When Things Don't Go According to Plan

Why is flexibility so important to achieving your goals?


As Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP, knows, things rarely go exactly to plan. “Always be open and agile for every situation,” Bill says. Our preconceived notions and plans about what is going to happen are likely to change before we ever even get started. 

Watch this video as Bill shares a story about how an unexpected encounter led to a sale.

But then I learned, you know, it's tough out there. These dream jobs aren't easy. So I get paired up with one of these senior people that's using me as the young trainee. Knocking on cold doors in New York City. It was August, it was 95 in the shade. We get to this one brownstone, and I'm carrying a copier and a typewriter on my back. They didn't have an elevator in that brownstone. I had to walk that up all those stairs.

I get to the top of the stairs. The door is ajar. I look into this beautiful brownstone and there's a well-dressed woman, who looks at me from across the office, and as I walk in with the sweat dripping down my face, on my $99 suit, I feel great seeing her until a cat jumps on my shoulder with its claws cutting through my suit. It wasn't about the blood underneath my T-shirt, it was about the $99 suit. I only had two of them.

So as I hold the cat, I pet the cat, I stay cool. I explain to her how I love animals, and we have this great conversation about the cat. And she says, "Well what do you think of my cat?" And I said, "I don't think Garfield has anything on your cat." The senior guy I'm traveling with looks at me like, "Kid, you're blowing up my sales call here. We just want to demo the machine and get a sale. Please shut up." And I look at him as if to say, "You don't get it man. Garfield is in charge. Not the demo.”

I ask her at the end of a very long conversation if she needs to see a demonstration of these machines, because I explain that basically you just press the green button and it makes copies. "Do you need to see a demonstration?" She says, "No honey, I'll take two." So always be open and agile for every situation. And all these canned fixations in your mind about what's going to happen in these meetings is always likely to change before the meeting is even underway.


Bill McDermott

Bill McDermott was appointed co-CEO of SAP alongside Jim Hagemann Snabe on February 7, 2010. He was then promoted to sole CEO (the first American in the company's history) in 2014. In this capacity, and also as a member of the executi...

Take Action

Complete the following Action Items to put the insights in this video into practice,
and share them with your team to continue your leadership growth.

Perfect your new leadership skills every day with these exclusive Leadercast exercises, available to Subscribers! Click here to become a Subscriber.

Liquid error: No such template 'platform/programs/search-modal'