Whether the economy gets better or not is out of your control. But YOU getting better—that’s entirely in your control, and it’s non-negotiable.
As a leader, YOU set the standards. And, those standards had better be high and focused on the right things.
Organizations thrive because the leaders within those organizations thrive. After over 20 years of working with many of the top-performing financial institutions in the country to take them to a higher level, it is clear that quality of leadership is the key performance indicator—regardless of what the economy dishes up.
Here’s an action plan to put on the desk of every one of your leadership team members to raise the bar in 2011.
- Seize the opportunity. With great challenges come great opportunities and never before have the opportunities been greater. 2011 will be the year of the great “pull ahead.” The financial institutions that will thrive in the future will make astronomical headway this year while their competitors remain stuck implementing yesterday’s agenda and focusing on “cost control.” What’s left to cut?
- Leader, compare thyself! How do you do compared to competitors at hiring, attracting high-profit customers, owning the full relationship of each profitable client, or getting massive core deposits? What are the retail principles of Amazon that should be used in your business? How can you apply the principles of the new “Google Economy” in which FREE is a way of attracting business? It’s time to get wise!
- Set high standards in the key result areas that matter most and are critical to stamp out incompetence and poor performance. Make your standards of performance clear and hold people accountable.
- Commit to be the best in EVERY way—the best service, the best sales approach, the best educator on financial information, and the best at getting massive results without a Mongolian goat rodeo of chaotic activity. Focus. Focus. Focus.
- Be the example. The commitment to personal excellence must show in everything you do.
- Have more fun. Make winning at business a game. Imagine going to a football game with no scoreboard and bleachers full of confused fans not knowing when to celebrate–or why. That’s exactly the culture of most banks, and that’s why so many of them are in trouble. Sorry to deliver the hard news, but a professional takes hard news without hard feelings, sucks it up and gets busy making changes. Red ink is feedback. Take it and get busy making corrective action.
- Stay informed, but only from people who KNOW what works. Study with people who have their business principles in order and have a history of success and of leading others to success. This is not the time for theory, MBA mumbo jumbo, or the Fad of the Month.
- Leaders are learners. They attend seminars, read outside industry journals, and study everything.
- Leaders are also unlearners. Even as you keep learning new ideas, 2011 will also be the year of unlearning the old. Those banks that are marketing, selling, hiring, or doing practically anything the way they did three years ago will get a sucker punch to the bottom line this year.
- Create clarity. What are the five key initiatives and five key results in your organization? Do they sound like they could be the same as any other bank? If so, they won’t work. Does everyone in your organization know them by heart and have a personal work plan that ties straight into them? If not, you can count on exhaustion in 2011—but you can’t count on getting the results you want.
- Stay above it all. Two key emotions guide every decision you make: fear and love. The first will cause a bad decision every time—the second, a much better one. You must be a realist and deal with the bad blows of the economy. To stay mired in it, to not get above it, will cause your inevitable demise. Focus on decisions made out of love—love for being the best financial institution in your market, love for having a team of professionals who care passionately about the success of your customers, and love for being at the top of your game. Focus on staying above it all instead of on the messes, and you’ll keep future messes at bay.
This is your year. But, it’s going to take a whole new level of sophistication and understanding. Most important of all… enjoy the journey!