On getting a job, but finding love. Every bloody time.
How does this keep bloody happening to you?
This is my best friend, talking to me. He is laughing. But he means it.
He’s known me since before I had my first ever job. Since before I had a degree. He’s been there for the whole journey. Every day of it. So he knows what he’s talking about.
Every bloody time, he says.
And it’s getting worse, not better.
You get offered a job. And you see it as exactly that. A job. You assess the offer, the package, the prospects, the career acceleration and delivery impact. You think it through. You are clinical. Pragmatic. Factual.
Then you take the job.
And although you are not naive about it, you work too hard right off the bat anyway, from the get-go, because energy and creativity and spark matter and, hey, why wouldn’t you bring your whole self to work? And because, let’s face it, you don’t know how to be otherwise: you do fully, or not at all.
And you are never blind. To the organisational foibles and flaws. To the things the organisation may ask of you that you will not able or willing to do.
But then it happens.
In two parts.
First, almost too soon, you care. About the work. About the mission. Even when the employing entity doesn’t. You do. It’s an affliction. I know it, he says, because I suffer from it too.
But as if that wasn’t enough, you fall in love.
And then it’s forever. And that changes everything.
How does it keep bloody happening?
A West Wing interlude
Remember that scene, in season one, when President Bartlet is heading off to give the State of the Union address leaving, in the Oval Office, the hapless Secretary of Agriculture to run the country if everyone dies in a blaze?
Do you remember what Bartlet says to him?
Do you have a best friend, asks the President.
Is he smarter than you?
Would you trust him with your life?
Yes, says the man of the hour.
That’s your Chief of Staff, says the president.
Assume I am having this conversation with my Chief of Staff.
And although he is asking two questions, all he is doing is telling me a thing I already know.
And although I know it, he needs to tell it.
And although I know it, I need to hear it.
And so do you.
I don’t know how to not care
I will love you as water finds its own level, as bird loves flight or I will not love you at all.
I have quoted Winterson once, I have quoted her a million times.
I don’t know how to do anything without caring.
By virtue of doing, I start to care.
I can’t help myself.
I don’t know how to separate action from love; time from living; effort from hope.
If I do, and give the hours I have on this earth to a thing, whatever it is: I care.
If I don’t care, if I can’t care, I won’t do.
But I am not alone. I am not special in this.
In this land of cynics, in this industry of hard-nosed technocrats, I am yet to meet a Gordon Gecko. And even he cared about the work in a certain way.
It is an industry of high stakes and high achievers.
We all care.
So the trick is what you end up caring about and how you measure it.
That’s where the digital revolution got the Old Boys.
The newcomers unashamedly cared about feelings. My grandmother’s pension. The poor. Those intimidated by long words and small print.
And the world changed as a result.
Will COVID-19 be another click on that dial?
I hope so.
Because in an industry of people who care about doing a good job, getting the definition of a good job to change is really not as hard as you think. And definitely easier than getting the apathetic to sit up.
So the fact that I take a job and it rapidly becomes a mission, doesn’t set me apart.
Banking is an industry of often misguided endeavour. But it is an industry of immense creativity, discipline and bottomless capacity for hard work.
Hold onto that fact and don’t dismiss it.
Plus you will need it later. Hold onto it.
So… you take a job and, before you know it, you have found a mission. What’s wrong with that?
Nothing. It’s amazing.
And is that what my Chief of Staff was talking about?
He was talking about the next step. The thing that happens once you have the mission.
And you start building a team.
And you surround yourself with people smarter than you.
Better than you.
Shinier, kinder, more patient, more creative, more thorough.
You retain a thing or two that you are good at and can contribute. That’s your job. That, and keeping the team free to shine.
And you gather the Avengers. The talent to supercharge the effort. For the good of the mission.
But you know what happens, sooner than soon?
The mission becomes theirs; and they become yours. And all bets are off. The job that you took after careful calibration, and the mission you took on in your upward stride are subsumed by something more visceral and more immediate and more vital.
Because the team is now your mission.
And your calling is emotional.
Sure, you can justify and explain it.
You have hired the best people.
Their results speak for themselves.
Of course you feel compelled to protect and defend them.
Besides, you still fire on performance (I do, folks, more than you think: the standards are insanely high, I owe that to those hitting it out of the park every day). And you still put people on performance review. And chew them out. And pull them up. And say: hey now, you are better than this. We are better than this.
You do all this because we have a job to do, sure. And a mission to accomplish, sure.
But above all, you do it because This Is Not Who We Are. This team. We do better for each other. So. How do we help you do better?
And yes, I have seen turnarounds. Of course I have. We all have bad days and bad weeks and bad months. The team doesn’t mollycoddle. But it doesn’t abandon. Until you are not true to the team and what we are.
If it sounds cultish, it is because it is.
And once you are of the team, I have your back forever. Wherever I go. Wherever you go. The job may not be forever. But the loyalty is. The love is.
“I have your back” is not a time-limited offer. Once on the table, it’s a bearer asset. You got me. For what it’s worth. Forevermore.
What you do betrays who you are
I know many a person who curate their public persona – through dress and social media footprints, public behaviour and managed appearances, carefully staged rituals trying to build up a picture of who they are or would like to be, and it all holds up nicely till you get to know them and then, when the chips are down, it’s either real or not.
Smart money says exactly what you are thinking.
I know many an organisation who have amazing spokespeople and PR machines, public spaces and outward narrative-generating engines, blog pieces and influencer nods. And when the chips are down and a Hard Thing comes down the pipe, all the hype is either true or it’s not.
It’s either real or it’s not.
And you know that 99 times out of 100 you had mentally swiped left long ago and turns out you were right.
What you do when you have time and distance to stage and curate can indeed feed a very convincing image of what you want to be thought as.
As a person or as a company.
But when the pressure is high and the stakes higher, when time is limited and emotions fraught, what you do is instinctive and raw. You have no time or mental bandwidth to filter or curate. To move yourself away from your natural state.
When it’s fight or flight; flinch or demure; pout or grow… when you are given but a moment to process and do, what you do is who you are. Not who you wish me to think you are. But who you actually are. One film of paint below the surface.
When your back is against the wall You Do Who You Are. And that betrays years of curation. Or confirms them. But let’s face it. Nobody really needs to stage-manage truth too hard. So draw your own conclusions.
So what the hell am I talking about?
I am talking to you about hiring and management.
I am talking to you about how you can make post COVID count.
I am talking to you about love.
Because in an industry that values and expects hard work. where we all get hot and sweaty about being on a mission, how you choose your mission is a small part of the story. How you choose your team is the thing that tips the balance from “a job well done and here is a bonus” to feeling like freaking Braveheart on a Tuesday afternoon.
Says my Chief of Staff with a mischievous glint to his eye. Because he knows the answer already.
How does this keep happening to you?
You take a job, cool as a cucumber, all numbers and value pools and acceleration trajectories, and you end up in the trenches, on a mission, staying up all night, grinding your teeth and taking Last Stands nobody will ever get to hear about to deflect the Silly Train and avert corporate catastrophes, real trouble and miscellaneous worry from touching a team that may or may not love you back the same way.
And that is the point.
But he is not really asking me how it happens.
I make it happen. I cause it to happen. I want it to happen. I need it to happen.
I choose my team the way I chose my Chief of Staff. They are smarter than me and I would trust them with my life.
Every time. Otherwise what is the point?
And yes. It’s always forever. Your team are your responsibility long after they stop working for you.
Otherwise it wouldn’t be real, now, would it. Focus.
OK. So she loves her team. Why do I care?
In the COVID topsy-turvy world, I have been asking my team to do more with less.
I am sure you have too.
They have more work.
While homeschooling their kids. Worrying about families abroad. Pensions and savings disappearing in a wake of a recession. Chafing at the restrictions to their movement, their creativity, their curiosity. Their “real life”, whatever that is, for each of them.
And when we talk about the work we need to get through in impossible time frames on top of it all, the million things we were doing anyway, all I hear my team say to each other is, “how can I help?”. “Let ME do that instead, you are flat out.” But I also hear, “I need help”. “This is not my strong suit.” “Can you back me up here.”
I see greatness.
Don’t get me wrong.
I see amazing talent. I see hard work, determination, intelligence.
I see aptitude. We hire for it. We interview for it. We relentlessly test for it and the work demands it daily.
That is not the hard part.
Doing the right thing, the kind thing, the gentle thing, the noble thing, the brave thing when things are hard. That’s the hard part.
Standing your ground when it’s easy not to.
Being generous when you are spent.
Being kind when you are worried.
Being present when you are stressed.
Being a team player when it’s easier to think of yourself.
That’s what the team is about. That’s what love loses sleep over. That’s why it’s a forever thing.
You never find yourself not needing this.
How does it happen? Every bloody time, as my best friend would remind you.
It happens because people who need life to be like that find each other.
People capable of incredibly intense hard work and dedication need a mission. And a cause. And no cause is worthier than each other.
Every bloody time, my best friend says laughing.
You fall in love with your team. And they stay your team no matter what you do, no matter where you go. Every time. And this time more than ever.
My boys and girls who lose sleep over doing the right thing. Who joke on the hardest day and have each other’s back every day. No matter what. Who say, “how can I help you, let me share the load”. Who stand up to be counted where it matters. Who say, “this is what we stand for, and we stand together”.
What am I saying, other than I love my team?
I am saying they are why I get out of bed in the morning. What keeps me up at night. And why I know we will succeed at whatever we set our collective sights on. Even if some days are hard. Even if some days suck and blow, as we have already addressed, more than once.
In an industry of hard workers, hungry for a North Star, in a world devastated by COVID, the fear, the uncertainty, the contraction of the spectrum of experience as we know it (the economy, the arts, you name it, it got smaller and yet less accessible) in this world that challenges the way we used to live, the way we used to make money, the way we used to measure greatness, isn’t “other humans” the only reason to do anything?
The best reason to do everything.
I am the CEO of a business. It is an honour and a privilege and a pain in the proverbial.
But the redeeming feature of the sleepless nights is I work for a team of amazing humans that get out of bed every day and do their best for each other and the people who come to us willing to let us help them do different and better and more.
It’s ledgers. And credit frame loans. And on-boarding.
It’s not the stuff of dreams. But – yes, checking if you are paying attention – it’s where dreams often die. Money. Its absence. The worry. The stress. The distribution strain.
This is our world. And we are determined to make it a little better for the time we spend in it.
Up until now, every time I took a new job, I was the Banker.
I looked at the package. Career progression prospects. What it pays. What I will learn. What I will do after. Where it takes me, even as a worst case scenario.
And every time, before I knew it I had found a mission.
The Hill to Die On. Because of who I am as a person. I can’t help it. I need the cause.
It’s not enough.
The working day is long. The working week is most of your days, in any given month or year.
The salary is good.
The mission is better.
The people, now. The people are best.
So tomorrow morning, make a coffee. And do your thing.
Think about what your Chief of Staff would say to you.
Every bloody time…. what?
What is your “every bloody time” story your best friend will pick out over a glass of wine?
And if it’s not a story about your pathological love of your team, if it’s not all about the people who are smarter than you and worth doing anything for… The people you learn with and from… The people who do what they are when there is no time to compose their face and manage their image… if it’s not that, all I can say to you is, there is still time. Not much. But there is time. Do better.
If it is the people, then you know that my best friend laughed at the end of this. And asked, sure he did. But didn’t expect an answer.
Because this is the thing we don’t need to say.
Because this is the thing we know.
And yet it needs to be said, because it’s right. And we all need to hear it. Because it does the heart good.
Because “each other” is the only good answer to “why do we do this”.
And now think: what heights this can take us to, in an industry of pathological hard workers and off-the-scale over-achievers.
Imagine what can happen, every bloody time. If we start with a job, find a mission. And then end up doing it for the sheer love of each other.
Every bloody time.
About the author
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption as CEO of 11:FS Foundry.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!