Written by: Klint McCoy, Sr. Team Manger, Charles Schwab Trade Support
While I certainly cannot take credit for coining the phrase “fail forward”, I proudly live the ideal that in order to first succeed; you must try and try again. My Schwab story is not unique, however I hope to define a clear picture of how embracing failure is engrained in Schwab’s DNA, and without it you simply limit your personal and professional growth.
My career started at Schwab at a critical point in my life. I was recently married, a first time home buyer, even had thoughts of expanding the family, past the four legged kind. These first few years out of college were truly the first chance in life where I had command of the decisions and choices I made, afforded by a promising career in banking and investment sales. Things were falling nicely into place by design. The only problem was, I failed to factor in how things like the economy and my baked in over confidence and self-worth, could easily become disrupted. In 2008, I was building relationships door to door, providing fee based investment advice in an economy that was supercharged to implode. I’ll never forget the day I witnessed true fear and panic in the faces of so many. Fear easily spread and I caved, resorting to questioning my line of work and worse, my assumed confidence up to this point in my life. Fast forward 7 months and this fear of failure resulted in a layoff and my first taste of career hardship. After a few weeks of angst, I began to reflect on the key choices that led me to my current state. I decided that by making no choice at all, I was in fact, making a choice. I made a decision to “fail forward.”
I reached out to an old contact in banking and she was kind enough to provide a referral to Schwab, working in Austin, TX on the Client Service and Support team. A few short weeks later I came to Schwab to engage with clients on trade strategies and general service needs. Schwab was challenging, yet not for the reasons one may think. With that same misguided confidence, I still had it in my mind that post economic recovery I’d move to be a financial consultant, and quite possibly at another competitor. Thankfully, my first manager recognized the engagement opportunity and worked with me to develop a career action plan. This was the first time in my life I was willing to accept I did not have the answers. I owe Schwab, and most importantly my first manager, for lifting the veil on my first critical failure since joining Schwab.
Failure #1: Believing that I had all the answers: My manager was brutally honest, yet equally supportive. This level of transparency was brand new and it felt great. I knew where I stood and had a clear picture of what success could look like. I decided to fail forward by becoming coachable.
This led to several opportunities, one being a taste of the behind the scenes of Client Service and Support trading operations at Schwab. Because I’d been so closed-minded and laser focused on “sales”, I overlooked a passion of trading risk, education and support, as well as sheer knowledge of trading mechanics at Schwab. Fast forward a few years and I found myself passionate about resolving conflict, leading training efforts, and oddly, something I’d never considered – leadership.
Failure #2: Believing that change was an insurmountable task: At Schwab, you wouldn’t believe the amount of channels that support client or employee feedback for change. Recognizing and championing an idea that helps a professional better serve a client or helps Schwab continue to disrupt the industry is what makes it such a great place. Embracing change is a critical lesson learned.
Failure #3: Not FAILING! Failure is present every day. There’s plenty to go around. If you truly reflect within, operate humbly, and be transparent, you’ll realize that failure is what connects us and truly makes us better.
As a people leader at Schwab representing technology and trading, I regularly ask the question “What have you failed at today?” Maybe: “If one advances confidently in the direction of their dreams, and endeavors to live the life which they have imagined, they will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” – Henry David Thoreau If you have a full appreciation of your faults and a willingness to try, not only will you embrace change, but you will recognize the kind of personal and career growth that Schwab has afforded my family (including my Schwamily) and many others.
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