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Swing for the fences

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Baseball fans know most of the great homerun hitters also have unusually high strikeout rates. The most revered of these players Babe Ruth once advised a fan: “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way.” But most of us are afraid of striking out, so much so that we hesitate to swing hard enough to hit homeruns. Instead, we wait for some perfectly pitched ball and swing just hard enough to ensure contact. Taking mighty swings is not for the timid among us — there’s always the chance we’ll strike out.

Beth, a newly appointed 30-year old sales manager for an investment broker, was getting terrible results. New advisors weren’t staying with her, and the sales of her veteran advisors were declining drastically.

I discovered that Beth was agonizing over every decision. She repeatedly sought help from her irritated regional manager and made excuses to her advisors about why she didn’t have immediate answers for them.

“I usually have a gut feeling about the right response,” she told me, “but then I question it. And I end up not being able to make a decision.”

“Would your situation be any worse if you just gave in to that gut feeling and took your chances?” I asked her.

“It couldn’t be much worse,” she admitted. “I’m going to lose my job if I keep running to my boss with every question from the field.”

I asked Beth to experiment for the next week by just giving in — all the way — to her gut feelings. She agreed. Two days before our next appointment, Beth called me, excited.

“I had to make a decision about how a sale would be structured, and I did what we said,” she said. “I followed my gut and gave my veteran advisor my opinion right there on the spot—and it was a homerun! Later, I overheard him tell another one of my advisors that I had given him great advice.”

Like anyone, Beth is sure to make mistakes in the workplace, but practicing swinging for the fences will continue to serve her much better than did her fear of striking out.

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Sandy Schussel is a speaker, business trainer and coach who helps sales teams develop systems to win clients. He is the author of The High Diving Board and Become a Client Magnet. For more information, go to


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