The Culture Club


Four steps toward building a positive, productive team

By Lindsay LaNore

Acommunity bank’s culture: It’s a feeling and at times hard to explain. It’s demonstrated in the way a customer can walk into a bank and immediately know he or she is part of a community. It surfaces in the way a community bank leader gets shoulder to shoulder with the entire team. It is confirmed in the way employees show up to work with their “A-Games.”

A positive, engaging culture makes a world of difference. Cultures come in all shapes and are exemplified in various forms, but banks with the most positive and profitable cultures rise up and create something different.

They aim for (and achieve) a culture where employees say, “You need to feel it to believe it.”

Proactive engagement is required at all levels of successful banks. Successful banks achieve a positive culture where employees and customers show up each day and truly engage in the meetings, products and environment.

Here are four actions to take to set your community bank culture apart:

1. Seek participation from management and all teams. Engagement from all levels is key. When constructive-culture banks offer products, all frontline bankers who sell the product actually use the product. Better yet, they strive for nearly full product participation from all staff.

If a compliance officer is hosting a training session on a new regulatory requirement at a successful bank, all levels of the employee team attend—including senior managers. When leadership says, “Compliance is important,” it follows up and engages.

Spend time with fellow colleagues to understand their business lines and products they sell. Ask the members of each department to prepare a brief yet fun presentation to share their insights with their colleagues. Showcase a different business line each month. This gives employees opportunities to ask questions and learn more about the entire bank team.

2. Ask for feedback. Innovative banks measure the success of their culture. How can a successful cultural be measured? First, ask employees for feedback. It’s hottest closest to a fire. Those with the inside view reveal opportunities where change is needed. If direct feedback isn’t feasible, put an anonymous Idea Box or Idea White Board in a common area for employees to share their observations. A culture that responds to such feedback can tap lots of new opportunities.

3. Listen and observe. Progressive cultures recognize that engagement occurs among employees, and between the bank and its customers and community. This dynamic can be measured in the number of “hellos” colleagues share throughout the day, in the number of tweets that mention a bank’s Twitter handle, as well as in the number of new loan and account requests a bank receives.

4. Reflect. Look outside the window and think. Really think. When did it become so difficult to sit back, remove our hands from the keyboard, and actually think about what a department or bank might need?

By considering these four strategies, you just might identify ways to move toward a more productive, innovative and creative culture—one that anyone who enters your community bank will feel.

Lindsay LaNore ( is ICBA’s executive vice president, Community Banker University.