Throughout my career I’ve made an effort to stay in touch with people I’ve worked with, enjoy, trust, and admire. Those who know me well often introduce me to new, interesting people. Such a gift! Certainly, in the BOLD leader work we’ve been exploring the last few years, connections have been critical to expanding our network, our information base, and our opportunities to learn.
For no good, explainable reason, I have not talked with many consultants in this BOLD process. And then a friend + former client + current collaborator suggested I meet a guy. I did. He was a great resource, but he said to me (I’m paraphrasing), “The person you really should talk to is Will Prest.” He told Will the same. So, three circles out from each other, we met. I knew within about 10 minutes Will was a) a BOLD leader and b) just really a great human being. When I say Will is BOLD, I’m using our Aveus definition:
BOLD leaders are those who think and act beyond the existing organizational limits, are imaginative, and are willing to take risks to get rewarding results.
How could I tell Will was BOLD so quickly? Well, first, at this point I’ve interviewed over 100 folks and the signs are very clear from the moment the conversations begin. Second, he presents very naturally, with all the characteristics we’ve been tracking: curiosity, confidence, empathy, and trust.
Will is a consultant these days and a Managing Partner of KWP Consulting. We share the same ethos, developed by serving on the client side of the desk for many years before switching sides. If I counted correctly, in three very large and distinctly different organizations, Will stepped out of a safe role and voluntarily took on the challenge to start and build a new business. Anyone who has ever tried to do that knows it is a significant undertaking. Anyone who does it once is probably a BOLD leader. Someone who does it successfully 3+ times is definitely BOLD. And now Will is helping others take on big strategic opportunities from his consulting seat.
He credits a great deal of his curiosity to his parents – curious and learning-oriented themselves, they always encouraged Will to “learn, see progress, and succeed.” Will said, “I was always just more curious than many around me. I didn’t think about it, but now with my awareness of it as a strength, I use it in my work.”
Combine that with an early job in teaching and Will says, “You have to be empathetic to help people learn. You have to bring people along and create buy-in.” That requires being trustworthy and trust-building as well.
Will was a competitive tennis player through college. He reflected that even on days when he didn’t want to compete, he never thought of NOT doing it. He could hear his mother saying, “You’re fine. Just go do it. This is your goal. Go achieve it.” That is a confidence-building parent! And certainly, Will’s parents raised a confident guy.
Will went on to say that he’s adopted the philosophy of “feel the fear and do it anyway!” He first heard this perspective from Jack Canfield, The Success Principles (FYI, it is Principle #15!). Although he did not make the professional tennis circuit after school, Will remains active in tennis at the board level in both a community-based program and an international foundation. And when Will hits a wall in his current work, he often heads to the court to burn off some energy and clear his head.
Like most BOLD leaders I’ve met, Will had a couple of early mentors who helped him see the world in new ways and challenged him to learn from each experience. “Being super competitive,” Will says, “you really have to learn to stop and listen and see what is happening from other people’s perspectives.” Even if you are empathetic, he emphasized, you can’t move so fast that you miss what is important to others.
Bringing Will’s life lessons full circle to his consulting role and the work he does today, Will said, “I love being competitive. I love business because it is mentally challenging. I love to solve problems, figuring out ways to be market competitive – I love the whole thing about finding ways to success.” As a consultant, though, your job is to help others achieve great things. That means putting yourself in the background as guide and coach. That is hard to do if, as Will described himself, you are “super-competitive.” Will talked about taking lessons from servant leadership into the way he today approaches his consulting practice. In the end, he knows that his clients win, and he wins, by making the client the hero.
Closing question: “Feel the fear and do it anyway” stuck with me after Will and I spoke. It is such a succinct way of expressing what I’ve heard from so many BOLD leaders. Where many others stop because of fear or uncertainty, BOLD leaders push through. Have you experienced this? If so, I’d love to hear one of your stories of “feeling the fear and doing it anyway.”