As we look around our community and marvel at how far we’ve come in such little time, it is essential to reflect on our own personal development and examine whether a similar transformation has taken place. The Tri-Cities has truly become a metropolis, with schools, restaurants and new housing developments popping up around every corner. We should be proud to have contributed to its progress.
While buildings, parks and homes are important features of a great community, the foundation remains its people. As our community grows, it is imperative that leaders pass down more than a building and a name. The virtues that contributed to their true success – the power of hustle, teamwork, and patience – should also be inherited by the next generation. Coach John Wooden once said, “A role model is the most powerful form of educating. Too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living, they forget to make a life.” Similarly, managers and leaders often focus too much on the company’s year-to-year goals and spend little to no deliberate time nurturing their people or their environment.
So, what can we do as leaders to foster better work environments for our teams? If you look carefully at all successful organizations, you will notice a similar trait: They set and communicate clear goals that guide everyone toward a common cause. What are you trying to achieve? Are you lending people money or helping them finance their dreams? Are you selling homes or building families? What does the company perceive as success and does each individual team member know the impact of their role? Most businesses have a single statement that spells out their vision but have page after page of rules and procedures in their employee manual. How can your team overachieve if they are told what how to reach a specific goal more often than they’re told why it’s a goal worth reaching? The truth is we fixate on rules and procedures because they are easier to manage than people, but you don’t teach with rules. You teach by connecting with your audience; and it all starts with knowing where you are going. In our business, we call it a “Just Cause” – a reason for our existence and a future state we hope to achieve one day. This doesn’t mean you don’t track your sales numbers or set short-term goals. As a bank and trust company we track many Key Performance Indicators. The big difference is, forgetting a ratio or missing a sales target will never send our business off course. Our Just Cause, however, is something we can never afford to lose.
Second, create a safe place for open lines of communication up and down the organization. Communication is the swiss army knife that allows your team to handle the inevitable challenges you are bound to face. It fosters trust and encourages vulnerability. Famous author and leadership advocate Simon Sinek famously said, “A team is not a group of people that work together. A team is a group of people that trust each other.” Developing an environment where everyone can be honest takes time and a painstaking amount of patience, but if you are successful, you will find your employees are far more curious than you thought and add more value than you ever expected. In our business, we have instituted a book club that meets in organized roundtables where all team members, regardless of title or position, can read, learn and share new ideas that make their departments more effective. We also have a year-round internship program with a dedicated internship director who builds their curriculum and owns their overall professional experience within our organization. These are just two simple ideas we have used to nurture both our new and existing talent. These programs have been instrumental in building trust because they force genuine communication.
Finally, genuine care for others should be the bedrock on which all of humanity is built, not just business. Famous author Brené Brown once said, “Those who have a strong sense of love and belonging have the courage to be imperfect.” After all, we are all imperfect and striving to be better for those we serve. Remember to offer others the same courtesy you were given as you transformed into the leader you are today. Invest in their development wholeheartedly and be courageously vulnerable with them. If we improve marginally each day, there is no doubt in my mind our community will be in great hands for generations to come, and our Just Cause intact for someone else to push forward.