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2017-11-28 17:52
By Kim Jong-nam



For the past two weeks, I have been involved in a consulting service for one of Korea’s largest banks. The purpose was to examine how high-performing branches achieve their success, how they are different from medium- or low-performing branches, and how a high-performing organizational culture can be nurtured.

I visited 10 branches and interviewed their sales forces, middle managers, and branch managers.
Because they were located in different environments, their answers gave me a lot of thought-provoking insights. For example, some branches told me that their remote location had prevented them from attracting customers.
But location did not seem to be a problem for other remote branches.

What became most apparent was that the methods, strategies, and processes the high-performing branches adopted were surprisingly different. All had different approaches as to how sales goals should be shared with and assigned to each staff member and how comprehensive sales should be managed.

For example, some branches allocated the same share to each employee, while others only set goals for staff as a whole. Nonetheless, both types of branches had similar performances and were picked as exemplary.

Different branches also had different views about marketing, which tended to vary according to clientele and sales strategies. In addition, each branch manager had different secrets on how to motivate, educate, and manage staff.
Finally, and most notably, they had different policies for sales, treating customers, and achieving sales targets.

At first, I was taken aback at how dissimilar each high-performing branch was, because I was supposed to collect common methodologies and processes that worse-performing branches could copy.
I began spending a lot of time analyzing each branch’s sales trends against their strategies. However, it was not easy to find common data on what really made them excellent.

Fortunately, as the interviews went on, I was able to find what helped them some branches achieve better results than others _ the high quality of leadership at each successful branch.
Even though specific techniques were different, the mind-sets, attitudes, and behavior were similar or the same.

This was my “aha moment.” I was astounded by these real-life examples of powerful and influential leadership, which could be seen not only in the branches’ performance, but also in how employees and middle managers talked about their branch leaders.

There were many types of effective leadership. Some leaders gave their power and influence to their middle managers, so the middle managers were the ones who really directed, motivated and educated employees.

However, some leaders took those responsibilities themselves, and showed genuine interest in how their employees were treated and what they needed.
But no matter how they interacted with employees, the leaders had one thing in common: enthusiasm for their mission.

This characteristic was obvious and, because of that, had a considerable ripple effect, transferring from the top to the bottom naturally. The branch managers were role models from who middle managers and employees learned behavior.

The effects were almost magic: it seemed as though whatever the leaders wanted to happen came true. Whatever specific goals each branch had, these goals were attained.

I am not saying that the branch managers were omnipotent _ however, their leadership created an atmosphere of possibility.

Of course, they were reading their physical environments well, and creating strategies on how best to use their resources and people?passion alone is not enough. However, their enthusiasm, keen expressions and overall attitude convinced me that the most powerful secret of high-performing organizational cultures is the spirit of their leaders.

Nowadays, many people say that Korea cannot expect the economic growth of the past due to a mismatch between the new global economic paradigm and our old, traditional approaches.
But I believe that a high-performing culture is more dependent on leaders’ mindsets and attitudes than on any one approach.

That is why we should look at our mental preparation and mindsets first. Then, we can look at tools, techniques and theories. Culture reflects the spirit of the leaders.


Kim Jong-nam is founding CEO of META (www.imeta.co.kr) and author of two books, Organizations without Meetings and Breaking the Silent Rules.


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