News & Views: Career and Talent Management

Bank Managers discuss their career choices and give tips to future leaders

Last week I facilitated a Talent Management event for a large international bank, which also hosted a panel discussion with top leaders, who were interviewed on their career choices, their expectations from future leaders and their thoughts on people development.

What became clear through the different stories told was that there is no fixed recipe for a perfect career; everyone comes at it from a different angle. However, doing a lot of different things in order gain sufficient experience to lead at a higher level was advised in most instances. Also joining the right company may prove to be more important than having the „right“ position or taking the „right“ career step.

Some managers advised to be prepared to take a step back in order to broaden the experience base. So even sidesteps or small downturns might be a good thing for a leadership career, even if there is a risk involved. But potential leaders need to stick with their decisions, displaying patience and resilience if they believe that something is right for them in the long run.

All agreed that delivering on your promises and having a performance that is outstanding is the basis for any career or promotion opportunity.

What do top leaders expect from their future direct reports?

Clearly future leaders should be able to think for themselves and be able to organise a  team around its goals, creating a motivating work-environment for them. They should stay authentic – nobody expects to have a perfect person in front of them – display energy, curiosity, and motivation, and not wait to be motivated by someone else.

Teamleaders should expect to still cover a ratio of 20-30% of operative tasks, if not more.  Leaders need to stand a little bit outside the work to see where they need to allocate the resources in a fast changing environment. Definitely they need to openly and actively share information.

For some top managers the functional fit only came as a secondary priority after the personal fit. Leaders definitely need to be aligned to the competencies described in the team leader’s profile.

Future female leaders were encouraged to be brave, to raise their voices and speak up, even when there are mostly men at the table. It was mentioned that the organisation is beginning to do something specifically for women. (hear, hear…;-)

Looking into the future, with change as a constant buzzword: What traits will leaders  require in the future?

It was agreed that leading will become even more important, but also more difficult. Adaptability will be key: knowing when things change, and not being the last one to respond. Transparency will become more important: being open to your people, to what is happening, and how you inform about it.

Leaders need to get their teams to be acquainted with the requirements of markets and regulators, not necessarily being the experts themselves, but spotting the right persons and asking the right questions, while keeping an overview of relevant knowledge themselves.

In the current situation where the banking industry is facing an existential threat and a severe scarcity of resources, leaders will need to keep defining their value added to the consumer and will need to keep evaluating whether they are using their resources wisely or whether they need to give them to another function.

In a shrinking organisation, doing more with less is more crucial than ever. Leaders need to keep challenging themselves: „Are we doing the right things? Are we addressing the challenges of the current environment? What can we give up?“  Priorities will change from one day to the other – „we don´t have the time to move the tanker around and take a year doing it“.

As a consequence, the prime leadership qualities will be change agility, a high level of self-motivation, resilience, and the ability to deal with frustration. Leaders need to give up silo-thinking, look at the big picture and act in line with that.

What are top managers currently doing to promote and develop their people?

Development was considered to be very individual: Leaders need to look at the individual and find assignments that support the personal development. This should not be limited to trainings and be the responsibility of HR. Leaders need to plan the experience and look for projects and tasks where people can develop. Development within one unit only will be nearly impossible, so managers have to set their best performers free.

Opportunities for personal exchanges are needed in order to share stresses and frustrations, and people need to regularly receive feedback on: „What is my work appreciated for? Am I doing the right thing?“

Participants were reminded that enjoying latitude also comes with responsibility. Leaders should use the freedom they are being given in order to produce great and sustainable results, and – even more importantly – also ideas on how to create and fulfill market needs. Leaders grow through their experience – their projects, their bosses, and the units they have worked in. Building a CV is the same on the internal as well as on the external market.

Performance counts – future leaders need to show every day that they perform. But they also need to reflect on how much time they want to give to the company and how much time they want to give to other things that make life good.