Beth McDonnell | Crain's Twin Cities

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Beth McDonnell

Background:  

Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp is the parent company of U.S. Bank, the 5th largest commercial bank in the United States.

The Mistake:

I got overconfident.

Prior to U.S. Bank, I worked in the healthcare industry, for a company that was on an acquisition spree. My job was to go in after an acquisition, set up a work plan, set up a strategic direction, determine which employees would go where, which brand would be used, who would talk to the reporters, et cetera, et cetera. Over time, we developed a standard playbook and basically just went chapter by chapter.

So considering my job, it really shouldn't have been a shock when we ourselves were acquired a few years later. But it was a big shock. Suddenly, I'm on the other side of the equation. There's this acquisition team coming in and they're just clicking through their agenda, and I'm completely frustrated because I feel like they're not listening to me or my team. And then it dawned on me: Gosh, I did this. We were just like this.

Walk carefully and with kindness.

The Lesson:

When your job is unsettled, it's really unnerving.

You know some of your colleagues might be laid off. You know your whole department may be gone. You know your office might be in a different place, or even a different city. You know that you yourself might be out of a job because there's another 'you' at the acquiring company.

I was frazzled at the time, but I think the experience was healthy for me in hindsight. It opened my eyes to how important it is to have empathy, and to walk carefully and with kindness.

Follow U.S. Bank on Twitter at @usbank

Photo courtesy of U.S. Bank

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