Successfully Lead an Innovative Culture

How to Empower Employees While Ensuring that Everyone is on the Same Page

Team sitting at an office table working together We recently worked with the VP of a financial institution who was challenged by the fact that one of his managers was constantly trying to change the ways of the bank. Although many banks have had to change radically over the last 36 months, historically, banks have not been well known for rapid change and innovation.

When we talked with the manager, we found out that he had come from a consulting firm that specialized in working with banks and he felt that all of the ideas he shared and wanted to implement were proven strategies that would improve the organization. The VP felt that the current processes and products were working well, customers were happy and, if ain’t broke, don’t break it.

On this project, we made several recommendations to both the VP and the manager. First, our recommendations for the VP:

  • Clear vision and goals: Collaborate with the manager and create a compelling positive vision with clear goals and/or results.

  • Promote and expect innovation: Encourage the manager to keep thinking of progressive and innovative ways to help improve his department and the organization. To not acknowledge, honor and put to use this direct report’s innovative ideas will be a fast slide to lower morale and disengagement.

  • Set clear priorities: Work with the manager to prioritize the new ideas and develop a realistic timeframe for implementation.

The manager was perceived as an obnoxious pain by both the VP as well as his peers and direct reports. When he told everyone how he handled something at his old consulting firm, everyone wanted to make a point, then ask him a question. The point they wanted to make is that the Bank everyone works at is very different than the consulting firm. The question everyone wanted to ask this manager was, “If this consulting firm was so good, why don’t you go back and work there?”

Our tips to help this manager become successful at sharing and implementing his innovative and progressive ideas are:

  • Honor the past: To say anything negative about how the organization currently does something is indirectly saying something negative about the people who implemented the current task or procedure. When you put down the organization’s past, you are only guaranteed to do one thing: upset the people who have worked at the organization longer than you have. You will be better off honoring the organization’s past, and then helping people build a bridge to the future.

  • Ask Questions: Ask a lot more questions to better understand the organization and what other team members perceive as the opportunities and challenges. Gain their perceptions of what can be done for improvement.

  • Sell people on the problem, not the solution: Ask people, if our competitors are offering this product or service and we don’t, is it possible our customers may consider switching banks? You will be much more successful selling people on your ideas by exploring the problem before you try to sell the solution.

With these six recommendations put into action, we feel confident the VP will be creating an environment where his direct reports are working hard to improve their areas of influence and the manager will have the skills to put their innovative ideas into action.

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