So much of the way we are in the world is the result of sheer repetition that it is just plain scary. That’s where habits come from. You do something often enough—the same way—and it becomes a habit. You know why you slice a golf ball so consistently? Because somehow or another, you taught yourself a swing that makes the ball spin from the inside out. Then, you did it so often it started feeling “natural.” Now, you have to aim 45 degrees left to get the ball to land anywhere near the fairway. The real bummer is that even after lessons, when under pressure in the club championship, you push it off into the trees. Because under pressure, we all retreat to what is comfortable. As children, when threatened, we run screaming for our mothers. On the golf course, under pressure, we revert to an over-the-top swing and say good-bye to another Pro V 1. And, in critical, $100 million dollar meetings, we resort to text-heavy PowerPoint presentations in dark rooms, “umhing” and “ahhing” our way through a massive data dump.
Hey, it’s a habit. We’re comfortable with it, and our clients don’t really expect anything else. Right?
Well, it may be true that, especially now, the bar is pretty low for what is acceptable in how we talk to each other in business. No one will give you demerits for following the standard company script. And, if you ask someone how you did after giving a “presentation,” they will probably say, “you did great, Boss. You didn’t leave anything out, and you stayed perfectly in synch with the PowerPoint!” So, you got a good grade on your “presentation.” Atta boy!
Unfortunately, finishing your presentation on time, and having said everything you planned to say in a business meeting, doesn’t help you any more than a predictable slice does in golf. In fact, both put you into a very large, socially acceptable fraternity. But, neither helps you get the results you want when the stakes are high.
The good news is that choosing to connect when you talk is actually physically easier than consistently hitting a draw. All it takes is turning off the projector, turning up the lights, and choosing to really talk to the other people in the room. It might be scary at first, and it may feel “unnatural” for a while, but that is a small price to pay for the only real differentiator you have: who you are. Will connection always get you the deal? Of course not. But, if data are what your clients really need for the relationship to go forward, and you are comfortable with them drawing their own conclusions, then just e-mail them the spreadsheet or presentation. But, if they invite you to fly across the country to talk to them, then take the risk, get out of your comfort zone, and convince them that what you have and who you are is what they need. After all, it sure beats pulling expensive golf balls out of patches of poison oak.