Alberta Quarcoopome’s thoughts … Assertiveness is key in the new normal’s risk environment (1)

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Alberta Quarcoopome

“The biggest concern for any organization should be when their most passionate people become quiet. Never push loyal employees to the point where they no longer care”!

I am a loyal fan/follower of Brigette Hyacinth, who is a bestselling Author, and an International Keynote Speaker on Leadership, Management, HR, Digital Transformation and Artificial Intelligence. Her latest book, Leading the Workforce of the Future: Inspiring a Mindset of Passion, Innovation and Growth” is one compelling book that I will recommend to all executives and professionals who are seriously concerned about the new normal environment.

Commentary about the book quotes “Leading the Workforce of the Future mandates new levels of self-awareness. As the workplace evolves in the direction of innovation, digitalization, and rapid change, leaders must follow suit in order to remain relevant and engaging to this multigenerational workforce.

This book provides concrete advice and best practices on how to engage and retain top talent. It addresses several areas to focus on to future proof yourself and your business. In this book you will discover strategies to: Become the leader your team needs you to be. Accelerate talent development. Reshape your culture. Reskill your workforce. Create an innovation mindset. Succeed with purpose. The future is no longer some far-off destination; it is already here. Don’t be caught off guard!”

Feedback from readers set me thinking as I went through my archives to retrieve an article I wrote in September, 2017 titled “How Assertive are you in Managing Risk in your Company?” I am therefore extracting parts of the article to re-publish. Interestingly, every part is still relevant three years later. The main difference is the new environment within which business is conducted and how to listen more to employees who are assertive to benefit from recommendations made for proper risk management.

The definition of “assertive” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary is ”someone who behaves confidently and is not frightened to say what they want or believe. The Collins Dictionary also says: someone who is assertive states their needs and opinions clearly, so that people take notice.

Once again, we all know that every activity in life is composed of balancing the reward and the risk. The best part is when you have made a success of it and overcome the hurdles. In the workplace, we perform daily transactions which involve risk, and at the end of the day, we check for any errors, shut down our computers, close our books and files, lock our offices to go home to rest peacefully, praying our books have balanced.

The above definition of assertiveness connotes the fact that assertiveness can go both ways…to your detriment and downfall or to your reward and promotion. Everyone likes to be promoted on the job, as a sign of advancement. We all want to have a sense of self-actualization in a stage of our life. How do we get there?

The “Practice what you preach” analogy

With all the beautifully packaged adverts on television, radio and social media, practicing what is preached is a must, since anybody can take the banks on if their staff default in exhibiting the core values. This is where the problem starts. Each bank has its operational policies and processes for every activity. These cannot be applied in a vacuum as their execution incorporate the core values of the company. Now let us ponder over a few issues that cause role conflict and ethical dilemma for young professionals, and which does not show the practice what you preach analogy:

  • Placing square pegs in round holes. Many people are aware the supervisor is not fit for the job, and yet, the person is placed there for only God knows why. Is it to facilitate someone’s personal agenda?
  • The “do what I say, not do what I do” syndrome.
  • Lack of transparency in reports.
  • Unfair reward systems

The list is endless.

Assertiveness in Banking

In managing risk, we sometimes need to utilize a certain behavioural skill, which is assertiveness. Wikipedia says: “Assertiveness is the quality of being self-assured and confident without being aggressive. it is a learnable skill and mode of communication”.  It describes assertive people as having the following characteristics:

  • They feel free to express their feelings, thoughts, and desires.
  • They are “also able to initiate and maintain comfortable relationships with [other] people”
  • They know their rights.
  • They have control over their anger. This does not mean that they repress this feeling; it means that they control anger and talk about it in a reasoning manner.
  • “Assertive people are willing to compromise with others, rather than always wanting their own way … and tend to have good self-esteem”.

Let me quickly add that aggressiveness and foul language can never be equated or come near assertiveness. Such characteristics are for people who want cheap popularity from peers.

After one of my recent articles was published, I received several messages from some staff of banks. One of them said that he will be more assertive in his future banking career, that is, if he happens to work in a bank again. The person was blaming himself that he could have reduced the negative occurrences in his former bank if he had been assertive and made his comments and inputs on the job more transparently. Anyway, there is no need to cry over spilt milk.

One assertive person may have made a tiny difference, but many assertive persons in the bank can make a whole lot of difference. This brings to mind a recent event where an officer in a bank who was given instruction to honour cheques found herself sanctioned later. Being the “supposed hardworking staff” that she was, being loyal to the bosses to execute transactions before ratification resulted in her being seriously sanctioned. Guess what? Another boss asked her later. “So, if your boss asks you to take a knife and go and kill someone, will you do it?” Yes, that is how far respect without assertiveness can do to young professionals!

Reflections from Brigette Hyacinth

Brigette Hyacinth’s latest post on linked-in sums up all the key points in how necessary it is to listen to your assertive staff, reads as follows:

“My new boss told me to never be afraid to give feedback. The next Monday morning in a meeting, I happily shared my viewpoint on a new policy. Thereafter, I noticed my boss’s disposition towards me changed. He stopped talking to me. I was shunned. I even felt the effects of this in my monthly performance appraisal, where he noted, I was not supportive of the organization, and I needed to be a better team player. The picture was quite clear – truthful feedback was not appreciated.

Heather, a co-worker approached me and said, “You are new, honest feedback is just lip service, don’t fall for it.” I quickly learned loyalists and sycophants were appreciated, while realists were punished. They built a culture of “yes employees.” I knew I had so much to offer, yet I couldn’t. It was time to plan my exit strategy.

Your front-line employees know your customers best; they interact with them daily. They have the answers on how to improve customer service and your products. They use your internal tools and systems every day. They have the solutions on how to improve systems which can save money by driving efficiencies. A company that doesn’t listen to their employees is on a slow rolling disaster.

If you keep treating employees poorly, you will never earn their loyalty. And once employees decide they have had enough, they will leave in spite of what you may try to retain them. It would be a little too late. The signs where there early on but you ignored it.

Employees who have been pushed to the point where they no longer care, will not go the extra mile. They will not take the initiative to solve problems. They will end up treating customers the same way you treat them. Employees are the heartbeat of the company. And if the heart stops beating…What will happen?

As a leader, your job is to encourage others around you to be open and honest without a negative consequence. When employees offer their ideas and differing opinions – be open-mindedCompanies that remain strong in this competitive market, understand the need to embrace change and continuous improvement. And it starts with making your employees feel heard, valued and appreciated”.

Let me pause here for now with this quote: ” Leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say.” -Andy Stanley

TO BE CONTINUED

>>>the author is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.

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