The Case of the Disappearing Workshop

This past week contained a disappointment – for myself and others. What occurred was surprising and frustrating. Like a tightened knot I was convinced I could untie, I kept revisiting the situation, obsessing.

This is always a sign that there’s a lesson to be learned. Uncovering it has resulted in knowledge that points to more revenue and loyalty … as well as eliminating those annoying loose ends.

What happened? And what are the lessons learned?

Three days before it was scheduled, I discovered that a workshop was not happening. It hadn’t been presented since 2019 and I was really looking forward to it. The reason behind this? The coordinator was waiting for something from me (which I believed they already had) and, as a consequence, did not promote the event.

This all could have been avoided with proactive behaviour. The word “proactive” is relatively new, entering our language in 1921. It simply means “taking the initiative” or “anticipating events”.

The workshop was first discussed on the phone in early February. I did not follow up with an email. During our conversation, it was booked in my calendar. That’s it. Because the workshop had been given previously, I believed the description was on file so did nothing else until three days beforehand when I sent an email to check on equipment.

While I firmly believe in the importance and power of real-time conversations, I also know the value of putting things in writing. A follow-up email should have been sent, which likely would have resulted in a discussion about the missing description.

A follow-up email is proactive.

Why was this step skipped? Because I was busy, thought everything was handled, relied on the strong working relationship with this organization, and assumed someone would contact me if an issue arose. This was shoddy. It was – and is always – my responsibility to be proactive.

Acknowledging this fact led me to think about the word “leadership”. It’s a word that comes to us from the 13th-century Old English lædere. It means to take the initiative in a situation, to anticipate events. 

When I read that definition, I had to laugh at myself. You see, I’ve often been called a “thought leader” and it’s made me uncomfortable. How can I be a thought leader when I spend most of my time sharing ideas about the telephone? I mean, Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call on March 10th, 1876! I’ve also been uncomfortable being referred to as a leader. After all, I don’t really have staff, or manage a team.

These thoughts about leadership were all wrong. When we own a business or work with customers or sell products and services … we are leaders. We must take the initiative on behalf of our prospects and clients. We must be responsible for anticipating events, being prepared, and making things happen.

Leaders send follow-up emails.

They find solutions to problems. They champion their company’s offerings. They do this at every opportunity regardless of how busy they are, how well they know the client or how repetitious the follow-up. Lesson learned!

Fun Phone Lady Fact … I recently had the privilege of spending time with journalist Isabelle Lesniak in Paris, France! The result is a wonderful article, in French, that has appeared in the weekend edition of Les Echos Week End. Fortunately, Isabelle spent several years in New York and her English is impeccable. My French? Sadly lacking so there’s some translation in my future. If you want to check out the article, you can find it here.


2 thoughts on “The Case of the Disappearing Workshop”

  1. Great lesson to learn the hard way, but one you soon won’t forget. Trying to get my staff in this habit of following up as it makes a big difference from good service to great service

    • Yes … it is a hard lesson. I’ve always been dedicated when I’m getting a sale confirmed, but didn’t realize that I was not as focused when it came to existing clients. Not good. So glad this happened to “wake me up”.


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