I don't hold a C-Level title...I don't have a big team...I'm not a well-known public figure...nor do I make "life-changing" money which might wield a lot of power or influence (although I am grateful for what I do earn and all that I have). Having said that...I have adopted the philosophy over the past several years...that no matter who you are...YOU can make a difference!
I also believe that…
…we know more people
…have more talent
…have more capability
then we give ourselves credit for.
Too often we give up before we even begin because things seem risky or hard when we should be thinking…"how CAN I make that happen"…even if it means stepping outside of our comfort zone or even failing.
So here is a story about a time when…a nobody…believed she was a somebody…and it made a difference…
The plane had just reached altitude and the announcement came on that we could now connect to the Wi-Fi. It was Sunday, September 10th, 2017 and I was travelling to Chicago to go to the HP WW Partner Forum (#HPReInvent17). I wasn't going to connect on-line this trip…maybe just read a book instead… but I thought given that so many of us were travelling that I should.
I no sooner had I connected to GOGO Inflight when a text popped up from my dear friend Sarah. Sarah and I have known each other for…gulp…20+ years…and we started out together at a small Long Term Healthcare company in Canada called Shannex Healthcare Management. Since that time….Sarah worked hard and risen through the ranks of Emera (a Power Company based in Nova Scotia Canada) to become President, TECO Services in Tampa, Florida. She is an inspiration to all who know her and I aspire to be just like her!
The importance of her text was that Hurricane Irma was bearing down on the Tampa Bay area where many had been evacuated and under a state of emergency. Her role at TECO was considered essential services with crews at the ready to record outages and to restore power to their customers in the long days ahead.
Here is how the conversation began…
So…the email I sent was to the HP President of the AMS and his Chief of Staff. I do have them in my network and I meet with them quarterly for a business review. Having said that…it was still a bit of a stretch to reach out to them on a Sunday afternoon right before their big event given my position in the organization. With the eye of Hurricane Irma about to hit, I knew that we only had one shot at finding someone high level at Google and they immediately jumped to mind as the solution. I have to also say, that hitting send on the email took more courage that I would like to admit, but when I thought of what Sarah, her team and the numerous people that relied on power from TECO were going through…I knew it was worth a try.
So…here is how the rest of the conversation went…
It is a bit crazy to me that it just so happened that my HP contacts had met with the President of Google Cloud Services the week before, who happened to answer the call on a Sunday afternoon. He and his team jumped on it right away and had TECO up and running within a couple of hours! The outage map was mission critical and under normal circumstances they would not be recording so many incidents at once. With the fix….the numerous households and families who relied on information during a disaster would now know that the outage was recorded....how many others were affected…and the estimated time to resolve. Not bad work for a 3.5 hour plane ride from Phoenix to Chicago on a sleepy Sunday afternoon.
Here are a few things that I took away from this experience:
- Sarah wasn't afraid to leverage her network. She reached out to several people that afternoon and I am grateful that she counted me amongst her friends and trusted me to try and help in a critical moment.
- I wasn't afraid to leverage my network. When Sarah asked if I knew anyone at Google the urge to say no was strong given that I didn't know anyone personally that high up.
- I immediately switched to problem solving mode. I'm not sure why….but with the extraordinary circumstances…my brain jumped to "who do I know that WOULD know someone that could help".
- This was like finding a needle in a haystack under a pressure cooker timeline. I really felt that making the right contacts was truly a long shot. Under normal circumstances finding the right teams and getting a response could take weeks…especially as the email distribution list grows.
- I was humbled how strangers dropped everything on a moment's notice. There are no words to describe how overjoyed I was to see the HP team…then the Google team (who I wasn't connected to) make themselves available on a weekend and fix things quickly. They are all the true heroes of this story!
- Everyone was absolutely AMAZING, kind and knowledgeable. I was overwhelmed by the emails that flew around and how everyone kept saying…be safe. It was TEAMWORK at its best!
I am so lucky to work for a company that encourages employees to take risks & do the right thing
- Meg Whitman always says "Run towards the fire"
- Our HPFS CEO Irv Rothman wrote a book called "Gutsball" and it forms the cornerstone of our culture.
"Gutsball is….The ability to overcome apprehension or anxiety to rise to the occasion. Feeling free to take action while acknowledging potential consequences, but not fearing them" – Irv Rothman
So...To Sum it ALL Up….
People can do extraordinary things in extraordinary moments. While I am a nobody who believes that I am a somebody…I want YOU to believe that you can be a somebody too!
"If it's important you'll find a way. If it's not, you'll find an excuse." – Ryan Blair
Leadership Questions of the Week for YOU:
Can you think of the last time someone asked you to do something but you said no because you felt you were a nobody instead of a somebody?
If you had been in my shoes would you have taken the chance to contact someone that high up or would you have done something differently? For example… I almost told Sarah to send out a tweet to @google…but I didn't.
What do you think of what I learned from the experience? Are there any you would add or change?
What's YOUR "I'm a Nobody Who Believes They Are a Somebody Story?"
Do you feel you work for an organization that would support you in YOUR "Gutsball" moment? If not…what can you do to be part of the cultural change…or even better…why do you still work there?
Thanks for reading and remember…..YOU make a difference!
Be sure to continue the conversation by liking, commenting or sharing this post. You can also follow me on twitter @marciedwhite.