The past few weeks and months have been so busy that I have not really had the luxury of focusing on much else, except running Operation HOPE, the recently completed HOPE Global Financial Literacy Summit, planning for the upcoming launch of 5MK (5 MILLION KIDS), and the launch of my new booK LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World. This is not to say that important things that happened during this time escaped my attention, nor my appreciation. One such event was something I can only call an extraordinary act of "love leadership," from my new partners at CIT; starting at the top with their CEO Jeff Peek, their general counsel Robert Ingato, and their senior management team and board.
For weeks on end earlier this year, CIT, a new partner for Operation HOPE, its CEO and senior management team were getting buffeted by what appeared to be unrelenting criticism as they sought to restructure the company and its balance sheet, for this post-economic crisis environment. An operating environment when the Wall Street secondary market seemed to almost disappear literally overnight. I decided to write this piece to tell a little piece of the important untold story about CIT. You see, it was during this same period that CIT, and its management and board, showed their true character to me, my board and my management team.
CIT had earlier in the year made a commitment in support of the work of Operation HOPE; in particular our increasingly important Mortgage HOPE Crisis Hotline (888-388-HOPE), which has fielded more than 70,000 incoming calls and restructured more than $250 million in mortgages, tied to the sub-prime and now prime mortgage crisis. As CIT's challenges seemed to only broaden and deepen according to some media reports, privately our call volume at Operation HOPE only increased during the same period. And while we needed CIT and other HOPE Partners to keep commitments made to us (and by extension those that we serve), we could not in good conscious press CIT to focus on our partnership. That would have been immensely selfish on our part, and not at all considerate of all that CIT was going through. All this said, in the end Operation HOPE did not have to do a thing.
Displaying an impressive combination of corporate ethics, stability under pressure, and an ability to focus and multi-task priorities, even while the world was shouting substantive distractions at them, CIT made good on its commitment to HOPE and the people we serve.
The company and its management team did this – and this is the really impressive part - without fanfare, without press release, and without asking for credit. They simply did it because they made a commitment and intended to keep it, and because it was the right thing to do.
Of course, I am not saying that CIT, Jeff Peek and others at the company are perfect. They are not. None of us are. We are all human. But I am interested not so much in their mistakes, nor their problems, per se, but how they respond to them. How they manage in challenging times. Decisions they made, particularly with respect to those less than, when no one was looking. To date, they have passed all of these tests in my book, with flying colors. I now understand, much more clearly, why a man I respect, Stephen Ryan, Esq, a member of my board of directors in the Mid-Atlantic states, respects CIT and its people so much.
It is easy to jump on people and to criticize them when they do wrong, but I believe it is equally important to commend leaders, and to thank them, when they do right. And this is why I writing this today. To commend, and thank, these leaders for doing it right — when they didn't have to. Rainbows after storms. You cannot have a rainbow, without a storm first.
Onward with HOPE
John Hope Bryant
Operation HOPE has served more than one million individuals to date with financial literacy empowerment services throughout the United States and South Africa.