Great guest post by Michael Banks

Leading and selling is what all of us have to do at various times in our lives. And to succeed in both activities you have to be really good at building and maintaining good relationships with your people and your clients. How do you get to be good at this?

Having spent the last thirty years studying and teaching leadership, and in the process having to sell myself,  I have found that there is one essential capability that precedes all others – becoming more conscious. Being conscious leads to self-awareness which in turn leads to a greater ability to relate and communicate successfully in a sales or leadership role. Without self-awareness it’s harder to make the wise choices that constitute great leadership and sales skills. And it’s hard to communicate masterfully to build good relations with other people.

Five years ago, at a relatively young age, I was diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD). Sickness preceded kidney failure, which led to dialysis and then a kidney transplant in which I received one of my fiancee Karin’s kidneys.

Going through such a traumatic and challenging period in one’s life is a struggle but also it presents us with an opportunity to benefit from adversity. My experience with CKD and the subsequent consequences is just one example of an opportunity to gain wisdom from adversity. I’m sure you’ve had one or more critical and painful experiences in your life that have changed your life for the better and made you a better person. Could have been a medical crisis, a relationship breakdown, or a job failure.

You’ll know what experiences or events transformed your life. You took advantage of these experiences and events because you were willing to see the positives that could emerge from the negatives.

And so what did I gain from my kidney journey? First, an amazing increase in my ability to be strong and persevere. There were many times in the past three years since the transplant when I have been in pain physically and mentally paralyzed but I enlarged my capacity to be strong and persevere by using my self-awareness faculty and coaching myself through all of the barriers I confronted. Despite the torture of being ‘stuck’ so often I kept at it and continuously chose to acknowledge my stuckness and then choose to move on from that stuck state.

Second, a new level of vulnerability: how can you keep your s..t together when your body is falling apart? Surprisingly being vulnerable can be turned into a strength when you use that sense of vulnerability to become more compassionate and understanding of another person’s needs and struggles.

This tends to lead towards a letting go of the need to impress and control and ‘prove’ oneself, (a common trait of ambitious leaders and salespeople). There is nothing worse than the salesperson who tries to ‘sell’ so hard that they fail to build the relationship that is needed as a lubricant in the sales process. Then there’s the leader who is more concerned about power and control than building the loyalty and respect of those she leads.

Going through the kind of crisis I endured also made increased my ability to be detached, in the best sense, from the enmeshment of drama and self-absorption.

And, finally, through adversity I was afforded a greater degree of gentle and compassionate humor!

These are just some of the things that have emerged for me over this last period of my life brought upon by suffering and pain that is both physical, emotional and spiritual.

What are the lessons you’ve learned from adversity?

Gotta Kidney?! A Journey Through Fear to Hope and Beyond by Michael Banks is out now, priced £14.99, available from Amazon. See

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