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Lesson from 9/11: Use what you’ve got

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in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers

James Laychak’s brother Dave died at the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001.

Every day afterward, Laychak would wait for information and share his grief with others at the Pentagon’s family assistance center.

His leadership started with a question.

One day, he put a note in the suggestion box, asking, “How are people going to remember this?”

When the Pentagon launched a design competition for the memorial two months later, they asked Laychak to serve on the selection committee. Before long, he was named president of the Pentagon Memorial Fund, which needed $30 million.

Laychak brought all his skills to the task: He’d honed his salesmanship by helping raise funds for his alma mater, and he made presentations as part of his job for Accenture.

But Laychak’s passion came from his brother. At fundraisers for the memorial, he’d let others make introductions. “Get me into the meeting and make them say no to me,” he told them.

The memorial was dedicated on the seventh anniversary of the tragedy.

Like 9/11 itself, the day of the dedication dawned beautiful and sunny. Laychak grabbed the moment to recall his brother’s passion for life. “Jimbo,” he’d say, “today is a dish of a day.”

The lesson: Use whatever you’ve got to close the sale.

— Adapted from “2008 Washingtonians of the Year,” Leslie Milk and Ellen Ryan, Washingtonian.

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