Hile Rutledge
Trainer, author

Hile Rutledge

CEO and owner of OKA (Otto Kroeger Associates), a training and consulting firm specializing in leadership and team development.

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Jumping the gun

Q: What are the three (or so) biggest mistakes -- professional and personal -- you've made on the road to where you are today? Were you able to overcome them?

It was early in my career, and I had just landed the biggest client I had ever had and crafted a piece of training work that would reach over 3,000 new managers. When that event went well, I was asked to follow up that training series with another high-profile leadership event. That went well also.

With two back-to-back successes, the client asked me to talk to a leader in their firm that was having some trouble finding a speaker/consultant for a large group of demanding partners for an event coming up in a few days. My contact connected me to the leader, telling him, "Talk to this guy. He's a wonder-kid."

"I've heard you are pretty good," the leader said. "I'm glad, because I was just talking to Robert Quinn, and he doesn't understand what I want. He didn't want to work with us."

Robert Quinn was the author of one of my graduate school text books -- a good one. I was being called in to do a job that Robert Quinn was in the running for. I was feeling like a superstar. Sure, the job was a bit ill-defined; the client group was high powered and a bit disgruntled, and the turnaround was very short. My experience and caution were whispering little warnings to me and making me feel a bit uneasy, but the client seemed so sure, the money was good, and they thought I was their man. I was the wonder-kid. I took the job.

The day was a mess. The poorly defined goals ensured both confusion and client dissatisfaction. The quick turn-around time had not allowed me time to carefully contract with this group, and their contentious views, unknown by me prior to the event, derailed the design I had for them. At the end of the day, the group was angrier and further away from both team cohesion and change than they had been before the event. I had been a disaster.

I had known better, but I made the mistake of believing my good press. Flattery and the intoxication of thinking myself unstoppable eclipsed good judgment. My wanting to be --prematurely -- in Robert Quinn's league only proved that I was not yet there. Rarely do I ever contract with a client that strains of that awful day don't echo in the back of my head and encourage me to pull that little worried voice front and center in my thinking.

By Hile Rutledge  |  July 29, 2010; 12:00 AM ET  | Category:  Success and controversy , Success and failure Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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