It was Tuesday. The entire city of Boston was digging out from its third major storm in 30 days. Snowbound cars clogged city streets. Small mountains of snow and ice stood at every corner. Getting from one end of the city to the other could take an hour or more. And that’s if you could find a cab since public transportation was shut down.
This was causing me undue stress. In 36 hours I had 260 people coming to a sold out event at Boston University. Invitations had gone out. Posters hung around campus. Catering had been paid for. And I had this crazy idea that the three leaders of Boston’s largest ad agencies – Hill, Holiday CEO Karen Kaplan, Arnold President Pam Hamlin, Mullen President Kristen Cavallo – along with the Boston Globe’s top business columnist, Shirley Leung, would still actually make their collective appearance.
Under normal conditions – dry roads, sunny skies, a slow time of year – it would be a miracle to expect these four high-powered women to be available at the same time in the same place in the middle of a workweek. In fact, Shirley was in Orlando trying to get back to Boston and possibly New York. Kristen was stuck in Richmond, Virginia. And Boston’s Logan airport was running at a fraction of capacity.
Damn, what to do. So I gave them an out. I sent them all an email suggesting I’d like to stay optimistic despite the obstacles. But, what were they thinking? This was a gentle way of giving them the opportunity to take a pass. I was hoping they wouldn’t, but expected they might.
Man was I wrong. On a day when most people had no shortage of other things to worry about — unplowed driveways, ice dams, leaking roofs, closed offices — I heard back from all of them within minutes. “I’m still in.” “I’ll be there.” “I’m looking forward to it.”
Plenty of people would have rejoiced at the opportunity to avoid an hour traversing a snow clogged city, or grabbed the chance to make their lives and schedules a little less miserable, or simply come back with a suggestion to reschedule. But these four polished professionals basically said, in their three to five word answers, something far more revealing.
“I made a commitment, I said I’d be there, people are counting on me, I won’t let them down.”
Wednesday evening, on a day when rush hour traffic was at its worst, they all arrived on time. They put on a show the audience will remember for a long time to come. They shared insights, knowledge, predictions, and advice. And they hung around to talk one on one with dozens of students eager to ask questions and rub shoulders with four women whose accomplishments set an example for all of us.
It was a semester’s worth of learning crammed into a couple of hours. But there was one lesson that stood out and explained how these remarkable women all got to where they are today.
They keep their word. They deliver the goods. But first and foremost, they show up.