Be Remarkable

In October 2011 I had the chance to share the stage at Safeco Field with Seattle Mariners Manager Eric Wedge at a large professional development event for my company. Eric spoke passionately about the need to challenge yourself to be the best you can be, to play your best game every day and to always focus on getting better.

With Seattle Mariners Manager Eric Wedge. October 2011

Below is the text of my speech. I try not to cross over too much from my Day Job here, but this represents some of my core beliefs as a leader.

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Our internal theme for this year is “Be Remarkable”. Tonight I’d like to talk about what that means to me.

Our CEO Richard Davis likes to talk about how most of us are “accidental bankers”– how this probably wasn’t a childhood dream for most of us, and how we probably didn’t major in “banking”. Yet, here we are…

That was certainly true for me– I was one of the first people in my family to finish high school and the only person in my family to go to college. After a few years of nights and weekends in the retail industry, I started in banking as a branch manager, and then I got a chance to become a private banker. After a few years of that, I was given a chance to manage a small team, then a large region, then eventually the entire business line. Most importantly, I was able to help my daughter begin to pursue her dreams, as she became the SECOND person in my family to attend college, just two months ago.

Why aren’t you happy?

We have industry-leading financial performance, we have industry-leading client satisfaction scores and absolutely WORLD class employee engagement scores. We are one of Fortune Magazine’s Most Admired Companies, and we have a rock star CEO. This is truly the kind of place that INSPIRES you to Be Remarkable.

Despite all of that– and I dont know everyone here tonight– but I know that some of you just might not jump out of bed in the morning thinking about how to “Be Remarkable”. You might not even JUMP out of bed at all, you might kind of roll out with a grumble. Why is that?

In fact, you may be asking yourself “If this is such a great place, why aren’t I even enjoying myself most days?”

Well let’s be honest, not too many people jump out of bed with a smile on their face and skip to work whistling zip-a-dee-do-dah EVERY morning, but if you can’t at least look forward to your day the MAJORITY of the time, you have a problem.

Maybe you’re just not a happy person. My words tonight might help you rethink that a little bit, but I am fully prepared for the fact that I just might not be able to help you…

But I’m going to assume that you’re all at least as happy as the average person. I’m also going to assume that MOST of your days OFF are at least PRETTY good days. But, like I said, if you can’t say that for the MAJORITY of your work days, you have a problem.

And if that’s the case; your customers, your boss and your coworkers also have a problem– so by extension our shareholders have a problem too. Even worse, so do your friends and your family– and that problem is you!

Because whether you are full time or part time, you spend a significant amount of your waking hours at work, and if you aren’t enjoying yourself, you’re slowly making yourself– and those around you– miserable.

And here’s the bad news: Nobody can change that for you. YOU are responsible for your happiness.

But, here’s the good news: YOU are responsible for your happiness.

You have more freedom and more power than you might know or believe. Our forefathers wrote that right into the Declaration of Independence–our unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The even better news? The leadership here WANTS you to love your job– and we want you to make this your career! We want you to Be Remarkable… And we’re here to help!

It all STARTS with you.

Marcus Buckingham wrote a great book called The One Thing You Need to Know, and its broken down into three sections:

  1. If you’re a senior leader– if you have people reporting to people who report to you– the one thing you need to know is how to tap into what everyone has in COMMON, and speak to that.
  2. If you are a manager of other people, the one thing you need to know is to find out what makes each person UNIQUE and manage them as the individual person that they are.
  3. But, the one thing that ALL of you need to know, whether you manage anyone else or not, is to figure out the thing that you most HATE to do and find a way to stop doing that. To stop doing the thing that you hate is even more important than doing more of the thing that you love, because doing the thing that you hate saps your energy. It destroys your soul, little by little.

You see, THAT’S the thing that’s making you miserable to be around!

Now, I’m not saying to show up to tomorrow and tell your boss that you aren’t going to balance your cash drawer any more because you hate it….

You might not be able to make the changes you need in your life overnight, and I can’t even promise that we can make it happen here– if your one true calling in life is to bring irrigation and malaria relief to third world countries, that’s awesome, but I’m not aware of any job descriptions here that involve that here…

But you can do that on your time off… and I DO promise you that we will do EVERYTHING in our power to help you put your strengths and your passions to work in accordance with the needs of our customers and our shareholders.

Strengths Based Leadership

Speaking of strengths, Marcus Buckingham also co-authored a great book called Now, Discover Your Strengths. And in it, he says that you can’t ignore your weaknesses– you have to correct them enough to prevent failure– but the only path to greatness is developing your strengths. And more often than not, our strengths are the things we love to do most.

Now, I like people a whole lot more than I like numbers, but numbers are a PART of my job, so I have to have a PRETTY good understanding how our balance sheet and income statement work; but I will never be CFO.

I LOVE the people side of our business. I love developing our business strategies, and hiring and developing the people to execute them, and I spend as much time as I can on that.

I still have to make sure the trains run on time, and I have to make sure we deliver the numbers for our shareholders; and for the most part, I rely on people who love THOSE parts of the business to spend the bulk of THEIR time doing those things.

So, if this is still just your job, and not yet your career, I really want you to think about what you love to do, what you hate to do, and what your strengths and weaknesses are.

If this IS your career, it’s even MORE important!

There’s another great book and a web site called StrengthsFinder, by Don Clifton and Tom Rath, former colleagues of Marcus Buckingham. I encourage all of you to use it to discover YOUR strengths…

The story of “Tory”

I work with someone that some of you know, but she will KILL me if I mention her name,so lets just call her “Tory”.  I sat down with Tory a few years ago and asked her what she loved doing and what she hated doing. This was very hard for Tory, because she has been a top performer forever. She said, “Oh, I’ll do anything you need me to do!” I said, “I know that, but that wasn’t my question”. It took us three meetings for Tory to finally get up the courage to say, “You know, I really want to do more analytical work, I would like to learn project management skills, and I hate to say it, but I really don’t like to manage people”. I said, “Done.” on the spot to the first two, and I said “I think I can help you with the last one, but it might take me a little while.”

Sure enough, within a few months, we were able to shift her management responsibilities to other people, and she took on more analytical and project management duties. Almost instantly, Tory exceeded even her own high standards of performance as she was able to spend most of her time doing the things that match her natural talents. I couldn’t imagine how I could survive without her on my team.

If you can’t truly bring your passion and put your innate talents to work every day, it’s going to be pretty hard to Be Remarkable. In fact, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You’re also doing your customers, your coworkers and our shareholders a disservice. We cannot deliver the world class customer experience we want to deliver without engaged, passionate people who get to put their strengths to work.

Now what?

So– once you’ve discovered your strengths, how can you go about applying them to your job?

  • In a word– ASK!  You’re here tonight, so that’s a great start. Get active with the Development Network and meet as many people as you can, from all over the bank.
  • Secondly, get a great education. Associates degree, bachelors degree, Masters, PhD–  wherever your passions take you, but in this global economy you have to bring your best to the game.
  • Check out the Career Exploration Site on the Human Resources Intranet page. There you can Explore, Learn, Plan and Network. Read the career spotlights and listen in on the conference calls where employees from all over the bank describe what their job is like and what kind of experience you need for it.
  • Participate in MentorConnect. We have what is essentially an internal “match.com” to connect people who want to be mentored with senior people who volunteer their time simply to help you be the best you can be.
  • Talk to your manager! Let them know about your dreams and aspirations. Talk about what you love to do and what you hate to do, but be patient– even if you hate it, SOMEBODY probably has to do it, and its probably YOU, for at least a little while…
  • And most importantly– perform the HECK out of your current job.  I gotta tell you– as a manager, I’m INCREDIBLY motivated to help top performers build their career, even if it means I lose them to another part of the organization. But I don’t really have a lot of patience for someone who’s not performing in their current job who tries to tell me that it’s not their fault– that they would do a great job if only we would promote them…

That may be true, but we all have to do the job we have today to have any chance to get the job we want tomorrow.

So before you head home to your loved ones, before you come into work tomorrow and start thinking about how to take great care of your customers– think just a little bit more about yourself… about your job… about your career…

Discover your strengths… follow your passions… and Be Remarkable.

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5 Responses to “Be Remarkable”

  1. David Kanigan February 12, 2012 at 6:17 pm #

    JP, inspiring and REMARKABLE post. Thanks for sharing. Dave

  2. jpnicols February 12, 2012 at 8:24 pm #

    Thank you for your kind words!

  3. Hassan Natha February 12, 2012 at 9:33 pm #

    Very nice job

    • jpnicols February 12, 2012 at 9:55 pm #

      Thanks for the kind words, Hassan.

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