Lisa Thee talks with Mike Amato on the challenges of realigning company culture, setting goals beyond the bottom line, and motivating the rapidly evolving workforce to achieve positive outcomes.
Mike Amato's career in the corporate world includes a roles as Division President of Washington Mutual Bank, leader of Barclay's global retail, and board member for multiple banks in Europe. Mike is now sharing his leadership wisdom with the masses as a book author and keynote speaker. On top of all his accomplishments, Mike is also a winery owner.
His new book, The Better Way to Win, releases this month.
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Lisa Thee (00:29):
Hello everyone. And welcome to the Navigating Forward podcast. My name is Lisa Thee and I will be your host today. We love to collect the most luminary movers and shakers in the world to help us all think about how to navigate forward today. I'm excited to share with you one of my mentors and friends, Mr. Mike Amato, Mike has a lengthy career, in the corporate world and is now sharing some of his wisdom with the masses. And I'm so excited to announce, some of the key things he's bringing out. He started his career, as the Division President of Washington Mutual Bank before heading over to Barclay's global retail and leading that for Europe and being a board member for multiple banks in Europe. From there, he has now moved to his giving back portion of his career as he is an author of a new book that's coming out this month, The Better Way to Win, a keynote speaker and also, for fun, just to mix it up, winery owner as an entrepreneur. So, Mike, thank you so much for being here today. I'm so excited to share some of your wisdom with the folks out here.
Mike Amato (01:34):
Yeah. Gosh. Thank you, Lisa. Thanks for that nice introduction. It's always good to, to see you and hear you. Thank you. Thank you.
Lisa Thee (01:40):
So, Mike, can you tell us a little bit about how your career started off and led you to become a division president of a bank? What a, what an interesting journey.
Mike Amato (01:49):
Well, it's, it's pretty, gosh, fortuitous is the way I'd say it. I started off at a small regional thrift, in Seattle, Washington called Washington Mutual Bank and I was, they were literally answering the telephone. They were creating telephone banking and they hired myself and three others to answer the phone for just three months because they're not sure that telephone banking would really ever take off. And so we started off on the phones, $7.50 an hour for three months, and then it kind of took off. It started working, which was no surprise, to anybody involved in it. That of course telephone banking was, was gonna, expand to be the juggernaut of serving customers that it has become become today. So yeah, started that role and, and then kind of moved my career as the bank grew, right guy, right bank, right time. We started with 53 branches. And when I left as Division President, 24 years later, we had, 2,100 branches around the United States and roughly 32 acquisitions, plus a plus a Denovo or a, or, or an organic growth strategy was blended in to help us grow. So it, it was a wild ride and it was, just an incredible, incredible time in my life, those, those years to be part of, something, a little thrift that grew up to be the sixth largest bank in the United States.
Lisa Thee (03:11):
Amazing. You took that experience overseas from there and joined a larger banking organization at a time that was pretty, volatile for that bank. Do you mind sharing with us a little bit about what that, transition into Barclays was like and what you were welcomed with?
Mike Amato (03:27):
Yes. And, and to set that up, Lisa, it's important to talk about culture, so culture's a word that's, so everybody thinks they understand. And so few people really do, and, you can get, you know, 15 different definitions of what corporate culture is, but in, in my, experience watching Washington Mutual grow during those, those 24 years and watching how we were able to integrate acquisitions and define who we were, what we stood for, how we do things, what our value sets were, and then live those values, created an incredible culture. I saw the value of it. So when we welcomed a new acquisition into the company, it was, very well defined. And, and we had people that, that signed up for our culture. And in fact, by joining us, they made us better. So we're always evolving it, and it began to change a little bit.
Mike Amato (04:20):
So we started bringing in, key executives from outside the organization, and they all wanted to bring their favorite thing from Cisco or GE or Amazon, or, Bank of America. And they, and they want to bring the favorite thing. Pretty soon, the culture started just tilting a little bit shifting a little bit, and, and it wasn't for me. I could see that our values were going to be changing and it wasn't for me. So, so I, I can't compromise on that core part of my being. So I left Washington Mutual. In fact, the stock price was at all time high when I left, not related to my, my being there, my departing, but, two years later, they became the biggest bank failure in American history, subprime lender. They were the leaders in subprime, which is fundamentally different than what I wanted our organization to do. So I went to Barclays,
Lisa Thee (05:06):
But you saw the right, you saw the path it was going over time. You saw, you knew you were grounded in your values. You knew what the value match was in the culture of what the environment you were creating and what you started to see that going a different direction. You recognized an opportunity to go find a place that was more aligned with how you wanted to see how you wanted to lead, how you wanted to show up each day.
Mike Amato (05:30):
That's exactly right. I didn't know the outcome of Washington Mutual. So, I mean, they could have gone on and doubled their stock price tripled. It didn't matter. It wasn't a judgment on the business model. It was actually a judgment on the value sets that we were, that we were shifting to and changing. The, what I thought was a core culture that led to our success.
Lisa Thee (05:48):
And that's a brave move when things are going well, a lot of people would look and say, you spent 24 years being successful here. You've flourished. Why give it all away now? But you know, hindsight's 20, 22 years later, you would've been swooped up in a whole lot of things that you probably wanted nothing to do with, right.
Mike Amato (06:07):
Oh, amen. Amen. Absolutely. it, to, to me, it was, it was an, it was a difficult decision, but it was, it was clear, so very difficult, but it was clearly the right thing to do. To me, the values are an important and, and oft forgotten, aspect of culture. And values says, what do we stand for? And a lot of times organizations only talk about it at semi-annual meetings or part of a marketing campaign, or in the shareholders' report. And these are our values. Then they live very different values. In fact, there's three value sets that exist in every company, every organization, pardon me, not just company, but there's the values that they say they stand for. There's the values that each person in the company personally has. And there's the value sets that actually play out every day for everybody to witness and gaps in those value sets, create discomfort, dissatisfaction disease of the culture, meaning uneasiness.
Mike Amato (07:05):
And so when people see that, to me, it's a clear cut signal that I just need to, to move on. And, and, I worked for a woman at Washington Mutual named Deanna Oppenheimer. She had gone to Barclay's a year, 18 months earlier. And so we started talking and she brought me into Barclay's, because they had, they had a- that was a whole different story where Barclay's had a challenge right off the bat. They knew they had to become a better bank and they had some growth problems. So Deanna brought me in, said, you know, this is a culture issue. This is your thing, Mike, we sure need your help. And so, and so I was more than happy to uproot go to London and take on a new challenge.
Lisa Thee (07:42):
Very, very interesting. So they knew they had a problem. And so they were looking for an expert to come help, make the adjustments that they needed to make. Can you tell us a little bit about what they were facing at the time and how you brought some direction forward for them?
Mike Amato (07:59):
Sure, sure. First of all, what was very apparent is that the business performance was, was well below plan and, and, and it was getting worse. Secondly, the customer metrics were poor for, so Barclays was the number two or, or at times, the largest bank in the UK and one of the oldest certainly. And, the customer metrics put us in seventh place in terms of customer advocacy. The big one to me was there's a couple of signs that you can see cultural degradation think, think of a big Oak tree in the middle of the meadow, the tree could be dying and you don't know it for years. So it starts very subtly. And then pretty soon you start seeing signs of, of issues with that tree. Well, same thing with a, with a large organization and, and the corporate culture. So my team was 30,000 people and the employee engagement scores were as measured by the Hay Group. 64% now, global high performing norm for the exact same set of questions at financial institutions was 86%. Washington Mutual was 87%. So we were at 64%. And even we, the 30 track acquisitions that we had done in the United States, a lot of the banks were, you know, maybe they're performing well, but for whatever reason they sold, I've never seen 64% employee engagement. So that was a warning sign.
Lisa Thee (09:17):
This was a whole step function, further away from success than what you were accustomed to
Mike Amato (09:22):
Exactly, exactly. And, and thank heavens. I mean, a good boss is your Air Force. And so Deanna was my Air Force. She allowed me and her executive team, the rest of our team members to address it from a cultural standpoint, not a business performance or behavioral standpoint. And that's a really key point because if your ecosystem isn't conducive to creating the culture that you say you are, if the ecosystem destroys that and you ignore the symptoms, trying to change behaviors is, is illogical. But that's what a lot of people tried to do. So we were really helped by a crisis though, Lisa, about a year into the transformation, we were making progress, but gosh, it really wasn't, wasn't taken the hold like it should have. And we were still looking at the plan and we're like 48% to plan and, and, plan meaning how much money are we making to be quite honest with you.
Mike Amato (10:17):
And, and that was a key focus of the organization was financial results. We had the other metrics too, in a balance scorecard, customer, colleague management, metrics, compliance and regulatory and financial metrics. So we had five key aspects of the balance scorecard. We were just not really making progress. People were kind of getting on. We saw scores kind of start to improve, but then one night, one Friday night, I'll never forget it ever. I'll never forget it. We got a phone call and it was, the BBC, the famous British broadcaster called and a producer saying, you guys are gonna be on national TV on Sunday. We've embedded reporters for the last nine months on into your staff. And they have recorded and video recorded training sessions, employee counseling sessions, read all the policy documents, et cetera, et cetera. And you have a toxic culture. We're gonna expose you on TV Sunday night. Wow. Program called Whistleblower. <laugh> yeah. <laugh>
Lisa Thee (11:15):
Not the moment you wanna be known as the Head of Culture, <laugh> when there is toxicity and whistle blowing. How did you react to that, Mike?
Mike Amato (11:26):
Well, first of all, I used to have long black hair. Now I have no hair <laugh> but <laugh> no I'm I'm kidding. look, the, the, the reaction was we, we had started to do the right things, but this was the greatest gift we could have, could have had because the organization above, beside and below us recognized there had to be change. So just like with a, with a, an individual person, when they get a disease, they have to change something. They that now it's, it's, it's the call to action. So this was our burning platform and we relaunched the culture transformation program that we'd kind of introduced, but with a much greater intensity, which a much greater certainty that we need to change this. And with a much greater buy-in, one of the key aspects of change, whether it's individual or 30,000 individuals is the compelling need to change.
Mike Amato (12:17):
We had to go from this burning platform to some future, some desired outcome. And so, we went through a process that, began that transformation in a journey with very well defined stages and jumping to the end of the story. I mean, we can go back and talk about the details, but Lisa, the end of the story was 18 months later. And by the way, I was, I've been told by HR directors, one of the banks I was on the board of that culture transformation takes 10 years. Well, that's a nonsense. in 18 months, Barclays employee engagement scores went from 64% to 92%. So not only six points clear of the higher high performing norm five points clear of Washington Mutual, which was one of the top United States tied for the top, but higher than any bank globally. Woo. So what else happened?
Mike Amato (13:07):
Well, along with that customer complaints went down, customer advocacy went up, brand awareness, went up brand, liking, went up one and two. We, we were number one or two in all of those of those metrics. What happened was management metrics, which we sometimes don't really pay attention to, but productivity and efficiency, what we took out 250 million from the cost base while boosting employee engagement, we increased productivity from 10 sales per seller, 9.63, by the way, and told it would never be, it's been that way always at Barclays. It could never be any different. Could never, could never be, could never be. And we moved it to 23 point something sales per seller per week. So what happened was we went from 48% to plan to over 140% to plan. Wow. And we were actually getting our goals raised during the year because of other divisions had shortfalls.
Mike Amato (14:01):
And for the first time in anybody's memory, our part of the business, the retail bank was actually supplement, supplementing the earning shortfalls from other divisions as opposed to being, supplemented by other divisions for a change. So all five aspects of the balance scorecard showed remarkable improvement and it was all because we had a well defined program for defining culture, aligning the values, ending the virtue signaling that so many managers do when they talk about we stand for this. And meanwhile, we do something different. And so that all happened right for the financial crisis. And we're the only bank in the UK to not have to take government money for a variety of reasons. But one of them was culturally, we were a much stronger bank. We had much better policies, procedures, and, and a much safer organization. And so we did not have to take government money at, for the bailout, that every other major bank in the UK had to do,
Lisa Thee (14:55):
You know, at Launch Consulting, we have a human experience practice where we talk a lot about organizational change. So I just wanna touch a little bit on some of the things I heard you mention as tools, because I think first and foremost, data is critically important for being able to understand where you are and measure your progress to where you wanna be. So I love that concept of getting really clear on your metrics and your scorecarding, especially to drive alignment, right? To really help people recognize and not say, oh, well, you know, we made more money because blah, blah, blah, no we've been measuring what we were going to change and the impacts of that change. And we know how we've moved through that organization. Secondly, what I heard is really around journey mapping and empathy mapping for the people that have to come along on that journey, stakeholder alignment, making sure that people understand why the time is now and how they have a, a seat on the bus for making this change.
Lisa Thee (15:51):
And last but not least what I heard was this external forcing function of, you know, sometimes people have to experience the discomfort before they're willing to endure the cure. Right? Change is hard for people. that's just a, a general sense. And so having this external forcing function of the press calling attention was really a catalyst for people to accept that something has to give something has to be different and allowing everyone to align because you had a good structure that you'd already put in place before this moment to help people through that change. How do you use data and analytics to influence people during this time? Mike, it's always nice to talk about culture, but sometimes that feels soft to people like clearly in a banking environment, they are very much holding you accountable to perform it. So how do you use data and analytics to help people stay focused and committed to long term change?
Mike Amato (16:43):
Great, great questions and great summary. By the way, you, you, you just really hit, it's not the nail on the head. You hit several nails on the head. Data is vital. So, so what tends to happen in companies is you get this a, to B problem solving mindset, problem, solution, problem, solution. And yet when we go on vacation, we don't say, Hey, let's go on vacation. Oh, do you wanna go to New York? Do you wanna go to the Maldives? Do you wanna go to Africa? Do you, I, you know, we don't do that, right? That's a to B what you do is you start trying to understand and, and, and get a handle on where do you wanna go hot or cold weather. You get insights and you gather, use that as data. So it starts as anecdotal, but then you measure the impact of those insights.
Mike Amato (17:20):
Secondly, you read through the data and say, what would look like if we were able to solve this issue? So you take insights, data analytics to say, what exactly is the data that we're gonna measure? And let's agree on the ones that we're gonna drive. I call it a scorecard, but it's, it's data. You, you need to understand where we are and where we're going. Then you have to have a belief system that where you're going can be different. And you do that by, by taking the data and saying, if we all agree that these are the key data sets, and if we move them, incrementally or exponentially, what happens? What does it look like? And you start to create a vision that you have got to explain and socialize and sell that vision, what it's gonna be like. And there's tools to do that.
Mike Amato (18:03):
I heard Elon Musk the other day in interview say that organizations, corporations are cyborgs, blending machine and people, human beings and machines. And I like that description because changing an organization, changing 30,000 people's view and their contribution and capturing their discretionary energy, we don't just want their focus. I want their discretionary. I want them to say I'm part of this thing. And they feel like they have an important role in that to do that. They've gotta be excited about the destination of that, of that journey. So if you could see my hands now, I'm moving from left to right <laugh> from, from burning platform to an amazing outcome. And we defined the outcome based on the data sets. Lisa that said, these are the things we think are gonna matter. And when we get these, let's really stretch and say, what if, what if, and what if we did this, what we look like then, and we attached emotions to that, which is a missing piece of a lot of individual change programs and group change programs, which is what this was kind of miss. And that is the, that gives the motivation. And then ultimately you want that inspiration for each person to feel like they're part of something bigger themselves. So the whole thing is wrapped around purpose. So that was kind of the structure of the plan or the broad structure of the plan to move from here to there, but using key steps for the, proper decision making.
Lisa Thee (19:25):
So by capturing hope and capturing discretionary energy, you were able to define a future that everybody was excited to be part of and help create that outcome.
Mike Amato (19:37):
Absolutely, absolutely. And, and give them tools. So there was an acknowledgement early on, we had an executive meeting with my team of people and we were talking about issues and challenges, problems, and whatever the things we always talked about. Right. And, and we're talking about the importance for policies and some of the policies were just, I didn't like 'em there, there were way too elemental. If I can, if I can describe it as such way, too prescriptive. And, and, and so we sat back and I said, guys,
Lisa Thee (20:04):
We're not trusting adults to be adults.
Mike Amato (20:06):
Oh, there you go. You're go. You're, you're beat me there. And I say guys, meeting men and women, cuz it was a mixture in the room. It's like, I, I, I heard something the other day that when our employees leave the building or leave the, their, their, their office location, wherever that is, they actually go home and they, they do things like make babies and then they raise these babies and then they, they, they actually go to parent teacher conferences on their all without a policy from us. They, they, they, they bury grandparents and they take care of their parents. They have lives all without our help. Let's begin talking as, as if they're adults, let's start giving context for change. Let's start having people understand why we need to look at this. And we have the greatest gift of all, which is crisis, which embarrassed everybody.
Mike Amato (20:50):
Now we've got this, let's not waste this opportunity by treating people like children and, and being over prescriptive. And so we did everything from changing certain words that were driving bad behaviors to addressing drivers of customer dissatisfaction, turns out there's data showed us there's two or three things that if we solved, we could actually resolve a massive percentage of our customer complaints and all those things we set out to do. But we provided all that information for our colleagues. They not only bought into the problem statement, but they became energetically engaged in helping work towards the resolution and helping make the organization better. And my, my final point in, in this very long answer to your simple question, but, and the issue came down to leadership. The issue came down to leadership. And so we recognized we had to start, understanding how to create leaders with a different definition of their role and actually challenge their actual relevance. And so we had to do that. Otherwise the leader can be a magnifier for our corporate vision, or they could be a shock absorber. They could minimize it. And we wanted not a random occurrence. We wanted to have a consistent, good output. So rather than focus on the behaviors of the frontline employees, which most change programs do we actually looked at, what does it mean to be a leader in our organization and what makes a relevant leader versus whatever people were identifying themselves as prior to that.
Lisa Thee (22:22):
Boy, treating people with dignity and respect, and seeing what happens <laugh>, what a novel approach. so that leads me to where we are today. you are writing a book, that will be coming out shortly named A Better Way to Win. Can you tell us a little bit about what inspired you, to want to write and move forward in scaling this message beyond the banking industry?
Mike Amato (22:48):
Absolutely. Thank you, Lisa. yeah, it's actually The Better Way to Win. And, and what it was is that, I, as I would go around both as a member of the boards of different banks in the UK, but also talking to former colleagues and did some consulting, work for, for a couple of financial institutions. And non-financial institutions realize that there's a real pattern, around the mindset of leaders. And when you start look at the pattern, it became clear that there is a way to win that is taught and it's called conventional wisdom. And it says, here's what you do. And you cut costs. You try to raise, raise revenue and, and grow the business while cutting costs, but you minimize the employee, expense part of it, cuz employees are expense. Then you go give a presentation that employees are our greatest resource. So
Lisa Thee (23:37):
I think I've seen that show before <laugh>
Mike Amato (23:40):
<laugh> Yeah. Exactly. And, and what, what became really abundantly clear as leaders don't know their, their, you know, the emperor has no clothes. So when you sit on the mountaintop and say, this person who caused all sorts of problems in the organization is leaving to pursue other opportunities. When the entire organization knows you fired them, I understand legal and compliance issues and, and, and certainly human issues to the person who was let go, but still it undermines the basic credibility of leaders. So the better way to win is a book about transforming the organization by actually putting people over profits. And the implication that I make very clear in the book is that you'll actually drive higher profits. My P and L is people in leadership and that will drive P and L of higher profit losses rather than treat profit losses as the input to your strategy and your, and your plan. It actually is a key measurement or an output of that.
Lisa Thee (24:35):
Ooh, I love that framework and difference of perspective. I think we've all lived through some unprecedented times in the past few years in employment. Can you talk a little bit about some of the trends that you're seeing and culture change right now and why this is a great opportunity for leaders to shake things up?
Mike Amato (24:54):
Yes, absolutely. if the BBC calling Barclays turned out to be the greatest gift we could receive, well, I'm not sure we can say it just yet, but the, but the pandemic in my mind, it changed the entire unwritten contract between management and employees. And it did it for everybody all at the same time. So it's, it's, I don't know if it's ever happened in history, maybe, maybe a world war, but it disrupted the entire relationship between an organization's management, the objectives and the people doing the work and how we did the work. And now we're starting to see it with people being asked to go back to the office are saying, no, we're now seeing that companies have, this I'm gonna be quite direct and maybe a little bit too direct here, but companies have such a poor employee value proposition that they're relegated to price, to, paying bonuses, to disrupting the relationship with existing employees, to attract new employees with massive signing bonus, higher salaries, higher incentives, because that's the only tool that they have in their toolkit to attract talent. Now what's just like a product, you know, when you're down to price is the only guide to your, to your, selling your product. It's a commodity, right? So now we've treated employees like a commodity and that's what's happening in spades in the marketplace now. So that's what I'm seeing.
Lisa Thee (26:16):
Lisa Thee (26:17):
A really great reflection. You know, you see it labeled the great resignation and the great awakening and all these things, but you're right. It's a commodity type of model. There's low barriers for movement now, compared to what was before my dad worked for general motors for 30 years, for example, and the reasons were, there was a pension and there was really good health benefits and a long-term investment in the company. And he felt part of something. I don't see that as much today, in the workforce, right?
Mike Amato (26:49):
Yeah. That, that, that attachment to purposes is not just lip service. you know, being in Seattle will be good, a chance to see a lot of Microsoft, Amazon, Boeing, Starbucks, Google is here, Apple is here and, and in the tasting room, a lot of 'em like to drink wine. So I have the greatest time, not only sharing information about wine, but also hearing about their challenges and, and in that executive coach I'm I'm, I'm mentoring executives, as they try to wrestle with this, with this challenge of an employee value proposition, what does it mean? How do you create it and how do you create one? That's not price led. So it's really amazing. I had somebody from a major organization here in Seattle, say their career path by observing closely what happens is that they wanna move up, but they, the company's not hiring people internally now for the more senior roles. So they're gonna quit go to the competitor, get a big signing bonus. And they said, I think the signing bonus, they have to stay for 90 days or, or it might be, might be longer, but the X period of days, then they can return back to their previous employer at a higher level and get the raise there and get the promotion there because they're coming from the outside and they've seen several colleagues do it. So if that's not the peak of madness, I don't know what is. So it's leadership.
Lisa Thee (28:03):
Couldn't agree more, you know, I'm gonna pose a question that a leader posed to me recently to get your point of view on it. because I really had a strong empathy for this leader. So they're at a large tech firm, global tech firm. And what they shared with me was this, look, I have been leading a team for many years. My people are really important to me. I'm passionate about the product that we make, and I'm excited to show up to work every day during the pandemic, my employee engagement scores were pretty strong, in 2021, but I just got 22 back and they've tanked and I've gone back to my employees and said, your satisfaction's really important to me. You're not replaceable to me. What's going on? Like, what can I do? And what he, this particular person was hearing back is it's not that you're doing anything different.
Lisa Thee (28:59):
It's that I feel bad letting down my teammates by not helping with things. And it's extending my work days. And, you know, the days and nights are blurring and the I'm having a hard time holding boundaries. And I don't, it's important to me to continue to deliver for my team. So I don't say no. And that's, what's driving my dissatisfaction. I don't think there's many people that are coming out without some level of burnout. <laugh> A couple years into this schlog, and some marginalized groups are more affected than others, but at a high level, Mike, what is your recommendation for leaders that are passionate about the mission they're within a company, have teams of people that are burning out, that they care about and are not replaceable assets to them that want to reset and help these people be more successful in having a sustainable career versus losing them to burnout.
Mike Amato (30:00):
Yeah. Gosh, that's big. That's a big question as I listen to you, Lisa, I'm struck by the fact that first of all, this leader is a good leader that you spoke to. It sounds like an obvious thing to go ask people. Why are you upset in reality? What happens in a lot of organizations is they don't ask. 'em why they're upset. They go look at the three most negative parts of the survey and they'll put project managers on resolving those three things. And they'll report back to the senior leaders for about three months or four months and tell 'em, oh yeah, here we go here, go. And we're gonna watch this next time. And they talk to everybody and coach 'em about making sure that we get those three parts right next time. And it's kind of all, you know, kind of lip service, right?
Mike Amato (30:36):
So this person did their logical thing and say, Hey, what's up? So that's gathering data. So, so now you gotta take that data and, and work it into insights what's happening. I, I would look for differences in understanding what it means to be burned out and try to validate that. So take that information and try to validate based on productivity or based on cap job capability and try to matrix that and understand is it air gets burned out or are I low performers dragging everybody down? Is it because they're home? So create hypotheses and try to put the hypotheses there. Is it because we don't have enough people? But if you go as a.
Lisa Thee (31:12):
Lisa Thee (31:13):
Instance, I, they were lacking project project managers and we were talking about some role-based consulting to take some of the load off of the product managers that were burning out.
Mike Amato (31:23):
There you go. But for this manager to get the resources for that financial resources, he has to tell a story to the CEO. And the story says, ive vandalized all these drivers of, of engagement. I've looked at them, I've validated these drivers. And I'm again, waving my hands around trying to describe different drivers. But, and in that process I've realized it's this resource we need used in this case project managers, not, I just need to hire more people or I need to expand. I need more ability, actually a surgical discussion on where to spend the money and what will happen if we do it there, there's gonna be a benefit to the organization. If we do this, there's gonna be a cost as well. So how do we, how do we justify that? If you look at holistically like that, you stand a very good chance of getting the resources because there will be confidence that that leader is actually deploying them surgically, not as a, as just a broad brush approach to trying to make people happy.
Lisa Thee (32:21):
Yeah. I also like that this leader, went back to coaching as well of, I would rather you try and fail at some things versus have to be perfect at everything. It's okay. and I, I thought that was such a reflection on that leader as well. Like it's okay to say no, it's okay to say we tried it and it's not, you know, the juice isn't worth the squeeze and we're not gonna keep doing it. And it's okay to say we need more resources strategically. Even if the bottom line of the company is hurting right now.
Mike Amato (32:50):
Yeah. I mean, what relevance is management well in this case, management would be, what I'd like to know is when you come to a situation like that, hey, raise your hand. Let's talk about it. Let, let me try to understand it. Because if I can't walk in your shoes, I can't necessarily solve the problem or tell your story very well. So getting close to that. So they say, okay, so here's the circumstance Lisa just called me. She needs this by then. I've gotta do it with them, but I was just helping Mike over here. And so I'm here. So I'm trying to do all these things. So it's this example of what's really wearing me out, help me tell them to be different or help me to be different or gimme more resources. But this is a classic example. It's like, wow, that would be so powerful.
Lisa Thee (33:28):
So Mike, you mentioned earlier an industry statistic that average organizational change takes 10 years. I'm sure you've been through some organizations that attempted to make the change and failed. Do you mind sharing some key learnings from organizations that try this, but maybe aren't as successful. And what are some of the key lessons you've noticed from watching that process of where is the, the missing pieces that are critical to making this transformation successful?
Mike Amato (34:02):
Gosh, shotgun approach to that answer, to answer the question is shotgun approach. First of all, the belief that it's behavior, they need to understand what a great place this is to work. They need to understand the behaviors that we're gonna have to find for them, the behaviors that they need to exhibit every day for us to succeed. In other words, the issue is them, not us. Secondly, it's not embracing fundamental change of the way you do things in the ecosystem. It's a fundamental in the output. We need to make more money. We need people to be happier around here. We need a certain outcome and, and, and that is not a compelling reason to change or cause change. So it's always about, I, I used to make the joke, you know, great management practices start below my feet B the level below me, because sometimes the, the highest leaders in the organization would espouse a certain way of doing things, but they wouldn't do it themselves with their own team.
Mike Amato (34:57):
So, so you end up with this, you know, this, this virtue signaling a little bit. So that's, that's another thing that they do. Another thing that programs that fail is that, it's delegated to HR or to a, a, a, usually a very smart senior leader who is seen as a change agent and they own culture, or they own the customer, or they own something and they go and they try to take the program that's written by directly from the CEO and they try to embed it. But I don't, if, if the senior leaders throughout the organization don't buy into it and they don't see it as sponsored by the CEO, then it, then it just wilt and dies on the vine. Finally, other thing I would throw out is make it a campaign. One, the ways you can definitely kill a cultural transformation program is to make it a campaign.
Mike Amato (35:42):
And a campaign has a life cycle of about 90 days. Big build up big announcement. CEO says, I want this done. And when you hear my key deputy here, talk about it. Know what's coming from me, because I'm involved in every aspect. So we're gonna send this out, we're gonna show this and, and we're gonna go around. I'm gonna make speeches periodically about this, but I'll want to see you guys do it. So everybody. Yes, yes, yes. And they get refrigerator, magnets and little things around their, you know, webpages and the, like that says, we're this, we now that we're now this we're now that, and it's a, it's a big theme, roll it out. They do a couple of reports, couple of validations, couple things. And then after 90 days just dies away. And this too shall pass, becomes the way that people look at it. That's extremely popular. And, and it's, it's really disheartening to see that there's not even a fundamental understanding of a change process for an individual, much less for a number of individuals.
Lisa Thee (36:33):
So Mike, thank you for sharing some of those guideposts and the things that I would add there are, you know, reminding your leadership team that you have to keep repeating yourself many, many times to help people come along the journey and understand. So having the right assets in terms of, perhaps videos, scorecarding and metrics, accountability systems, making sure that you're continuously beating the drum and having that vision and mission forefront in front of people, having your leaders showcase that not in virtual signaling, but actual lived, experience. It's all those things that help things move forward, and align and, and really make the magic happen, to inspire people, to be willing to do that heavy, heavy lifting <laugh> because you have to go slow to go fast. Can you share an accomplishment? what is your favorite accomplishment so far of putting the right amount of effort up front to get the results you're looking for?
Mike Amato (37:35):
Absolutely. And, and before I do that, I would just say the, the first, aspect you mentioned was repeat yourself and, and, and I would add to that analyze how you are gonna change model the change yourself before you describe it, somebody else. And go ahead and share that. So that leads to answering your question then. So, what happened was that, we went out to gather insights and find out how people really felt about things. So I wanna know how they felt about them. As soft as that sounds, it, it actually provides more information, more data around the things that create, a lack of engagement. So, we had a, a brilliant group of people. They were my change agents. And so they went out and had the employee focus groups and they put us deck of cards in front of people with pictures, employees, and they came up with four pictures.
Mike Amato (38:26):
One of the pictures they say, describe Barclay's culture. One of them was a target. They said, well, what's that mean? Well, all I hear about is targets. I've got financial targets. If I miss the perfect week, the perfect day, the perfect. And, and, and I've got the targets broken down into, by the, by the hour, what I needed to do. And if I failed, I had a Friday call with my boss's boss and I was put on a performance improvement plan. And so Barclay's culture is about targets. They, they had some other cards too. But what I talked about was adult to adult means why don't we empower people? So instead of talking about targets, which a target is like a high jumper, imagine high jumpers. If it's a bar at four feet, they jump over it and they go four feet, two inches, move it up to five feet.
Mike Amato (39:07):
They jump over, they go five feet, two inches go up to six feet, six feet and two. So they clear the bar, clear the bar until we can't clear the bar. So you trying to hit the target. We changed the word said, let's just, let's start talking about goals. And goals is a sprinter who comes to the line and benchmarks herself or himself to their peers, give themselves permission to go to the finish line as fast as they can. And they perform, they execute all their training and they do it. They don't do it, but they measure the results at the end. So we want to change targets to goals now, to really answer your question, bring this all to the focal point of where I'm pretty proud about what happened. We had financial plan that we had to meet from a divisional standpoint, and instead of dividing it by the number of noses and sending it out, which was always the case, and that became the target.
Mike Amato (39:55):
What we did instead was say, let's go to all of our key managers around the organization, say, what do you think you can do? I want to know minimum you can do, but what if everything was perfect? What would it look like? And, and, and you won't be managed to that stretch goal, but I wanna know. And so we gave them a process for giving them insights in terms of how to do that bottom line is, is we delegated the goal setting or target setting to the field field being non-executives they came back with was rolled up all the plans, actually see the stretch goal significantly, because we asked a different question, not, can you hit this goal or target? Can you establish a goal that you think is you think you can do it? If everything is perfect. So it was, it sounds like a small thing, but it was amazing because we had 2,100 branches and four gigantic call centers and we'd let them set their own goals and son of a gun. They had more confidence in themselves than we did sitting at the executive level. So it was a cool moment.
Lisa Thee (40:54):
I can accept that answer. But for those that are listening to us today and recognizing they're at the beginning of a very long journey, I would like to share with them Mike, if they're in the Seattle based area, where can they come to drink wine with you and share their woes? Where, where will they find you?
Mike Amato (41:12):
<laugh> no, Hey look, I'm a part owner of Ambassador wines of Washington, we have two taste rooms in Woodenville, Washington, by the way, we were just named one of the top 100 wineries in the world, which was came out of nowhere. We're the smallest one. But, but we are, recognized as that. So
Lisa Thee (41:28):
Which as a wine club maker does not, or a wine club member, excuse me, does not surprise me at all. You guys are doing something really, really special up there. So I encourage people to check that out.
Mike Amato (41:38):
Thank you, Lisa.
Lisa Thee (41:39):
For folks that are interested in your core competencies around keynote speaking and executive coaching and those kinds of capabilities that you offer to the world, Mike, where do you recommend people find you?
Mike Amato (41:52):
Okay. They can find me at MikeAmatoSparks.com. The whole notion of that website is how do we light a spark? And it talks about my keynote speaking. It talks about my executive mentoring plan, program plus my consulting and it shares a lot of these messages as well. So, and, and the email, please email me, feel free to catch me at firstname.lastname@example.org. And finally, one of the processes of releasing the book is that I'm, I've been somewhat limited in my social media activities and, and releasing the book will really help me ramp that up a little bit. So you certainly can find me on LinkedIn and also on Facebook. Why Not You by Mike Amato. So you can find that there and find me there as well. So lots of ways to find me, but coming in let's talk and I'll listen to your woes. And I, I promise if you have a glass of wine, a hundred percent of our customers report that they're happy or after drinking the wine than they were before. <laugh> I dunno how we do Lisa.
Lisa Thee (42:44):
I can attest. And Mike, do you have a launch date where people can find the better way to win on Amazon?
Mike Amato (42:51):
So Lisa, the book should be launched in July about mid-July will be coming. You can find me on LinkedIn in terms of the exact details can buy it through my website or can buy it at Amazon or Barnes and Noble or anywhere books are sold.
Lisa Thee (43:03):
Wonderful. Thank you so much for your time today, Mike, it was really enjoyable to talk to you and I feel inspired to bring my best self and my discretionary energy back to my employer after today's conversation. So I really appreciate it.
Mike Amato (43:16):
Well, that's cool. Wonderful, Lisa. Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Hey everyone. Thanks for listening to the Navigating Forwardpodcast. We'd love to hear from you at a crossroads of uncertainty and opportunity. How do you navigate forward? We'll see you next time.