A single mother at the time, my mother grew into adulthood during a difficult time—in the dockland area of East London, England during the Blitz. At one point she worked as a bus conductor on one of those iconic red double-decker buses. At other times she worked as a cleaning person, and later as a shop clerk and shop manager. In short, she took on whatever work she could to keep food on the table. But here’s the thing that I noticed as I became old enough to notice: she threw herself into every role, learned everything there was to learn in order to excel in what she did, showed up for work no matter what, and showed deep respect for everyone that she worked with and for.
She saw her work as important enough to give it everything she had, and she knew well her limitations.
Fast forward a few decades and I found myself newly installed in a leadership role in the investment industry when the events of October 19th, 1987 rocked global markets. The wrenching turmoil of those markets meant that our clients were turning to us for answers. We made a decision that 28 years later still feels like the right decision. We secured a full page in one of the major financial newspapers and we wrote a multi-hundred word piece on our views, on our response, and how investors might also respond. There was no ‘white space’, just words. We threw ourselves into it, relied on our collective knowledge, showed deep respect for our clients, and were careful not to step beyond that which we felt we understood.
We went all in.
I was reminded of those events in the past weeks. I was reminded that it was crucial to have made sure that our team’s and my own knowledge was deep and robust, so that when dramatic moments occurred we could rely on that knowledge to the point were we could respond instinctively. Further, we had to be quick to transfer that knowledge to our clients; and finally we had to have the depth of courtesy that was required to ensure that our clients got exactly what they were asking for, whatever it took.
And, when the turmoil subsided, we took the time to examine ourselves thoroughly. Were we knowledgeable enough? Were we courteous enough? Were we quick enough?
I’m still listening, Mom.