Our Defining Moments

By Susie Adams

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The most recent module in our downloadable series focuses on defining moments and turning points. Our defining moments are sometimes stories of struggles, sometimes stories of triumph, but they are always times when we meet a challenge head-on. These moments shape us and are milestones on the journey of our story.

Interact team members, Amber Linebeck, Porter Metzler and I share defining moments from early in our careers:

Feedback is a gift – Amber’s Story

As a young professional in my early 20s, I had facilitated a group of 50 senior leaders in a Fortune 500 company one day. During happy hour after the session, one of those leaders asked if I’d be open to feedback. I was certain he was going to praise me, and I was stoked. Instead, he said this:

“When you start a session, you speak so fast our brains can’t keep up with you. And that’s hard for us, since once we miss the beginning, we are off track for the rest of the session. I’d recommend you start out speaking more slowly — that way our brains can keep up, and then we all have a more productive session.”

It was like I stepped on a rake and it hit me right between the eyes.  

And after a few days of rumination, I had an ah-ha: his feedback was a GIFT! You see, I really like to facilitate, and that feedback was going to make me even stronger at that skill. So I began slowing down the pace of my speech — and lo and behold – it really WAS more effective!

The wisdom I carried forward is that feedback is a gift — and it can be given in a way to help someone be even more effective in the future, even if it’s hard for our egos to hear in the moment. It’s changed my life, both as the giver and the receiver.  It’s a defining skill of great leaders.

Never apologize for doing what’s best for you – Porter’s Story

My most recent turning point was quitting a job that I had back in March of this year. It was a good position at a well-respected company in Charlotte. On paper it was a job that should’ve been a great fit for me, but it ended up being exactly the opposite. I was nervous all the time. I didn’t mesh well with my boss. The job made me feel stupid and at times worthless. It made me doubt myself.

I wanted to quit but I felt guilty because so many people were telling me how lucky I was to get to work there and I was worried about wasting my “one big opportunity.” 

I eventually couldn’t handle it anymore and quit. I remember walking out of the office not feeling any better or any relief about no longer working there. My first thought was “Oh no, what have I done? That was my shot and I wasted it.” 

I didn’t know what to do so I called my mentor who had actually told me to apply for that job. I said something along the lines of “I quit. It wasn’t a good environment for me. I know you wanted me to work there. I’m sorry.” And he replied, “Don’t ever apologize for doing what’s best for you.” Then he invited me to a seminar that was being held for his non-profit that very next day. Obviously, I had no other plans for my new unemployed life so I went.

I didn’t know anything about the seminar except that it was being taught by some company called Interact Studio. The whole day was so uplifting, the exact opposite of my environment just days before. 

Fast forward seven months and I’m a member of the Interact team. I’m happy and proud of the work I am doing. In my professional life, I’m doing the best I’ve ever done and I can actually recognize that in myself and not feel doubt.

I learned a lot from quitting that job. I learned to never say sorry for looking out for my own well-being. I learned that I can do anything I set my mind out to do. I learned that I should not accept a bad work environment just because others deem it a “good job.” I learned to say yes to new things especially random seminars that you know nothing about because it could turn into something awesome down the line. 

I turned a bad situation into an amazing one. I’m doing similar work to what I was doing 7 months ago but now I’m doing such a better job because I believe that I can do it and have a team of people supporting me in the right ways. Don’t doubt yourself, go with your gut, seek happiness, and know that things will work out.

Step into the Hall – Susie’s Story

I moved to Charlotte for a corporate job in my mid-twenties. It was very intimidating. Two of the department’s senior leaders were very strong, very demanding women. People were terrified of them, but they were brilliant. When things were going on at the company, you could often hear them in the hall talking in loud, excited voices.  

Most of my peers would hunker down in their offices. I wasn’t that bright. I would walk down the hall and ask if there was anything I could do to assist. They never said no. Sometimes I found myself making copies. Other times it was more glamorous.

One such time, they put me on the road to one of our remote facilities where we had a problem.  I arrived and got out of the car to have three TV cameras in my face. The next 48 hours were a whirlwind of crisis management and media relations. I got experience and exposure that was rare for someone so early in their career. 

Taking the risk to step out in the hall and volunteer gave me opportunities that set my path for decades to come.

What are your defining moments? How have they shaped your path? Can we help you tell your story?

Click the image above to access our “Authentic Story” module series, and by week two you’ll be working through your own defining moments.


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