Passion and people: the tack to success in 2018

As our financial institution clients have been kicking off 2018 and finalizing their goals and strategies for the year, I was reminded (and have reminded them) of the following quote from Walt Disney: “You can dream, create, design, and build the most wonderful place on earth … but it requires people to make the dream a reality.”

Whether you’re talking about cast members at Disney, players on a basketball team, or tellers at a financial institution, getting the right people in the right roles with the right skills and tools will determine if those goals are achieved and your strategies are realized in 2018 and every year.

And the most critical people in this dream-making chain of success are your leaders – the people primarily responsible for the shepherding and maturation of others in your organization. Often, this responsibility is obvious by their job title but other times it’s more latent and the need and ability to lead is simply inherent, regardless of what it says on the employee’s business card.

Whether we’re talking about formal or informal leaders, cultivating and nurturing a leadership culture in your organization will impact your ability to succeed this year far more than any other single investment you make. Sure, investing in technology enhancements will be required and maintaining consistent service levels across all delivery channels will be needed but nothing else will matter in the end if you don’t create the ideal culture for leading your people to fulfill those “dreams” that are your strategies.

To successfully create this type of leadership culture, two critical areas need your immediate focus:

1. Leaders need to lead with their heart and passion. For many leaders (especially those of an older generation), expressing how much you care about your people is a sign of weakness. In reality, showing you care is the greatest expression of strength. It takes strength for a leader to humble himself and share the spotlight of success; it takes strength to admit a leader’s weaknesses so their staff can confidently do the same; it takes strength to empathize and care for an employee as an individual instead of treating everyone the same way. As the saying goes: lead with your heart, not your head!

This expression of care requires passion – a passion for being a leader and seeing your staff succeed. It’s not necessarily a passion for being number one or certainly for your own personal accomplishment; it’s having a passion for piloting others and seeing others become number one in whatever they do.

Often, leaders are too focused on developing and executing strategy. Instead they should be more focused on passionately bringing out the best in their people and, if they do, the strategy execution will, more often than not, take care of itself.

2. Leaders need to lead by fully engaging their people. Getting good people is hard and keeping them can be even harder. But the likely key to both is creating a highly engaged culture. And that engagement level starts and stops with the immediate leaders in your organization. Each of your employees has a distinct set of characteristics and capabilities. The more you utilize this uniqueness, the greater the likelihood of success. If you treat all employees the same, they’ll rarely be happy or successful in their performance and you’ll rarely be completely happy with their performance.

It’s every leader’s responsibility to know how to fully engage each and every employee. They should know their primary motivator(s) and passion(s); they should know how they prefer to receive feedback and coaching; they should know as much about their personal interests and family life as possible. In short, don’t know the employee, know the person. The most successful leaders lead people so expect your leaders to do everything they need to do to create and develop a culture that energizes and engages all your people.

We’re three months into the year and you should be 25% of the way to your annual goals. If so, great – keep it up! If not, it’s time to adjust your sails and chart a new tack for the remaining nine months.

In either case, for many organizations, that new tack should be refocusing your efforts on investing in your people and leadership. Make sure everyone in your organization understands your vision, mission, and values and how they can contribute to it every day. Leverage the individual and personal strengths of each employee and put them in the absolute best position to win. And create a culture and environment that fosters collaboration and inclusion so leaders are focused on growing their people and teams pull together for the greater good.

At virtually every level our business is about people and people need passion and a feeling of purpose to be motivated at the outset and fulfilled in the end. Focus on your individual people, not your individual strategies, and the balance of 2018 will create a momentum that will propel you to your goals and, as Disney said, make that dream a reality.

If you want or need help reconnecting your people, focusing your culture to grow the right way, and developing leadership that will position you for optimal success for years to come, we need to talk. Please contact me at or 636-578-3280. I’d love to hear what you’re wanting to accomplish and share ideas about how you can get there.

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 20 years. Paul is the Chief Executive Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a small but mighty ... Web: Details

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