As a leader, a true leader, you not only have to head up your group’s drive to exceptional business results…financial, customer satisfaction, formal service indicators, employee satisfaction, customer & employee retention, timeliness & quality, etc….but you also need to take a deep & genuine interest in your people’s hopes & dreams, play a very active role in helping them take the next step.
Even if that means them leaving your area to spread their wings or take what they’ve learned & put it to good use elsewhere (hopefully, within your company).
And aside from the normal “people development” activities that you help to initiate & coordinate for your staff & managers, e.g., education & training, skills development, technical training, etc., you must clearly demonstrate that you are personally interested in helping them with their career aspirations.
With helping them identify opportunities where they’re able to advance.
With, at times, pushing them to apply for that posted position in which you firmly believe they’ll excel.
You hafta make yourself available & “approachable” that you’re here for THEM…for them personally…as well as to lead the organization as a whole.
And while it’s cool to be able to pilot the big ship or guide the little dinghy, you are also responsible for each & every sailor.
For each & every passenger aboard.
Yes, I know, you’re not able to spend extensive quality time with each & every person, considering your already-hectic schedule & conflicting priorities you face every day.
But you must make some time for them.
Open up a slot on your calendar for people to meet with you one-on-one…even if it’s not directly related to a current business matter.
Do you spend time teaching your people what you already know & probably take for granted? Do your have Q&A sessions where you teach them more about how your company operates, what other areas are responsible for, how your industry in general plays a part in society?
Do you have an “open door” policy? And I mean, really open…both literally & figuratively.
I always told my people, regardless of how many reporting levels there were between me & them, that they were ALWAYS welcome to come & speak with me!
If my door was open, a quick “Hi!”, then come & sit down.
If the door’s closed, simply knock & open it.
If it’s locked, I’ll get up & answer it.
Show them that no matter how “busy” you are (or appear to be), they are ALWAYS a top priority to you.
Invite some of your top performers in to discuss career pathing. How can you help? What have they be thinking about? Have they considered utilizing the corporate tuition reimbursement to obtain their degree or seek an MBA? Do they really intend to spend their career on the same area? Do they know of other opportunities at the site or nearby? What’s their passion or what did they study in school? What piques their interest?
Same goes for your managerial & supervisory staffs.
What concrete steps are they taking to be able to assume their immediate supervisor’s position? Or yours? How can you help? Do you know of any professional development courses or seminars (on-house or with outside vendors) that could improve various areas of their personal skills & abilities portfolio?
Show your people that you care FOR them & ABOUT them.
That you want them to be happy & confident in what they do, but that true learning only comes when you’re challenged.
You want them hungry to succeed. Not afraid to take that next, sometimes terrifying, step. Seeking out opportunities where they can add even more value or follow a long-time dream.
I often felt proudest when the birds left the nest. When they spread their wings. When they took what they learned with you & used that to help another area succeed.
I always especially LOVED it when I had “disciples” spread out throughout the organization. (Easy now, it’s not some sort of brainwashing, weird mind games I’m playing. Don’t worry!)
But it’s wonderful to see people who once “grew up under you” take their values & work ethic & expertise & knowledge & drive to succeed out to other areas of the corporation…and make a name for themselves!
Not sure if I’ve told you guys about the group of recently-hired MBAs that I had the distinct pleasure to “foster” for a week every year.
Citi was always well-known & admired for the high-quality executives we’ve always had.
Along that line, we would actively recruit high-performing MBAs from some excellent universities & bring them into the fold.
They would go through a formal 12-month rotation program in NY, spending 90 days in each of the following areas: Marketing, Finance, Sales & at times, one other area (Compliance, Loss Prevention, Legal, Service, etc.).
Their rotation would then usually culminate in a permanent position in a branch, with the expectations that would assume control within a pretty short timeframe.
Because Citi’s Retail Banking Operations were located in San Antonio, TX, it really wasn’t practical for them to do a 3-month rotation with us.
Instead, they would come down to the USCC/US Citibanking Center & get the opportunity to learn more about the functions we handled…Customer Service, Investigations, Remote Sales, On-Line Banking, Business Banking Ops, etc..
The AVP (later, VP) in HR who managed this MBA program was familiar with me from my days back in NY. Instead of requiring a formal schedule & curriculum from us, she simply entrusted these incredible-bright, hungry MBAs to me.
“You do whatever you want with them that you feel will be most valuable to them going forward. I trust you.
Pls just make sure they’re on the return flight back to NY when the week is done!”
This went on for a few years, with a different group of MBAs coming down annually to San Antonio.
Well, I did plan out an agenda for them that had them visiting with all the major USCC areas (cited above). They would be given a short presentation & overview of every area by the respective Directors, then have the opportunity to sit side-by-side with an experienced staff member to shadow them, perform a few assignments themselves, ask questions & basically learn as much as possible in a 3-hour time period.
But their day would start off with a 1-hour meeting with me…the first day’s meeting actually would last 2-3 hours.
And they’d end their day with a 1-hour review session with me (longer if they wanted or if I had more material to cover). I’d also go to dinner with them once that week, but once their day at the USCC was over, they could simply do whatever young people did to have a good time. (No worries, if they stayed around their hotel or went downtown to the RiverWalk (an “entertainment area” of the San Antonio River, controlled by locks, resembling a canal, with a whole bunch of hotels & restaurants & clubs & shops & whatever surrounding the river as well as in the surrounding neighborhood), everything was extremely safe, well-patrolled by SAPD, and there rarely was any sort of trouble or disturbance.)
But I made sure that I spoke with them, at length, every morning & evening…just me & them.
And I made sure that they kept great notes during their “tours” & I would always answer every question they had.
It was, truly, one of the greatest opportunities I had during my entire career to truly help shape the future leaders of our business.
And, of course, I took the opportunity to discuss many of my “business, people management & customer service” beliefs & philosophies with them.
But every group I hosted…without fail…was composed entirely of energetic, hungry-to-learn, thirsting-for-knowledge individuals.
I was absolutely amazed that I never came across a single individual who was 100% committed, who wasn’t totally into it.
Their perception of things they heard & saw was pretty incredible. Not a lot of stuff got by them nor went over their heads.
It was so refreshing to clearly see the gleam in their eyes.
We spent a lot of quality time together. Oh, and we also had lunch together as I would also invite managers & Directors from their morning & afternoon sessions to join us.
One year, I happened to be reading an internal newsletter for the New York Banking Division (all the NY metro branches & support departments). It was a quarterly publication & would routinely list all the promotions that had taken place during the previous 3 months.
4 years after I hosted a particular team of MBAs here in San Antonio, I see 5 members of that group (usually, 10-12 different MBAs each year) as being promoted to either Branch President (4 of them were appointed Asst VP or VP, depending upon the size of the branch) while the other was a VP in Marketing!!!
I felt like a proud Poppa in that I may have played a small role in helping them out along the way.
I sent hand-written congratulatory notes to all 5 of them (whenever possible, hand-write Individual congratulatory notes. They carry 100x more meaning than an e-mail or typed-out note or even a phone call.), telling them that, of course, I remembered spending time with them & letting them know how incredibly proud I was of their success.
Lo & behold, with the next week, I received 5 thank-you notes back from them.
They were all so very appreciative of the time I spent with them & the lessons I taught them….lessons that you normally wouldn’t find in most business books.
And 3 of them quoted things I had said to them 4 years earlier!
2 had actually framed my sayings & had them on their desk or hanging in their office!
Made me feel like I actually did impact their lives. I never was so proud of them.
Nor of myself!
Make sure you take the time to make a difference in your people lives.
Even to this day (and I’ve been gone from Citi for almost 14 years now as of 8/20), I have stuff written to me on FB from people who worked for & with me over the years…and it blows me away!
Makes me cry.
Makes me smile.
Note: Pls don’t feel like I’m writing all this stuff to brag or pound my own chest. While I am proud of everything I’ve done in my career, I can only hope to teach & yes, entertain you if it’s something I believe strongly in.
Something I’ve done or experienced myself.
Something that guided my every move in everything I did.
I’m not gonna preach about something for which I don’t have actual, hands-on experience.
I’m only gonna talk about stuff that I know, without question or doubt, works.
In the real world.
You can read about all the other stuff in some business publication somewhere. Or listen to some really-intelligent people.
Or “the experts”.
All I know is what I know, what I’ve seen, what I’ve done.
Sure, there are LOTS of things I’ve screwed up over the years, but I’d like to believe that I learned from those experiences.
No need to drag you through my muck.
Your muck can be your learning experiences. I’ve cleaned mine up in the hope of sharing things I’ve found successful (helpful, useful) during my career.
Oh, yeah, some of the stuff I write about is for pure entertainment purposes only. 100% accurate & true, but not necessarily filled with business or life learnings.
Once again, thank you for listening!