Calm Under Fire
Insurance Experts' Forum, July 24, 2013
I was talking with one of my managers about keeping calm during stressful times and he said “of all people at Embrace, you probably have the most stressful things going on behind the scenes, yet you would never know.”
His comment made me think back to when we were raising venture capital for Embrace. The timing was Oct 2008, right in the depths of the financial crisis, and Embrace was running out of money. If this deal wasn’t done, Embrace was done. Two weeks before the deal was due to close, and right when the deal was at its most fragile, my husband was laid off from his job. Oh well, I thought. If this all falls through, there’s one less encumbrance to worry about.
I distinctly remember the lure of the space under my desk and the desperate desire to curl up asleep down there to escape the stress. Getting up in the morning felt like gravity had multiplied during the night and I felt physically ill making myself put my feet over the side of the bed and standing up to start the day. Life felt pretty dark and desperate during that time. The only thing that held me together was that I had to hold it together for everyone else. If I fell apart, we’d all fall apart, and we would be done.
I didn’t come by this “calm under fire” approach by myself. I observed it many times during my prior life working in the life and health insurance industry in Toronto. I remember working on an acquisition where I spent eight weeks of my life locked up in a deal room. There were so many road bumps in that deal and every time I came up with something in my modest area of work that looked to be a deal breaker, I’d internally freak out, go to the deal leader in a whirl of panic, and he’d calmly take the information, dissect the situation, and deal with it. It’s not that these were not concerning issues, they were, but his calm and confident approach to dealing with every crisis held the whole deal team together and we got the job done.
I was wondering whether this calm under fire naturally happens when you manage people, or is it one of the key attributes that define you as a leader. What do you think?
Laura Bennett is Chief Executive Officer & Co-founder of Embrace Pet Insurance. She is also a 2012 Women in Insurance Leadership winner.
Readers are encouraged to respond to Laura using the “Add Your Comments” box below or starting a discussion on the WIL LinkedIn Group.
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