Opportunity seldom presents itself when you are fully prepared. This is the situation I found myself in when I was asked to become the President of Citibank California in November of 2008. As president, I would be responsible for the performance of the business, which at the time was struggling. I had turned around other businesses before, but never in retail banking. I decided my plans would not only need to focus on growing revenue and profit; they would also need to focus on inspiring the team and creating a strong leadership foundation.
In my early days at Citibank, I was faced with many challenges: a new culture, a new team and a new structure. I needed to create a plan, execute efficiently and show quantifiable results. I started by reflecting on what tools I could use to help me succeed in my new role. My first source of inspiration was my newly-formed leadership team. Everyone knew we were in a crisis (it made newspaper headlines daily), so the team was extremely open and willing to change to help Citibank thrive; we felt as if we were designing our future together.
The experience was exciting and scary, but something wonderful happened in the process: The approach we adopted made the team feel empowered and inspired. I cheered as they passionately created and executed their ideas. As we helped and mentored each other, we grew into a highly effective team. The exchange of resources, contacts, ideas and information became a huge driver of our success.
The financial crisis, the Citibank California opportunity, and the newly-formed leadership team gave me opportunities to stretch and grow as a leader. I also learned that helping, developing and mentoring others is one of the most important skills you can grow as you build your career; the most influential people are those who help others shine.
Beyond that lesson, I continue focus on one simple piece of advice: Be you. Don't let anyone else define who you are or what you are capable of accomplishing. Follow your instincts and trust yourself. Be positive. Do the best job you can do in the position you are in now. Then, go above and beyond, and lean in.