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The Easy, 5-Step Formula to Get Your Bank’s Culture Back on Track

by | High Performance, Workplace Culture


Culture is the leading predictor of future growth and profitability. Great news if you have a great culture—otherwise, not such good news.

After working with hundreds of banks over 24 years, I can say unequivocally that banks that turn around their cultures turn around their profits quickly. It is the leading indicator…and a beautiful and fast needle mover.

And with the abundant acquisition opportunities about to hit in 2013, you know the importance of getting your own house in order before you compound the situation.

So, what’s the problem?

According to Gallup organization research, the number of disengaged employees in the last five years has gone from 30 percent of the workforce to over 70 percent! It’s hard to imagine a more alarming statistical shift for the business world.

If that’s not enough to make you want to give up, 27 percent of the workforce is receiving treatment for mental health issues while uncountable others remain untreated. With 153 million prescriptions for antidepressants written each year, know you have a lot of people who are challenged every day. Even those who are being treated are still in pain, and they tend to push that pain and hurt onto others. They bring their phobias, sadness, and projections into your workplace to create “messes.”

So, how do you thrive and grow your bank when this is a national phenomenon?

The real problem, as you’ll see below, is that people are operating off of “agreements.” They may not be written down, and they’re not healthy, but they are accepted agreements, …and they must be replaced by healthier agreements.

Normal and accepted unhealthy agreements that eat profits Gossip, listening to gossip, and passive-aggressive behaviors are all standard “agreements” that suck the potential and joy out of any organization.

Add to that whining and excuses, and it is a miracle that organizations function at all.

Then, compound that with “drama queens” who come in both genders. They are the ones that interpret any news as the end of the world and make sure others know how quickly doomsday will come.

If they hear that a new person is being interviewed, they quickly spread the gossip that someone else is being replaced, or make up some “crazymaking” scheme. Whatever gossip they hear from another, they immediately drop into character, dissolving into tears to grab the spotlight, drawing attention to the claim that someone hasn’t been fair to THEM. Let’s be honest here: It IS all about THEM.

The bad news is that it only takes one person to ruin a culture—and they’re good at it. So you need to get better at developing the systems and processes that keep your culture healthy.

How do you help heal a workforce that is desperately in need of healing? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

  1. Ask for a commitment to live by healthy agreements

By clearly defining your values and behaviors, you make it obvious to people what is acceptable and what is not.

But education goes beyond these definitions. You also need to continually teach them through coaching and educational sessions what is “good behavior” and what’s not.

  1. Give everyone full permission to call “call it tight”

Every person must know that when they see another person violate a code of authentic behavior, they can and should call that person on it immediately. With kindness and firmness, a bank teller shouldn’t think twice about telling a manager, “Please don’t complain about Julie. That hurts both Julie and me. Please go talk to her directly.”

If you have a culture where people wait for the manager to deal with it, you WILL have insanity. In a culture of inauthenticity, the manager is always the last to know.

  1. Coach up or out

If a team member has been coached several times on behaviors that are hurtful to their teammates, it’s time to realize they either: can’t get the lesson or they won’t. Either way, allowing that person to stay and hurt the team hurts both that person and the team. You are better to go to zero employees than to have one who contaminates the rest because the radiation emitted by one contaminator is limitless.

  1.  Create systems of celebration of critical drivers

The best way to change the focus from the negative is to focus on the positive—results. The CEO’s weekly radio address, the quarterly celebrations, the huddles—all are systems to keep the focus on positive results and needles that move.

  1.  Do the “Happy Dance”

It’s hard work managing a culture. When you have a breakthrough, celebrate. Then keep working the systems that got you there, making sure to keep the happy bus moving toward all the key indicators.

Yes, this is the tough stuff…but it’s also the part that cannot be ignored IF you want to create predictable success. There are no steps that can be missed on the path to excellence.

Roxanne Emmerich

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