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Someone asked me, 'What’s the most impactful decision you’ve been involved in as an executive?'

I was invited to join a team who were tasked with turning around a complex program that was in trouble. It was costing the firm millions per month and the contract was (when printed) packaged into three, three-inch binders. As you would expect, competent contract experts and lawyers had assessed the terms in light of the troubled circumstances. The firm and the client were at a stalemate for options to renegotiate the terms within financial thresholds. Due to government regulations, the business impact of walking away from the deal was not an option as it would have market repercussions for years.


The executives who were navigating the turnaround, decided to go outside the box and that is when I was asked to lean in. Whilst I had written and negotiated contracts before it was never on this scale. I was enlisted for my knowledge of the industry (banking) and my reputation for strategic thinking and creative solutioning. On day one, I was presented with the contract along with the instructions that I had three days to come up with a way forward.


To further complicate the task, I’d like to mention that the contract was in Spanish and my proficiency level for Spanish was zero. Therefore, to assist me with translation were two Spanish speaking consultants who had about 50% English speaking proficiency. Now we had a team. But, did you know that banking is a language? The commonality of banking concepts, products and processes across language barriers was a key instrument in accomplishing this task.


At the end of three days, we had an idea for how to move forward with a win-win approach. Win for the firm and win for the client. The approach was grounded in an understanding of how banking operations work at a process level with alignment to organizational accountabilities within a bank.


Fundamentally, the approach created a new dialogue with the client that opened up avenues to rebuild trust and ultimately renegotiate a contract. My involvement during the first three days creating a defining moment for the renegotiation. Subsequently, I continued to help translate the idea into actions through to an newly executed contract six months later.


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