I have seen the W.A.D.E.L. model work in one industry after another. Let me share with you an example of the W.A.D.E.L. model in action at a bank.

What W.A.D.E.L. Stands For

The W.A.D.E.L. is a simple model that helps you conduct meetings effectively. The W stands for welcoming the people to the meeting by asking them to say something good that’s going on with them and also to give affirmations. The A stands for asking questions from those in attendance to add any extra items they might want to add to the agenda and to see if they have needs you’re not aware of. The D stands for the actual discussion of the agenda. The E stands for empowering the people to do what has been decided needs to be done and to make sure they have everything they need to do that. And the L stands for launching the people with an inspiriting and encouraging message to do what has been agreed on.

When I started teaching this, I was told that there was no way this model would work with certain age groups or in certain industries. One of those was the banking industry.

A Prognostication

I had taken the staff of a mergers and acquisitions company through the Transformational Leadership training back in 2007. As we talked, the president of that company asked me what I thought he needed to change about their company to be successful long-term. He asked me what I saw coming. I told him I didn’t think he would want to hear what I would have to say, but he assured me he really did.

When he said he did want to hear what I thought about what was looming before us, I told him I thought the problem we were facing was that we were about to go through the worst economic recession that we’d had since the Great Depression. I told him I thought the stock market was going to go down by fifty percent. But I also told him that in his industry, at that time, that they were doing well because the mergers and acquisitions arena was probably doing as well as it had ever done in the history of the United States. But, because of their industry role, I encouraged him that there were also many other things they did well that the bankers, CPA’s, and lawyers they worked with had forgotten that they did so well mostly because they were so successful in the industry. I told him I would start reminding those bankers, CPA’s, and lawyers about his successes and remind them, if they need that kind of work, that they should be sure and give them a call.

The next year the stock market did go down by about fifty percent. When it did, this relatively mid-size M&A firm started reducing its staff because there weren’t any mergers or acquisitions going on at the time. There wasn’t enough money to buy or sell confidently because the value of money and the value of the stock market had dropped so significantly.

Accompanying a Friend to a Business Meeting

In the midst of all this, that company’s chief financial officer called me and said, “Ford, I’ve got a problem, I’m using your W.A.D.E.L. model with our clients, and it’s flat out not working.”

I told him, “Then I’m not sure you’re using it the way it’s designed.” And he asked me if I would go with him to call on a client. I agreed to because I was sure he wasn’t using the model in the right way, and I told him I was happy to go along.

He invited me to go with him to a bank he had been calling on. This CFO had worked in this bank for many years earlier in his career, and they loved him. But they weren’t giving him any business. I agreed to join him and the senior officer of the bank’s workout department to discuss the type of business I had recommended my friend should start pursuing before the stock market crashed. The workout department’s responsibility is to work delinquent loans out of the bank. Many company and individual debts had already been moved from the loan department to the workout department during that season because so many people were defaulting on their loans.

When we arrived for our meeting with the senior officer, his administrative assistant took us into the senior officer’s office. And I began the W.A.D.E.L. process even though the man was not there when we arrived. Here’s how: As soon as we entered his office, I started observing the pictures on his walls. You can tell what is important to people by what they hang on their walls, and I noticed some pictures of his family, which provided some valuable information about him and what was important to him.

Putting W.A.D.E.L. into Practice

A few minutes later, he came in and briefly introduced himself and started to guide us toward the boardroom where his associates were waiting for us to begin our meeting. As we were getting up to leave his office, I asked him if he would do me a favor before we did that. When he said he would, I pointed toward one of his pictures with a lot of different people in it and asked him if he would tell about the picture. He spent the next twenty minutes telling me about each individual in that picture.

After he finished with that picture, I asked him about the young woman in another picture if that was his daughter. When he affirmed it was, I asked him if she played AAU basketball. When he said she did, I told him that my daughter did, too, and asked him what team his daughter was on. He began telling me all about it.

About thirty minutes into our scheduled one-hour meeting, he looked up, realizing the time, and said that his two men had been waiting on us in the boardroom for thirty minutes and that we had to go. When we arrived in the boardroom, we introduced ourselves, and I started asking them to tell me about their career there at the bank and how long they had been there. I noticed that one man had a wedding ring on and asked him to tell me about his family. The first guy spent about ten minutes telling me about his career and family, and the second man did the same thing.

About fifty-five minutes into our one-hour meeting, the senior vice president looked at me and said, “Hang on. Tom brought you here today to introduce us to you to find out what it is that you do that is so unique and different from other consultants. But you haven’t said one word about yourself or your organization.”

I responded, “That’s okay. Today, I just wanted to get to know you. Could we set up a second meeting for me to come back? At that meeting, I’ll share with you who we are.”

Tackling the Problem

Then he asked me if there was any way that in two minutes I could tell them anything at all that would give them some hint about what I could do for them. It is very difficult to explain what we do in two minutes, and I’m not sure exactly what I said, but I wish I had recorded it.

When I finished, the senior vice president of this large bank looked at me and said he had a question for me, When I asked him what his question was, he said, “Can you teach my wife how to love me more?”

“Actually, I can,” I replied.

His two employees laughed jokingly at him. He looked at them and told them he knew they had a meeting to go to and that he did, as well. But he told them that he wanted them all to cancel their meetings, that he wanted them to go to their office and to bring back all the companies they needed help with so we all could go through them and see how many Tom and I could take.  

When that happened, Tom said, “Whoa. What just happened here?” I just told the guys I’d explain it to him while they were getting their companies.

After they left, I told Tom I couldn’t take any of those companies right then even if I had wanted to. I told him that I had come there to

get to know those guys and to see if I could help him and if they needed the kind of help that he could offer. I admitted to him that I didn’t know what I was going to tell them when they came back and offered me this work, but that we’d work on it and figure it out. Then I told Tom that he’d been showing so much desperation that it had gotten in the way of his earlier meetings with the bank and that he’d been using the W.A.D.E.L. model to make a sale instead of using it to build better relationships with them.

When the men came back in, they dropped a pile of company files on the table and asked us to go through them. After we had gone through them for about forty-five minutes, we picked out five companies that I thought could use the kind of help that Tom’s company offered. Tom agreed, and they said to take them all.

I didn’t have the time available to help those companies in the ways they needed to be helped, so I asked them if there was any chance that they would let Tom and his company have them. They agreed that Tom could absolutely have them.

Tom was astonished, but I just told him he had some new clients and to go on and take them.

Building a Strong Relationship

Our meeting had just about concluded when the senior officer looked at me and said, “Earlier today, I asked you a question, and I was serious about it.” By this point, he had asked quite a few questions, so I asked him which question he was referring to.

He said, “I asked you if you could teach my wife how to love me more.”

I repeated my response from earlier and said I had told him the answer then, that I could, and that I was serious. I said I knew his guys had laughed at him, but I said I could teach your wife how to love you more. Then he asked if he gave me her card with her phone number and if she called me would I talk to her and help her love him more.

I looked at him and said, “Sir, I don’t ever need to meet her.” I didn’t need to meet her to teach her how to love him more. He was the only one I needed to meet with to teach her how to love him more.

It’s amazing what the W.A.D.E.L. model can accomplish when used to build relationships rather than to advance our own agenda. As a transformational leader, you can build and improve your relationships by showing people that you care. That’s what we do in Transformational Leadership. When used to build and strengthen relationships, the W.A.D.E.L. model develops the platform that helps you conduct the transactions that are also needed.

Ford Taylor is a leadership strategist, keynote speaker, and the author of Relactional Leadership. As the Founder of Transformational Leadership, he is known as a man who can solve complex business issues, with straightforward practical solutions, while maintaining his focus on people.