It was a little over 15 years ago when I landed my first big meeting with a very big prospect. I cold-called him via FAX (hey, it was the early 90s). He was a government executive whose name appeared on book covers and in lights at conferences. I was 26 years old, working for an IT consulting firm with a substantial government practice. I wasn’t a business developer; I was just an eager consultant—a newbie—with an idea.

I contacted him because I believed that the best practices my company was developing in the realm of knowledge management could be helpful to him. His admin replied to my FAX and offered me a meeting time.It wasn’t the last time I’d botch a big opportunity because I didn’t follow my intuition.

I had some ideas about how the meeting could go. I envisioned it as a conversation—an opportunity to explore. I’d share the investments we were making in knowledge management and what we were learning as a result. He’d share the challenges in his world. We’d exchange information and generate ideas together. We’d go from there…or not. I wasn’t thinking dollars, contracts, specific gains for my company.

Things went awry when I began to doubt myself. I went to my VP with the FAX, and requested that “daddy” come with me. My VP directed me to create a pitch deck that ended up being about 30 pages. He also suggested I be sure to bring a copy of the government executive’s latest book so I could get his autograph.

The day came and we met. We shook hands; I got his autograph, which felt…awk-ward. I walked him through our presentation, during which my VP and I talked―a lot. The government executive got bored fast. When we finally gave him a chance to speak, he was very clear that he was a policy guy with zero budget, and we were barking up the wrong tree. It was the last time we ever spoke.

Looking back, I wish I had gone to the meeting with the aim of sharing information, nothing more. While I know now that the approach we took that day is typical in the world of consulting, I also know it’s not the best way, and I know it degrades trust.

Is there a place for intuition in business? The older I get, the more I say “Hell, yes”—or more accurately, I endeavor to say, “Hell, yes.” Because if I’m honest, I still second-guess myself sometimes, thinking that “daddy’s” ideas—whoever “daddy” is on any given day—must be better or smarter than mine.

It seems to me it takes time and experience to gain the courage of our convictions, and that we need—paradoxically—to practice being authentic. This leaves me grateful that I have a good stretch of career left to show the world more and more of who I really am.

How about you?

Originally published by Forbes
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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).