Prioritize personal connections as business transforms
As our businesses seek a way forward through the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, there is a common theme in advice from leadership experts: Prioritize people. This philosophy is at the core of the industry my organization represents – credit unions – and remains as important as ever, even in a tech-driven world.
In a recent interview on the Banking Transformed podcast, management guru Tom Peters shared his insights into the strategy of personalization. Here are some of the key excerpts:
- Qualities of a successful leader and organization: Peters tells podcast host Jim Marous that "people first" remains his advice to leaders. As businesses take advantage of artificial intelligence and automation to communicate with members/customers, he says "those who…continue to humanize things are going to be winners." While times may be busy and stressful, don't forget to have genuine conversations with your staff, and encourage them to take time to do the same when members/customers reach out for help.
- Soft skills vs. technology: Peters cites a Google study of attributes of the best employees, which found that seven out of eight of them were "soft skills," which is essentially your emotional intelligence. How well do you connect with people, communicate, and listen? The last one was STEM (science/technology/engineering/math) related. In today's operating environment, having employees who can use technology and adapt to change is important, but their ability to be kind and work well with others should be first.
- Preparing for the future: As organizations look toward the future, they need to focus on who they hire and promote, says Peters. This goes back to the importance of soft skills, as he advises hiring and promoting "good" people. This recruitment and retention strategy is one I advocate for – it's easier to teach people skills than it is to teach them how to fit with your culture.
- How to compete with larger firms: Technology has made the way we do business more efficient, and it's important to allocate for those investments in your business plans. However, Peters recommends pursuing IA – intelligence augmented – to use technology in ways that strengthens your member/customer service, rather than replacing your human connection. This is how credit unions compete with big banks – our industry uses our relationships with members and communities to grow.
- Being "more human" in a remote environment: Most of our organizations have moved to remote work amid the pandemic and seen that we can be successful without being in the office. What Peters identifies, and what I have personally witnessed manifest in recent months, is prioritizing teamwork and innovation. The teams that regularly connect and identify new ways to do things are the ones that exceed expectations.
We're facing unprecedented challenges, but leaders must remember that their employees and members/customers are most important. Keep their needs top-of-mind in your decision making (see my tips for remaining decisive amid uncertainty here) and don't lose sight of your humanity.
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P.S. – If you'd like more insights into leading during this uncertain time, Marous – the host of Banking Transformed and who is consistently rated as one of the top five most influential people in banking – recently gave a keynote address during NAFCU's landmark State of the Industry event. His presentation is available on-demand.