“Hey Darren, I think we have a problem…” was the beginning of an email I received last week from my friend and Speaker Representative/Marketing Manager/Event Manager/et al, Stephanie (Steph). As I’m reading this email, my heart was at the bottom of my stomach thinking what this could possibly be. After writing about all the amazing opportunities to be a paid speaker recently, it appears that Steph booked me for a pro bono speaking gig in Brainerd, Minnesota that wasn’t on the calendar. No big deal, until we realized that the event is one week away and the “cheap” option is a 14 hour, 925 mile round trip drive for a one hour free speech. Can we agree that this is a very uncomfortable error?

Coming up with a plan

As we always do, Steph and I got on the phone to talk about what happened and the options available. Steph never said a word about the mistake, but I could totally tell that she felt horrible. I never said a word to her because her “crush it” bank had so many deposits that she could afford a few “error” withdrawals. I appreciate Steph so much for what she does that this thing that I totally would’ve done wasn’t something to be upset over. The main point at this time was to come up with a game plan. To put her at ease, I said I’d still do the speech for them since we’d committed and only needed to figure out the best way to get to Brainerd in the least amount of time.

We also thought to pray for a travel advisory like the recent snowstorm Jayden that dumped massive snow and ushered in the polar vortex or winter storm Maya currently on the prowl. (Fun fact: My sister’s name is Katrina like the hurricane, her daughter is Mya and her grandson is Jayden. You can’t make this stuff up.)  So about those “last-minute” deals that sites so deftly promote… uh, not so much.

Uncomfortable options

Google, to help us more efficiently figure our travel options, displayed a flight option from Milwaukee to Brainerd. And as the map teases, it’s a direct flight (that’s what the solid gray line looks like to me) for $560. That my friends is a double nope: it’s neither a direct flight nor $560. That fair is for recently engaged couples, booking six months in advance, for 5th Sunday summer travel, and a height difference greater than 14 inches. Needless to say I didn’t fit that criteria. Here was my realistic “cheap” option:

So Google, instead of a direct flight for $562, my truest best option is a 2-hop $991 7+ hour itinerary? Another “option” was to take the train or bus. These methods would only increase the time spent to 20-24 hours round trip for only $450 and $350 respectively. Ugh!

After a great night’s rest, I thought about what I should do about this trip just in case the weather didn’t help. My best option was a direct flight to Minneapolis, drive to Brainerd, then reverse course in 15 hours and $962. This allowed me to keep my current client meetings, make it back in time to celebrate Valentine’s Day with my wife, and keep our commitment to speak.

In reality, I’m grateful for this even being an option. By the grace of God, business has been positive so I could afford to make the trip. There was a time when I could not. Figuring the price couldn’t get any worse, I figured I’d wait to book the flight just in case the forecast changed. The time I settled on this solution was 9:16 am.

A welcomed alternative

At 9:17 am I received a phone call from Dawn Evans, the organizer of our event. She said she was new to the leadership position and was wondering if I was still speaking (since my name, face, bio, and topic were plastered all over their marketing materials and website).

I told her our situation, but reassured her that I’d figure something out and be there as promised. Dawn then asked, “Are you local?” I told her that I was actually located in Milwaukee. Then she asked if I was coming just for this talk. I replied, “Yes!” She then asked if it was clearly communicated that this was a free speaking opportunity. In the best supportive answer I could muster, I smiled and replied, “Yes, I did.” I said that it would be great if I could do it remotely via web conference, but would do what she felt comfortable doing. Dawn, without question an extremely graceful person, said that a remote presentation would be a great idea.

By doing this experiment, it would open her remote chapter to more speakers across the globe. Apparently, Dawn was an instructor in Alaska and had experience with this setup but hadn’t done it recently. It appears that situational lemon was turning into all natural (non-GMO, gluten free, vegan, organic, animal-free tested) lemonade. To share the great news, I tried calling Steph to no avail. So, I texted, “Great news. Please call when free.”

Support after a mistake

After sharing the great news, Steph let out a huge sigh of relief. It was great hearing that sigh and laugh of a lifted burden. I asked if she could research our teleconference options, so we could test it prior to next Thursday. She said that she would and we were back on track. So how do we put this into a leadership perspective?

As a responsible person, the error was weighing heavy on Steph. As a leader though, I wanted her to know it was heavy for us, not just her. We’re a team. If someone makes a mistake, the team steps in to fix it. No matter what, I always want to make sure I’m giving her what she needs to be successful. One of those needs is support after a mistake. Also, I wanted her to know that if she booked me for something, then I would be there as if I booked it. That’s the only way we can scale as a team and she can be confident that her word is my word.

Before I got off the phone with Dawn, she appreciated my commitment to still coming despite the miscommunication and said she would keep me in mind for the paid conference they do bi-annually. An uncomfortable error turned into a very comfortable opportunity.

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