The troublemaker was 6’4 and about 275 pounds. He was in the audience of 75. He was sitting in the back right of the room. He stood up and challenged me. He yelled at me. All eyeballs turned toward me to see how I would respond.
Because we had done our work I was able to respond. On a gut call I yelled the answer back to him. It was a moment on the precipice. There was a huge risk. He of course could have beat me up. More importantly, I could have lost those 75 people and the 75 in the other part of the ballroom who I would be addressing next.
After I yelled at him. There was a vacuum of silence. It seemed to last an hour. I could hear each of my heartbeats roaring in my ears. I could only imagine what my breath would have sounded like, if I was actually breathing.
The face of the troublemaker changed. Finally he said, in the same booming voice, “Okay, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.”
At that magical moment the concept I was communicating became crystal clear for all of these 150 people. There was buy-in. People were mobilized to take action.
What made this moment of truth possible?
- Caring about the people.
- Doing the work.
- Being prepared.
- Having courage to play.
- Embracing the troublemaker.
Last week someone in the back row of a leadership speech spent the entire balloon exercise trying to get a balloon stuck in the ballroom chandelier. He was successful. His was also the most valuable conversation I had following the event.
Do your work. Anticipate the troublemaker. Embrace the troublemaker. Lead change.