The setback clearly made me stronger, made me look hard at what gives me self-actualization, taught me that I can vote with my feet if I don’t like the outcome.
My Lean In moment occurred when I was a young managing director in investment banking at my former firm. I had uprooted my family to move to London to be one of a small group to help start up a new business for the firm. In addition to performing my day job, I was the poster child for all of the firm’s culture-building activities, recruiting, training, teambuilding, starting the first women's network, etc.
After three years of helping to successfully build the business and a top notch team, the head of the group decided to leave the firm. My team and my peers all said I was a shoo-in to replace him and run the group on his departure; however, when he was asked who his replacement should be, he picked a mate of his with whom he had worked at a prior bank. This gentleman was far newer to the organization, had few relationships or links to the nerve center of the firm in New York, did not actively participate in “one-firm” activities, and had lower self-generated revenues. By measurable objective metrics he did not compare, and the fact that the senior management of my firm accepted this recommendation without question was devastating.
For a dozen years, I ate, slept and bled for the firm (and in fact used to joke that I had the firm’s logo tattooed on my body somewhere). To be so easily passed over for a key promotion shook my foundation. It led me not only to question my faith in the organization, but also forced me to ask myself if my priorities were wrong – if all the sacrifices along the way had been worth it. If progression was not based on merit, but on being in the “right” circle, everything I believed was in question.
After some serious soul searching and a rough few weeks of thinking about quitting the industry, I decided that, in fact, I loved what I did. I loved my clients and I knew deep down that I could compete head-to-head with anyone in the industry. I then decided to let the setback go and not let it consume me. I also did lots of digging to see if I was missing something in my skill set or had some other deficiency that I was not self-aware enough to acknowledge; otherwise, he was just a male banker selecting a male that he was more familiar with and nothing more.
Coincidentally, other firms had been courting me for years, but being the “loyal subject” that I was, I never even contemplated working somewhere else until that point. When I finally looked up to see what else might be out there, a fabulous opportunity presented itself with Credit Suisse to start a business and make it my own. The setback clearly made me stronger, made me look hard at what gives me self-actualization, taught me I can vote with my feet if I don’t like the outcome and gave me the push I needed to leave the comfortable nest of my former firm. It has turned out to be the best career decision I’ve ever made – and I have never looked back.
An executive transforms constructive criticism into career-changing advice.