Sunday, September 8, 2019

9/11: A Lesson in Accountability

There is no such thing as accountability if you do your job and the next person can't do their's. Accountability means we all win together.

As the anniversary of 9/11 approaches, I again updated a Pinterest site I've been curating to preserve stories about Verizon's efforts to restore communications services following the terrorist attacks.

The site includes links to treasures in a variety of media, including a 38-minute video about the heroic colleagues I was proud to work beside in 2001.

One new link is Maria Bartiromo's interview on last year's 9/11 anniversary with Denny Strigl, the former CEO of Verizon Wireless. He talked about the tech sustainability "lessons learned" in the aftermath of the attacks.

Another lesson learned was articulated this past May by Verizon's former Chairman and CEO, Ivan Seidenberg. Having written "Verizon Untethered," a history of the company, Ivan sat down with entrepreneur and Internet personality Gary Vaynerchuk to promote the book on the #AskGaryVee YouTube show.

Here's a link to the show, if you aren't already one of Gary's 2.2 million subscribers. It's a fascinating 51-minute interview on a variety of business topics. At the 29:15 mark, Ivan begins talking about a favorite chapter in his book: "the story of how our company was able to deliver after 9/11."

In the end, this story is an important life lesson about the meaning of accountability. Here's a partial transcript of what Ivan had to say. It speaks for itself:


Ivan and Gary
All of Wall Street was out; all of Manhattan was out... The next morning: still flames, still trying to look for survivors. Calls began coming in from all over the country about, "When is the Stock Exchange going to be up and running?"...

The trading partners on Wall Street... couldn't get their people into the buildings. They didn't have alternative locations. So, I remember Dick Grasso, who was the Chairman of the Stock Exchange at the time, called a meeting of everybody in the city...

Our people basically said, "We could do the following, but here's all the things you will have to do"...

The story here was great. We were running cables out of [the windows of] buildings. We were doing all sorts of things that we needed to do. But we were also helping other people do their jobs.

So this is the lesson on 9/11 for us: accountability. There is no such thing as accountability if you do your job and the next guy can't do his. Accountability means we all win together.

We ended up committing to getting the Stock Exchange up and running the following Monday. In the process of doing that, we developed relationships with the top 60 or 70 trading partners -- the Goldman Sachs, the Merrill Lynches, all those companies -- to help them make sure they could open their facilities, they had enough circuits to get things done, they had the generators and the power, and everything else that needed to occur to get the country up and running.

It was one of the greatest experiences of our careers, because it was a big deal... and it taught our company, back in 2001, what real accountability is.

Real accountability is not just doing your job, but doing your job and helping the people you work with do their jobs.

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