Out of our team of seven people at Bank USA, the managing director heading my group was the first one to notice the mistake. But it was too late. We had already faxed a client the pages on a new equity issue, only the pages had the name of the wrong client in the corner. Not only did we make a careless mistake, but we also unwittingly let our client know that we were presenting the same idea to one of their competitors. To make matters worse, I felt responsible because I was the one who sent the fax.
The pitch was to a very important client, hence the number of people on the team. There were four people from my group, Integrated Financial Services, and three from the International Equity Group (IEG). From the beginning, we made the mistake of not making IEG feel like a part of the team. Perhaps it was because they weren’t even located in the same building we were. Instead, we included IEG solely because of their strong knowledge of equity issues, without familiarizing them with our history with the client. The head of my group didn’t even know the names of the junior IEG people who joined us on a conference call. I firmly believe that had we made IEG feel more a part of the team, they would have understood the importance of the presentation and taken more care to focus on the project and ensure the accuracy of their work.
Another reason why our team failed was poor communication within our group and with IEG. On the night the fax was sent, IEG e-mailed us the pages they put together, without explaining what they were for. I didn’t know what the pages were for, but my Vice President looked them over and told me to fax them to the client. I later found out that he requested the pages from IEG; only he didn’t clearly explain to them what the pages were for. Busy as I was, I didn’t ask him about them and instead I quickly created a cover sheet and sent them off. I should have asked my VP what the pages were for. Had I stopped to ask and realized that they were for a conference call with the client, I would have been more cautious about sending them out. With better communication between all parties, we may have avoided our mistake.
I wish I had looked past the first page and noticed the wrong client name. But I didn’t, and that was my fault. I learned that one of my roles on the team was to take one last look at what was being sent out, as it was usually the analysts who did the faxing, printing or e-mailing. I learned the hard way not to assume the accuracy of anyone else’s work.
When the head of my group turned beet red and screaming mad, my VP taught me an important lesson about accountability. Though it may have been easier to deflect some of the blame to IEG, he didn’t blame them at all. He realized that we had a role in the mistake, and he accepted responsibility. At first I thought it unfair for us to bear the brunt of our managing director’s diatribe, but my VP’s example helped me realize that accepting responsibility and learning from mistakes is far more desirable than shifting blame to others.
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