What is “A Moment With”? The Women’s Business Development Center is pleased to continue with our series, “A Moment With”, where we periodically highlight some of our greatest supporters and partners, sharing their career experiences and advice. This month, we are highlighting Chris Sweetland, Regional President of Illinois and Wisconsin at Huntington National Bank.
Meet Regional President, Chris Sweetland: Chris provides financial advisory services and business insights to CEOs and CFOs of middle-market businesses throughout Illinois, Wisconsin, and surrounding areas. With over 30 years of experience in banking, Chris focuses on creating holistic relationships with clients and helping them grow by providing strategic and tactical answers to some of their most difficult business questions. Prior to Huntington Bank, Chris served as Group Strategy and Sales Leader at FirstMerit Bank and CEO and Chairman of Advantage National Bank.
Chris is a graduate of Wabash College and received a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and a Bachelor of Arts degree in German.
We asked: Tell us about a piece of advice you received from a mentor that has stuck with you and helped you succeed.
Regional President Sweetland shared: In 2003, I was one of 13 individuals in a peer advisory group. All, except me, were owners of closely held businesses. We met monthly for years and had a strong group of outside speakers who presented to the group on different leadership-related topics each month. One of those speakers consulted with business owners and C-suite professionals. Her specialty was studying and advising on emotional agility in corporate leadership. After her presentation, she administered an Emotional Quotient Self-Assessment (scored much like an IQ test), on which I scored noticeably low. Once she got herself past my low score, she invited me to be mentored by her to help me develop this muscle. At that time, I was in my late 30s and leading a large enough team. In all honesty, I was not leading them very well. Sure, I was getting results, however, few on my team were happy.
My mentor’s advice to me was centered on becoming vulnerable as a leader and being authentic in front of my team. She also advised me to solicit feedback regularly from people I trust within my organization and taught me the importance of receiving constructive feedback productively. Until then, this approach to leadership was not taught, and I was certainly not actively using these tools. With a few practical tips, this advice revolutionized how I showed up each day in front of my teams and accelerated my career.
A Turning Point
We asked: What was the biggest risk you took in your career? Did it pay off?
Regional President Sweetland shared: In 2002, after 17 years, I decided to leave the organization where I had started my career. I was well-respected by leadership but did not like the company’s general direction, which fell outside of my control in my role within leadership. When I made the move to another organization, I had to take a significant step backward in my overall responsibilities. It was certainly risky but proved to be the right choice. Of course, I had friends from whom I sought wonderful counsel, which greatly influenced my willingness to take the risk.
My new position was less prestigious than my previous role. I feared I would lose influence and fall out of favor with the network I had built over the years. I also had to deal with my internal demons about taking a lesser position. I thought I would lose a support system that I had worked so hard to develop.
Despite all that, I was much happier, and my family was much happier, which helped me be more effective in my new role. I realized after that I had fallen into a deep rut in my previous role. The move gave me a fresh perspective on my world and what was possible and allowed me to move forward more quickly.
We asked: What is your favorite quote?
Regional President Sweetland shared: “To live a fulfilled life, we need to keep creating the ‘what is next’ of our lives. Without dreams and goals there is no living, only merely existing.” – Mark Twain
Thank you, Chris Sweetland, for participating in “A Moment With”; we are proud to call you a loyal friend of the WBDC.