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From C-Suite to Connection: The Good Ole’ Days

For many of us, the pandemic has given way to a period of self-reflection, and maybe even some romanticizing, of simpler, richer, and more satisfying times.

With all the leadership and business discussion today about organizations being flat, flexible, and nimble, I find myself transported back to the ’80s when gurus like Tom Peters (“In Search of Excellence”) were throwing around those same catchphrases, however, the economy was expanding, the money was flowing, and “Greed was good” on Wall Street.  Go figure.

During those times, before cell phones and voice mails, I was not a corporate executive, but an Executive Assistant to the EVP of Corporate Lending at a major bank and a junior in college majoring in English at the University of Baltimore.   Every day, I ascended 22 floors to the C-Suite, (which also happened to be my approximate age at the time), and performed duties ranging from bringing orange juice and the Wall Street Journal to my boss at 7:00 a.m.; managing the revolving door of eager, but anxious loan officers seeking approval of corporate loans and mortgages; assisting corporate customers with banking problems; and managing approvals from my boss for millions of dollars of wire transfers, or the equivalent of corporate loans, up until about Noon, (or when Cinderella turned back into a spinster) every day.

Speaking now, as a woman who would later own a solo, mental health practice for 20 years, to say that I was suited to, or thrived in, the banking world as an executive assistant would be to liken me to a “fish needing a bicycle.”  A few years prior, when my boss offered me the job, he sat me down in his notoriously, stoic fashion, and said, “I am being promoted, and you are my logical choice.”  It was hardly a resounding endorsement, but then I had felt overwhelmed and pretty bored with the banking/administrative side of things and procrastinated the paperwork often late with processing checks, expenses, and payments.

But fortunately for me, it was the human side of things, not the banking/administrative side, and certainly not the catchphrases of the day, or the business strategies or theories (which apply in the best and worst of times) but the CONNECTION with others that sustained me, increased my value and overall likeability, and gave me further insight into my meaning and purpose in life:

1) I listened and responded with caring.   During those times when my boss was frustrated with my performance, a letter would serendipitously pop up in the mail from a corporate customer expressing appreciation for how well I helped with a problem.

2) I treated my boss’ colleagues with empathy, understanding, and fairness.  And, they expressed their gratitude to me, and to my boss, for prioritizing their needs and concerns.

3) I wasn’t afraid to take a risk, and be authentic, to a point. Whether it was risk of humiliation, by baking my boss a bundt cake for his birthday and bursting into a packed, loan committee; or going out on a limb by sitting on a deadline of noon with $1 million worth of wire transfers needing approval at 11:57, giving the soft, verbal ok by using my name at 11:58, and then panicking at 11:59 and eventually knocking on the closed, Board Room door (because after all, a girl is entitled to change her mind.)

So when you look back at simpler, richer, or more satisfying times in your life with a nostalgic eye, do you remember more or less human connection, and, were people giving you the same, sage advice about how to overcome uncertainty in your personal or business life that they are right now, in the middle of the pandemic?

You may find that, like me, there is actually something to this human-centered, servant leadership everybody has been talking about for a while now…  But then, maybe it’s just the latest, catchphrase.


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Marge Hentschel, LCSW-C
Marge Hentschel, LCSW-C
Marge Hentschel is a writer and consultant with experience in business and expertise in clinical social work, communities, and the mental health field. She worked in a corporate setting and in Human Resources as a Corporate Communicator for ten years before working as a freelance writer and editor in the non-profit sector for the United Way of Central Maryland, The House of Ruth, and other community organizations. She holds a B.A. in English with a concentration in Professional Writing from the Yale Gordon College of Liberal Arts, and, after obtaining an M.S.W. from the University of Maryland at Baltimore, became a solo, mental health practitioner in Bel Air, Maryland, where she saw individuals, employees, couples, and families for over 20 years. Marge currently lives in Bel Air with her husband of 37 years, Dennis, and has two grown sons, Daniel and Matthew.

4 CONVERSATIONS

  1. To be a good company leader there is no recipe, otherwise it would be enough to follow it to the letter and the game would be done. The issues and needs in leadership work change every day. In general, priorities are always different, there is no day like another when you do this type of work. You have to know how to adapt. Roll up your sleeves to better solve ever new challenges. However, there are specific characteristics and qualities that can greatly help those who are called to fill that role.
    One thing is certain: no one becomes a leader alone. The road to success consists of a daily interaction with the society that surrounds us and in which we can find the right channel in which to establish ourselves. Success is almost always the result of teamwork, in which everyone contributes and where the leader is the one who knows how to guide others towards achieving a goal.

  2. Yes! Marge, I am so with you on this. All of my life journey, the times I remember so fondly was not pushing paper, it was answering telephones, greeting customers, helping them find the right pair of shoes (first job out of high school) and even now, it isn’t ‘teaching English’ that I love! It’s the kids I interact with that makes the experience memorable.
    We are social creatures!

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