Ask, listen, and look — how to make better-informed decisions

Okay, I admit in some ways I'm a dinosaur. I thought I was with it and hip … wait, is “hip” still hip? But I've been a banker now for 30 years. When I first started and had to wear a suit and tie, I absolutely hated it.

Over time I became used to it and started to believe that “suit and tie” was how a banker should look.

But recently I changed my mind.

In a recent blog I mentioned the value of surveying employees in measuring satisfaction and the critical importance of employee engagement. Another valuable aspect of such surveys is the open-ended questions and comments. The comments can be very informative, and when I read them I look for themes. In our last survey there were several comments and suggestions about a more casual dress code.

At first I dismissed the comments because of my old-school bias. But as I continued to think about it, I remembered 20 years ago when I brought in one of my first new clients to First Business. It was a construction-related company owned by a husband and wife. After calling on them many times in my suit and tie, we finally had the loan closing scheduled on a Friday, and I was dressed for our newly instituted “Casual Friday.” I still remember the wife greeting me that day, saying, “You finally look like a normal human being!”

I felt I needed to give this change some serious consideration.

I decided to seek the advice of others who would validate or challenge my long-held beliefs. I asked some business associates who knew our industry, clientele, and reputation well and listened to what they had to say.

(Continued)

 

When I interacted with other business professionals (accountants, attorneys, insurance professionals, etc.), I looked around to observe how others were dressed. I realized I was often one of the most formally dressed, and in the minority wearing a suit and tie.

In addition, because of where my office is in our building, I can see clients coming to the bank. Observing them I realized that virtually none were dressed in suits and ties. Finally, I talked to other members of our senior management team who all supported the idea of going more casual every day of the week, not just on Fridays.

In the end, I overcame my ingrained views and we decided to change our company dress code completely.

It was a big change for me, but I was able to get there by asking others (both inside and outside the company) their opinions, really listening to what they thought, and then observing what was really happening around me with a new perspective and a more open mind.

Where do you look to inspire change and evolution in your company? I’d love to hear your stories.

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