Tag Archives: Leadership

A CSR at Every Desk

by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional


Jeff Rendel

In 2015, a related article — “A CEO at Every Desk” — explained how front line leaders – in our customers’ eyes – are the CEOs of every “moment and transaction.” When our customers meet our front line more often than they visit with our executives, it makes sense that leadership for customers is local. Many bank leaders designed training sessions and systems to create an executive presence through all levels of their banks.

Fast forward two years later where a feature in one bank’s Statement of Values read, “We all hold the title of Customer Service Representative.” This bank realized that “the CSR in all of us” must appreciate that every customer adds to a bank’s success and we must value that contribution in how we go about our daily duties. “Regardless of how often we actually see customers,” the bank’s CEO said, “We must design our day around the question, ‘How will I serve my customer?’”

How do the various levels and departments of a bank integrate this CSR presence of mind in daily duties? Here are some recommendations.

Front-Facing Leaders. For tellers, call center agents, loan officers, branch managers, and any bank leader who works with customers every hour of the day; your mission is simple: Serve your customers, build great relationships with your customers, and increase your customers’ financial well-being. In the end, we want our customers to profit as a result of their relationships with our banks. Always be on the lookout for ways to be good news for your customers, building their financial security one experience at a time.

Behind-the-Scenes Leaders. While deposits and loans build the business base for our banks – accounting, human resources, card processing, IT, and more keep the gears in motion. These leaders serve customers with their skills that ensure a seamless customer experience. Accuracy, staff expertise, and uptime are just a few ways that service to customers extends beyond the branch. Some might argue – with much success – that behind-the-scenes leadership is increasingly important in a mobile world where fewer customers visit our branches.

Executive Leaders. While everyday interactions with customers are less common, vice presidents and C-Level leaders have great influence on how a bank serves customers. Frequently, schedule time to visit branches and meet some of your customers. Often, some old-fashioned “lobby talk” can reinforce or clarify what management reports divulge. Also, meet with your front-facing and behind-the-scenes leaders and describe how their roles benefit customers and your bank. It’s encouraging for them to understand that front line and back office operations are significant. Lastly, consider adding “How does this affect our customers?” to every meeting agenda. A few banks even arrange for an empty seat at every meeting, representing “the customer,” a reminder for executives as they plan for their bank’s success.

Our customers are vital to our banks. Regardless of our titles, the results of our jobs all flow to delivering economic value to customers. “We all hold the title of Customer Service Representative,” says one bank. As leaders, may we always remember – and act upon – the drivers of success for all of our banks – our customers.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and President of Rising Above Enterprises works with banks that want entrepreneurial results in leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 banks and their business partners.


The Front Line CEO

by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

Jeff Rendel

Jeff Rendel

A mid-sized bank CEO friend works the teller line one Friday each month. Lightheartedly, he expresses to me that branch managers won’t give him a cash drawer. “Is this really a beneficial use of your CEO time and pay?” I skeptically ask him. “Quite possibly the best,” he replies. “Impressive strategies often originate on the front line. I learn a lot from those who see more customers in a day than I might see in a month.”

As CEOs work through this planning season and build plans for 2015, it is important to confer with colleagues who are familiar with customers: your front line leaders. This isn’t for delegation: this job needs a CEO’s claim. Drawing on these associates as an opportunity and supply of intelligence about customers’ needs and expectations brings understanding to what the CEO needs most from those who know best.

A Mountain West bank CEO believes that strategy, culture, and the front line are so interrelated that she delineates strategic goals and plans to the branch and support area levels, championing her bank’s front lines as they execute the daily inputs required for strategic success. Even more, customer-facing strategies are built from the front lines up. “By consistently listening, deliberating, and acting upon ideas from those who see our customers most, we genuinely understand our customers’ needs. It is chancy to rely upon this information through departments and layers in the bank. Instead, I go straight to our front line leaders to gain their operating insights to strategic matters,” she explains. “I own this strategic area of focus.”

There is an excellent bonus result that comes from seeking participation and listening carefully to your front line leaders as you design strategy and supporting plans: Your front line leaders will take ownership of their parts in strategic success and help your bank deliver on your plans for the future. Excellent strategies are only as good as the implementation. Quite often, that execution is based on the everyday actions from your bank’s front line. Learn the most about your customers’ needs for tomorrow from those who serve your customers’ needs today.

© 2015 by Jeff Rendel. All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and President of Rising Above Enterprises works with financial institutions that want elite results in leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 financial institutions and their business partners.

Communicating Like a Leader

by Eileen Wixted, Wixted & Co., Des Moines

Eileen Wixted

Eileen Wixted

In the time it takes to read this paragraph, 25 people joined LinkedIn. Twenty-first century technology has re-shaped our notion of how, when, where and why we communicate. The Internet and digital communication move volumes of information at warp speed. In fact, technology has created a myth of what constitutes effective communication. A text message or e-mail is not

communicating—it is simply the act of informing. Technology has replaced a great deal of face-to-face communication today. If you want to be truly persuasive and impactful—communicate in person. When you are given that opportunity, leverage it fully by communicating with the goal of persuading and motivating your audience. Informing alone is not enough to meet a business goal today.

Leadership communication takes into account the importance of using communication as a strategic tool to shape perceptions and help drive results. The result may be a greater understanding of the mission of your organization or an increased sense of loyalty towards your company. Stakeholder interactions are strategic when there is a clear goal and when the speaker first seeks to understand his or her audience.

Effective leaders are audience-centered and recognize the value of connecting with their audience. An audience-centered approach that tunes into how the audience feels about an issue creates a listening environment and instant credibility for the presenter. Research consistently shows that audiences have specific expectations when listening to a presentation. They expect the speaker will not waste their time, must know the audience and has spent time finding out what is important to them long before the presentation began. Nothing makes an audience tune out like a presentation that is disjointed or irrelevant. Communicators must be organized, know their subject and clearly deliver the main message of the speech.

Leaders have a greater communication challenges than others, and can only be effective if they can persuade and motivate people to follow. A leader with no followers soon is unemployed. Too many times individuals don’t spend or invest the energy to prepare their communication to their direct reports believing foolishly that they have a captive audience. In fact, effective and compelling leaders give their internal audiences the same or even more attention than any others.

Strategic communication, like every other discipline, is a race in which no finish line is ever crossed. Every time you talk, you have the opportunity to communicate or inform—the importance is to know the difference.

As the principal of Wixted & Company—and a founding partner of Wixted Pope Nora Thompson & Associates (WPNT)—Eileen is a nationally recognized expert in strategic communication and crisis management. She actively helps clients effectively manage potentially brand-damaging issues and prepares them to face media interviews, shareholder meetings, presentations and government investigations. She will be presenting at the 2015 IBA Marketing Conference April 30 – May 1.

The Power of Pause

by Kevin Pokorny, Pokorny Consulting

Kevin Pokorny

Kevin Pokorny

Janice Marturano, founder and executive director of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, shares this story in her book Finding the Space to Lead: A Practical Guide to Mindful Leadership. Janice has offered mindful leadership training to leaders from around the world. Her observations over time from leaders is they execute well and meet their goals, but they simply do not feel they are living their best lives. They tell her something is missing. When she asks them what is missing, the most frequent answer is SPACE.

“Space, the breathing room, necessary to be clear and focused, and to listen deeply to ourselves and to others.” Creating space requires practice with intention. That is where pause comes in.

Mindful practices creates a pause in our day to ground ourselves in the moment, to respond to work and life situations instead of reacting. What is a mindful practice that creates a pause for us?

  • Finding quiet time in our day, to just be and breathe. When we are able to do so, we can be present to whatever is at our feet without the feeling of being on autopilot.

When we pause, it creates space for awareness and self-reflection in choosing a response. For example, recognizing to focus on one thing at a time, or look for opportunity in change, or make peace with not knowing.

During my April 16th workshop, at the IBA Human Resources Conference, we will create space, the breathing room, with some quiet time. Then, I will introduce you to a number of mindfulness practices for leaders that allow a different, more powerful response, in our work and daily living. You will walk away to begin your journey of creating pause and practicing mindfulness in your work as an HR professional.

Kevin Pokorny is the owner of Pokorny Consulting who partners with small and mid-size businesses to connect, collaborate and create solutions to their issues. He offers advisory consulting to individuals and small groups to make conscious decisions, and empowers them to become more purposeful leaders through learning mindful practices. He will be presenting at the IBA Human Resources Conference on April 15-16, 2015.

Four Generations, One Focal Point

Jeff Rendel

Jeff Rendel

“I assembled all of us in the same room explaining that we were in control and responsible for ensuring our bank’s success.  Boomers, Xers, Millenials, everyone – as one bank –, we were accountable for one result.”  So said one community banker when asked how she went about securing commitment and a multi-generational, team-based approach to strategic success at her bank.  Direct?  Yes.  Effective?  You bet.

All of us are aware that several generations are at work in our banks: Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Generation Y.  While demographics provide generalizations to understand overall trends, being born in an era does not cement our working styles and behaviors to a particular template.  Truth be told, there’s a bit of every generation in all of us.  The experiences, knowledge, and cultural understandings of all are central to succeeding in a business that serves so many generations.

At your next managers’ meeting, brainstorming session, or strategic planning getaway, plan to include a member from each generation at your bank.  For each issue or initiative discussed – and from each generation – gain the pros and cons of each topic.  Of course, with cons, make sure a solution is offered with the response.  Following this beneficial and robust discussion, you will begin to discover concepts and strategies that all agree upon and can begin to execute.  This is a productive stride in leading many experiences toward a definite focus for your bank.

From an organizational leadership standpoint, generational differences are ideal add-ons to: experienced interaction; direct collaboration; technological aptitude; reliable relationships; and, constant learning from one another.  In a nutshell, multi-generational leadership is about expecting, gathering, and implementing insights freely across generations.  Many times, it begins with getting all generations in the same room.

Jeff Rendel will discuss this this topic (and many more) in depth at the 2014 IBA Bank Management Conference, February 12-13, 2014 in Des Moines. Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and President of Rising Above Enterprises works with financial institutions that want elite results in leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 financial institutions and their business partners.

Language or Leadership

Tom Westbrook, Ph.D.

Tom Westbrook, Ph.D.

Famed Harvard Psychologist Howard Gardner wrote “leaders achieve their effectiveness chiefly through the stories they relate and embody.” It is a leader’s ability to craft stories of identity or narratives “that help individuals think about and feel who they are, where they come from, and where they are headed” that “constitute the single most powerful weapon in the leader’s literary arsenal.” Note that it is not just the story, vision or communication of task but the mixing of the message with the values exhibited by the leader or how the leader models the way for others to follow. For example, one always saw Martin Luther King Jr. at the front of the march – his message matched his actions.

The challenge for a leader is that his/her story is often in competition or in conflict with the stories held by individuals, teams or the entire organization. This is particularly true in times of change. Thus a leader’s language of leadership can be the defining difference between the level of commitment, compliance or resistance exhibited by employees or teams during any influence attempt.

Leaders influence in a wide array of situations on a daily basis all requiring an effective language of leadership. These situations include creating a compelling reason for change, reviewing the performance of an individual or team, dealing with conflict, navigating the political arena and just being present for conversation. For Stephen Denning and others, this language of leadership can be learned and mastered to aid a leader throughout his/her day.

Tom Westbrook, Ph.D. will present, “The Language of Leadership” at the 2013 IBA Annual Convention. He will explore how your language of leadership can elevate your ability to Be A Superhero In Your Community.

Independence Day

Dawn is arriving. The chilly air causes the breath of the waiting mass of humanity to materialize as briefly hanging ghostly shapes. Twilight recedes as the sun slowly ascends over the horizon, spearing the darkness with the brilliant light of hope and promise of a new day where anything can happen. Crisp aroma of meadow flowers fills the air and the crowd inhales deeply to capture the scent, if only for a moment.

They wait.

Suddenly, the quiet is shattered by the hammering of a majestic horse’s hooves as it gallops over the crest of the hill. Backlit by the rising sun, the anointed leader surges into view and a mighty cheer erupts from the crowd, deafening in the celebration of their chosen leader. Raising a hand, asking for quiet attention, the leader guides the prancing steed, resplendent in silver and highly polished leather, up and down the front lines looking deeply into the eyes of those who have chosen to follow.

After the intense moment of connection, the leader positions the horse at a location where every eye can see him and the sound of the leader’s voice carries easily to every woman, man and child gathered in the meadow.

Eyes flashing, head held high, he speaks. The voice of authority, possibility, love, and urgency fills the air and those who listen feel their eyes fill with tears, too enraptured to hold back any emotion. This is the day when we fight for our freedom.

Independence Day.

At least that is how the movies and books say leadership looks and feels. This rousing, intense interaction between leader and follower is natural and logical. But, let’s re-run the scenario again for today’s environment:

Twilight is arriving. All company employees move quickly into the corporate lobby. Through the rain streaked windows, employees witness the sun as it descends behind the skyline, obscured by smog. A day is ending, where each employee knows anything can happen. The smell of panicked sweat permeates the air.

They wait.

Suddenly, the murmur of the assembly is shattered by the elevator door opening one story above at the atrium level. Backlit by the florescent light, the President of the company calmly walks up to the railing and looks down over the crowd. Raising a hand, asking for quiet attention, the leader, looking tired and pale, gazes sadly into the eyes of those who have been hired to work for his company.

Choosing a location at the railing where every eye can see him, the sound of the leader’s voice carries easily to every woman and man. The voice of authority and urgency fills the air and those who listen feel their eyes fill with tears, too shocked to hold back emotion. This is the day when they are given their freedom – released from their jobs due to the recession.

Independence Day.

Both scenarios highlight a leader who can stand and deliver the best and worst of news with compassion and strength. Harsh, necessary decisions are the responsibility of a leader and delivering the results of those decisions to members who are following you with trust and commitment is one of the hardest things a leader will ever do.

I believe that is why fewer people are willing to assume the mantle of leadership, even if it only involves personal responsibility. Leadership is placed on our shoulders in all sorts of ways; group acclimation, recognition of a job well done or as a logical progression in the scheme of things. Often we receive the benefit of ascension to a position of power through financial rewards, perks, public recognition and the ability to create necessary change. That has to sustain us at night when we have trouble sleeping.

Often, many leaders feel isolated because they choose to keep power and information firmly within their grasp, afraid that any leak of bad data would cause anxiety in the workforce and negatively impact productivity. Isn’t the leader supposed to be strong enough to stand alone?

Let’s go back to the movie scenario…this leader exudes confidence in his followers, an undying faith that they will understand the issues at hand, work with him to solve the problem through group interaction… even if that means charging down a path to a destination that could result in destruction. At least they did it together.

The role of the leader isn’t about isolation. It’s about creating such a powerful presence within a group that people choose to follow you – knowing their voices will be heard, considered and implemented when it makes sense. The members believe in the direction the leader is taking, have faith in the outcome and willingly give up their independence for a greater good. The power of leadership is in collaboration. When that happens, anything is possible, even in the harshest of times.

Karel Murray, author, humorist and business trainer speaks nationally and internationally. You can contact her at karel@karel.com or call 866-817-2986 or access her website. She will be presenting at the IBA Human Resources Conference held in Ankeny on April 17-18.