The Power of the Extended Hand

It is a very early August morning here. The sun is just rising in the east, and the only sounds are the tapping of my keyboard, and the drip of the coffee machine. My head is completely clear, and my heart is completely full.

And so, I want to talk to you today about the power and possibility of giving someone else a chance, and the impact that can create on many, many others. This is a blog about communication and business success… and today’s story is about someone who created an enormous amount of business success through an act of kindness and generosity.

I launched The Latimer Group in 2002, with little more than an idea, a ton of energy, and the love, support and encouragement of my wife Emily. We created a website, wrote down some initial ideas, and then started letting everyone in our lives know what I was doing.

What happened next? Not much. For the first two years, my “group” (which at the time consisted of me, our dog Ridley, and a few stuffed animals led by Paddington) had very little work to do. The phone hardly ever rang.

And then in the summer of 2004, my father-in-law Tom introduced me to a man named Kent Brittan, who at the time was a senior executive at a well-known, Connecticut-based Fortune 50 corporation. Kent had mentioned in passing to Tom that he wanted to find a coach to help his team improve their communication and presentation skills. Tom immediately connected us, and arranged a meeting.

At the time, Kent was near the top of his profession. He was a revered and influential leader who had the unquestioned respect of his colleagues and customers. I was a struggling entrepreneur with no client list, no colleagues, and no track record. But Kent took the meeting with me anyway.

When we met, I chose the honest route with Kent. I did not try to make myself out to be anything more than I was. I merely shared my ideas and methods, demonstrated my earnestness, and asked him to give me a chance. To my utter shock, Kent invited me back, introduced me to a couple of other colleagues, and gave me that chance. He promised me one workshop with a pilot group of his team. If that one workshop went well, he promised me that I could train the rest of his large team. And if that went well, he would introduce me around to others inside his organization. He took the initial meeting with me almost certainly out of courtesy to Tom. But everything that followed was done purely from Kent’s generosity. He was under no obligation to do anything after that first meeting.

Fast forward now 18 years to today, and we are still working with Kent’s old organization (he is now retired). And in addition, we have a long client list of well-known corporations, almost all of whom I can trace back to the “Kent Brittan tree.” In fact, whenever I hire a new member of my team, on their first day, I draw out a client map on a large whiteboard, showing the web of the people and client connections that all trace back to Kent at the center. Around our office, he is known as “client zero.”

I am sharing this with you this morning for two reasons: first, I recently saw Kent and his wife Charlotte, at a small gathering that included some of his former colleagues, and all of whom are clients of mine. It was a wonderful gathering of old friends, and we told our favorite Kent Brittan stories. And second, this is a great story of generosity and what is possible when you extend your hand to other people.

Back in 2004, Kent could have easily found many other coaches or firms that had more of a track record than I did. Yet he gave me a chance even though he had no reason to do so. I have since spent the rest of my professional career grateful for that chance and working every day to honor his faith.

I share this story with you as a show of gratitude to Kent. He has had a massive impact on my life, and I want everyone to know that. But in addition, I want to encourage you to always be looking around for opportunities to give someone else a chance. “Pay it forward” the saying goes. Do something kind for someone else, even if you don’t have a reason to do so. Kent’s generosity towards me has not only impacted my life, but also my wife’s, my children’s, my colleagues’ and their families, our subsequent client companies, the thousands upon thousands of people we have since trained, and the all people I have since lent a hand to. Kent’s generosity towards me has created nearly twenty years of impact on the lives of countless other people.

Think about how powerful that is. Think about the possibilities if each of us did that for someone else, every once in a while. Think about the impact on our world if each of us extended a hand, and lifted up one other person. Kent did that for me. And the impact has been undeniable.

You have the power to have that impact.

Make that impact.

Does your team:
– Take too long to make decision?
– Fail to ask for what it wants or needs from you?
– Make things too complicated?
– Deliver unconvincing or disorganized presentations?
– Have new hires who are unprepared to communicate in the workplace?

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Dean Brenner

A book about change

The Latimer Group’s CEO Dean Brenner is a noted keynote speaker and author on the subject of persuasive communication. He has written three books, including Persuaded, in which he details how communication can transform organizations into highly effective, creative, transparent environments that succeed at every level.