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Letter to Leaders

Reinventing Leadership 2015

(Adapted from my article in Western Independent Bankers Magazine March 2015)

Do your executives and managers have the capability to effectively run your business and lead your employees over the next 5 years?  If I anonymously surveyed your employees on their perception of manager effectiveness, what would they say?

If your leaders haven’t undertaken leadership development or training in the past five years, then the way they’re leading is obsolete, and it will significantly impact the quality of your workplace.  Most of your leaders are managing the way they did 10 years ago.

We’re leaving in an age where everyone expects more.  Your customers have access to information like never before, and they’re using that information to make you are competitive, or use Yelp! to look at compare customer satisfaction ratings of you and your competitors. The access to information leads to a savvier customer base that expects and demands more from you.

The same concept applies to your employees.  Employees today have a powerful tool: choice.

Your employees have access to information unparralled anywhere in history.  Today, they know exactly what similar employees make at your competitors down the street.  Your employees have LinkedIn profiles that allow recruiters to e-mail them constantly with offers of more money and a signing bonus.  They can go to Glassdoor and see what other employees say about  working for you.  You might scoff at the Millenial generation, but they’ll comprise 50% of your employees in five years.  They know what they want, and if they don’t get it from you, they’ll get it somewhere else.

Today’s employees are leaving because they can.

That’s where the reinvention of leadership comes in, and it starts with a simple question:

Why would a great employee want to work for you (or stay with you)?  What’s the compelling reason?  If it’s just money, then they’ll leave you for more money.  What is it about your employment culture that creates and sustains great employees?

Leadership is the key driver of a great place to work.  But surveys show that only 48% of your employees agree that their leadership is effective.  Great employees want to be involved, to participate and to have a voice, which is in direct contrast to the old autocratic methods of days gone by.  RSJ/Swenson’s employee engagement surveys show that employees are looking to their leaders for transparency, unfettered communication and a more democratic style of leadership.  They’re looking for coaching and mentoring, not micromanagement.  Can you honestly say that all of your banks leaders are leading that way?

How would you rate your frontline leaders on:

  1. Judgment

  2. Innovative Thinking

  3. Developing Talent

  4. Inspirational Leadership

A Harvard Business Review survey last year showed that CEO’s ranked less than one-third of their managers as competent in these areas.

It’s not as though you have to fire all of your managers, but your old dogs need to understand what employees want and expect.  They need to ‘learn it or lose it’.  After working with businesses of all kinds, here are the key skills that your executives and managers need over the next 10 years:

  1. Leading people. Many people get promoted because they’ve brought in the most deposits, or worked really hard, or sucked up to the right people.  Those skills don’t translate into the ability to lead people.  If someone brings in a lot of sales, give them a raise, but don’t make them a leader of people.

  2. Strategic planning. In the rush to get all our tasks done every day, there’s less time to strategically think about your workforce.  Who has the ability to learn the new techniques and skills necessary to lead your company in the next few years.  Do your current managers have that ability to define who is a high-potential?

  3. Inspiring commitment. Leadership is inspirational.  The impact a great boss has is unmistakable, and a bad boss will drive employees away from your company.  It’s a big responsibility, and great leaders inspire a commitment from their employees.

  4. Managing change and embracing innovation. Everyone loves change – until it impacts them.  But change is a fact of life today.  We particularly see this in smaller and more rural companies.  Employees have a morbid fear of mergers or takeovers.  However, mergers and takeovers are only going to be more commonplace.  Different ways of delivering services are going to fundamentally alter the way your bank looks in 5 years.  Can your leaders manage this change and embrace the inevitable innovation?

Your business is going look substantially different five years from now.  If you don’t currently have the leaders who can adapt to that change it’s time now to find leaders who will.


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