Gina Luna | Crain's Houston

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

Gina Luna

Background:  

JPMorgan Chase is a global financial services firm and one of the largest banking institutions in the United States. The Greater Houston Partnership brings business leaders together to help shape the city's growth and future success.

The Mistake:

In the midst of the financial crisis, I had responsibility for the internal and client communication for our commercial banking business. If you think back to that time, there was so much uncertainty and irrational behavior in the market. What we were thinking through was, “What can we do for our clients and for the country and bring a sense of calm and certainty that we will get through it?”

I worked closely with senior leaders in our firm, thinking about what is it we were trying to communicate, both externally and internally. We needed to describe for our colleagues and clients what was going on and the steps we were taking in response. The pace of events was very swift, and there was a lot for everyone to process. We all understand that any complex problem is a mix of the known and the unknown. But those extraordinary situations — the challenging ones you remember — tend to be defined more by what you don’t know when you first get underway.

No one really has the answer. No one has a playbook.

I expected that someone more seasoned and senior would know the answer, but gradually I realized they, too, were figuring it out as they go along. Changing the tire while driving down the highway, if you will.  It can be unnerving at first, but it is exhilarating when you lean into it. I find myself in situations like that often, where there is not necessarily a right answer or a roadmap, but you jump in, do the best you can, and you get input from others.

The Lesson:

The big lesson in a situation like that — and countless others — is no one really has the answer. No one has a playbook on how to do things like that. We watch the smartest people in the industry, try to find solutions and do the right thing in a difficult situation. The key is to be open, gather information, surround yourself with smart people and listen to their ideas.

There was a huge realization that there are people just like we are who don’t always know the answer in advance. They’re relying on good judgment and values to help drive them to make the right decisions. They are wise to seek the input of lots of smart people. It seems obvious now, but I didn’t get that clarity without walking the walk.

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