Stuck in the Middle With You – by Babette Ten Haken

I’ve always been rather gregarious.  That’s probably the reason why, as a corporate newbie, I was “involuntarily” volunteered into the role of simultaneous translator between “Us” (the techies) and “Them” (the biz folks) for “those” meetings. After all, I was the girl who would talk to, well, even a table top.

Of course, after some round-table chatter, then I’d ask The Question. And with That Question, the tone changed. Here I was, a reasonable good-looking woman, fashionably dressed, chatting away as if I were at some corporate event. And then I laser-focused in and asked a technical question, just like the techies were asking. Yet I looked like – and certainly sounded like – a business person. A sales person.

The business folks felt betrayed: hadn’t I been on their side? The technical folks were (mentally) fist pumping in the air: finally, their side had scored points. And there I was, in the middle, like I’ve always been. Asking an honest, but piercing, question that got everyone around the table focused.

I’m comfortable in the middle, facilitating. Not everyone is. My questions are honest, open and inquisitive. They always have been. I’m not into making round-table discussions an extension of the corporate team sport. After all, we only get one chance to do this right, so why not revel in the opportunity to brainstorm and collaborate.

How many of you are comfortable taking the first step towards this direction? Assuming perhaps a bit more responsibility, asking questions that either a) aren’t supposed to be asked or b) have never been asked but c) should be asked. It involves risk, exposure of your Professional Self and, well, perhaps failure. People might just look at you like you have two heads. People might even wonder what you had for breakfast. And yes, people might dismiss you, because your insights make them feel uncomfortable: they have to think about the same things, differently. Cool beans!

People might just see you in a different manner and realize you had their back all along, even while participating in an Us-versus-Them mindset that normally puts everyone at each other’s throats.

OK, so this position isn’t for the weak at heart. However, if you are passionate, committed and really good at what you do, what’s the upside for taking a chance to cross over the conversation.

It reminds me of that scene from Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. You know, the one where Indie has to get over the abyss so he can find the Holy Grail….except there is no footpath that he can readily perceive? And using a bit of hypothetico-deductive logic, he throws dirt into the abyss and voila! That path is revealed. And with a bit of faith, he crosses it. Not exactly knowing what he’s going to find on the other side.

Take that leap of faith. You’ll never look back.


Babette N. Ten Haken believes the fulcrum for leveraging innovative business development is collaboration between technical and non-technical professionals. Her blog and company, Sales Aerobics for Engineers® consulting, training, and coaching, teaches good selling and business development practices to manufacturers, sales engineers, sales people, engineers and entrepreneurs, seeking to grow their markets and customer base.  Her book, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on

You can connect with Babette at and


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