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Life Lessons from Mark Turner
Mark Turner is an outstanding human being and a super-successful banker. At a recent Forum he shared some of the many life lessons he has learned over time. His wisdom overwhelmed me, his insights resonated with me. Here are highlights of what he said for you and your team to consider, share and learn from.
B and C are both essential to your success, but attitude trumps all. People want to be around those whose attitude is "can do", uplifting and positive. The wrong attitude will create a barrier between you and others you work with, and will result in you having fewer opportunities to success. One story Mark shared was about his attitude during his first job. Mark was highly successful in college, and thought he was better than his peers at this new job. As a result he received a couple of negative reviews which took him down a notch, but, more importantly, he lost access to the choicest of tasks and the very best managers. While the evaluations did serve as a wake-up call for Mark, it took him years to recover from them and remediate his reputation. He ended up getting only four years' worth of good experiences during his 8 years in the position. I, like Mark, have made the same mistake early on in my career, and paid for it with precious time, much negativity and the absence of valuable experiences.
Once you're in your 30's, consider your optimal work situation and career objectives. Whatever they are, be OK with your selection. Second-guessing is counter-productive. Look for a place to land that will facilitate further development and help you fully evolve into who you want to become.
Two important guidelines in selecting that place are:
Take risks - SOME risks
One of Mark's important motivations is the sense of making a difference. He wanted to get more out of the job that just a paycheck. He wanted to matter. Early in his career, there were three job options before him: remain in the excellent company he was at; take a job at a high-growth company; or join a turnaround bank in a relatively senior position. Mark chose the third option. It was a high-risk, high-reward situation. Most importantly, the leadership and the culture they propagated meshed well with his own personal views. Secondly, he felt he could make a meaningful difference in the company and, consequently, for its associates. He was looking for a place that offered learning and personal growth, was on the upswing, believed in doing the right thing, offered transparency and had people he could trust. WSFS was that place.
Ambition is a word with negative connotations, but the right kind of ambition can be a strong motivator for positivity. For Mark, serving others first was an important aspect of his opportunity which fulfilled his ambition, plus there was room for increasing his responsibilities. He made his own luck, though, by meeting the CEO when the CFO retired and bluntly expressing his interest in becoming the next CFO at age 36, and his confidence in his ability to do the job well. He grabbed the job, and continue to throw his hat in the ring as opportunities opened up in the company, noting that while incumbents were more experienced he brought youth and a strong succession to the table.
Eventually the next job Mark could apply for was the CEO's. When asked by the incumbent when will he be ready, Mark said: " In 3 years I'll be ready and green; in 7 years I'll be ready and antsy; in 5 years I'll be good and ready".
A side note on ambition: when you grab the next job, do it out of a strong desire to take that specific job, not because of money, title or running away from your current job. Those situations rarely work out well. Run toward something you love to do.
Some say that every decade or so things start going amiss in our industry. One mistake many executives make, Mark warns, is getting defensive at the onset of the crisis instead of listening to early warnings. "Whoever gets to the truth first wins", he says. This motto serves well when you're looking for candor and avoid blame casting. Once the alarm bells sound, look for the best path to handle the situation andf move forward.
A key aspect of crisis management is calmness. Organizations in crisis can get paralyzed by anxiety and uncertainty, says Mark. "The best antidote for anxiety and uncertainty is action". I strongly agree with that statement. "Don't catastrophize things. Take action on what you can control. Movement toward resolution and a clear action roadmap with timelines lead to calmness and a sense of control for all.
It is helpful to celebrate every milestone of forward movement and small victories. Small steps gets the organization warmed up for the inevitable heavy lifting.
Another important aspect is the recognition that crises offer both problems and opportunities. While focusing on action imperatives, opportunities can be identified and realized. Industry crises offer opportunities for team lift outs, branch acquisitions ands customer movement, among others.
Crises also provide a golden opportunity to identify your "Up and comers", those who step up and shoulder more than their fair share of the burden. You will also notice those than walk away, those who point fingers and do not have your back. There is no more reliable test than a crisis to identify both types of team members.
Strong leaders shape and have a deep understanding of the organization's strategy and what it takes to execute on it. A good strategy will identify fundamental ways in which your company is different from others, and management then executes it timely and effectively. Your team must be able to clearly articulate that differentiation and the strategy to achieve it.
Tactics and other follow-up steps must align with that strategy. It becomes a filter to quickly decline initiatives that are not clearly aligned with your differentiation and value propitiation. It also serves as a context for decision making for any team member. When unclear what to do, ask the question: how does this resolution align with our strategy? And, is this the right thing to do? You're strategy should be brought alive every day through your team and serve as their guide for decision-making.
It is critical - and not easy - to propagate the strategy throughout the organization at all levels. Your own team members can help you craft the communication tool to share the strategy such that it resonates with all levels of the team. Your strategic document must be phrased clearly and simply, and also needs to be able to show every employee where they can see themselves in the document; how they fit into the big picture.
A strong strategic document also serves to hold people accountable. It needs to involve some quantitative measures of success which, in turn, get reported to the entire team regularly to help them hold Management accountable and vice versa.
Robert Waldinger's book "The Good Life" talks about what it takes for people to be happy. Relationships are at the top of the list. Relationships with family, friends, colleagues and even your personal coach. A deep connection with others, especially those who will tell you the truth when you ask for answers, is an essential element in your success, personal growth and happiness.
Insecurities and Mindset
Most successful people across all disciplines secretly share some insecurities about themselves that drive them to achieve new heights. Fear of failure can be debilitating. Alternatively, it can be turned into a strong motivator to reach your potential and overcome impediments. Accepting that the "Imposter Syndrome" is real is a step forward not only in self-discovery but also in effectiveness. Accepting that effectiveness trumps perfection is another.
Even more important than a "to-do" list is a "to-do" list within each day, meeting, presentation, interaction, decide ahead of time, "what mindset will make me most effective for others". Then behave according to that mindset. Skill;sets will be supercharged when preceded by the right mindset. Also, insecurities can be overcome with the right mindset practiced.
I say, "it is much easier being yourself than trying to be someone else". Being yourself, warts and all, is not only easier on you but also on your communities, the people who interact with you. They know what to expect from you, they feel you're to be trusted since you share your vulnerabilities are behave transparently, and they are motivated to give you the same - not only their intellectual engagement but also their emotional engagement, which, in my book, is even more important.
Building your personal brand
Self-identifying what drives you, what makes you happy and what gratifies you is a critical pre-requisite to happiness, and, oftentimes, success. If you identify your strengths, what you want to be known for, your oppportunities will align with those in time.
Such soul searching will help you focus your efforts on what matters the most for you, while tacitly communicating with others what's important to you and what you're good at.
Life lessons are never-ending. We continue to learn throughout life because it is exciting, helpful and necessary as the world around us continues to change. Mark's life lessons are helpful to every persons as there map out their aspirations in life, and then each of us will add our own along the way.
New in the Nest:
This column will offer fool proof recipes, restaurant suggestions and other foodie tidbits for your consideration and consumption.
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