispered a little prayer and tried to give myself a little pep talk.  “Chrina, you can do this.”

Fear could have gotten the best of me that day. I walked into the room and felt the client looking at my blow-dried hair, manicured nails, and shiny high heels and wondering why they sent “Barbie” to this meeting. Or maybe it was all in my imagination and I just felt insecure. I’m not sure why I got the impression that they were judging me for being young and maybe even for being a girl. I’m now having trouble recalling what made me think those things.

I took my seat and while setting up my laptop, I was reminded of what my boss said on the phone. I recalled how reassuring he was when he said that he was confident I could handle the meeting on my own. I also heard the voice of my dad telling me (as he did all throughout my childhood) to “never say you can’t do something, until you’ve tried.” Suddenly, I got a wind of courage and I wasn’t so intimidated anymore. I smiled confidently at the clients and started the meeting. It turned out that I was more prepared than I thought. I magically knew what questions to ask and I calmly took notes as they shared about their organization’s needs. They in turn, were very engaged as I shared about what the company had done in the past and presented what we were capable of producing to help fill their current training needs.

In the end, I walked back to my car with a little spring in my step. I had surprised myself by what I knew and by how professionally I was able to manage the meeting. Sure, that was just from my perspective but I could not deny that the clients took me seriously and made me feel very well-respected.

My self-confidence fell short that day until I was reminded that my boss had confidence in me. Sometimes the confidence that makes a real difference is the confidence that others have in us. When an authority figure is willing to entrust us with something, it changes the way we manage a situation. It doesn’t make us smarter or more prepared, just more confident to try things that will stretch us.  I think about the many times in my life that I got my confidence from the trust that people had in me. This taught me not to fear failure, but to face new experiences with openness and courage.

Because I had successfully presented to the client, my boss asked if I would also like to take on the role of a Producer with the assurance that he would walk me through all that I needed to know. Again, his confidence in me made all the difference. I took on the challenge and learned many of the skills that are core to my career in media production.

What he was really saying was that, if i messed up, he would help me with the clean up…. but that it would be better for us to see a mess than to not try at all.  

There are studies that talk about the difference between a person’s ability to do something versus their willingness to do it. You have skill gap when you have people who are willing but not able. You have a confidence gap when you have people who are able but not even trying. I believe that today’s workforce would perform differently if their supervisors expressed greater confidence in them.

This is also the value of having a boss who is also a mentor. A mentor is someone who is genuinely committed to your growth. He or she is willing to walk with you through both failure and success. They are confident that if you are equipped with basic skills, it is only a matter of time until you are successful. They are also willing to coach you through new experiences and believe in you enough to take risks along with you. When a supervisor takes on the role of the mentor, they are willing to see their staff attempt things that could be messy if they failed but recognize that if they succeed, it could be spectacular and forever beneficial to his/her staff’s career.

Little did I know that that day, I was going to close the largest deal our company had seen all year, and even get commission for it! I also didn’t know that this particular client would enjoy working with us so much that they would engage us for many other projects over the course of the next few years.

Chrina Cuna-Henson is a Senior Consultant of ROHEI and a Media Producer at Cozeh. She loves travel, coffee, and her husband Jon Henson (not in that order).

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