It’s challenging for any organization to successfully create a one-team culture — where everyone works toward the same goals with a shared sense of purpose — even in the best of times. Because our bank has multiple divisions and marketing team members spread out across different geographies, learning to become an effective, cohesive team from a distance is something we’ve been focused on long before the pandemic.
Companies in every industry (yes, even financial services) embrace more flexible, hybrid work models — either ongoing or as situations require. I believe our proven approach can help marketing teams work better together, despite not always physically working in the same place at the same time.
Here are seven strategies for creating and sustaining a one-team culture in financial marketing, where people feel connected and supported to perform at consistently high levels, even without a water cooler to gather around.
Strategy 1: Create Smaller ‘Teams’ within the Team
For some people, it’s an easy default to just do their own jobs in their own siloes. Designers who only design. Writers who only develop marketing content. Marketers who only work in one region with one set of local bankers. This is even easier to fall into when you’re working at a physical distance from other people within your department.
Marketing leaders can combat staffers’ natural tendency to stick close to home by creating opportunities for cross-pollination via ad hoc projects and ongoing companywide initiatives.
For example, instead of having only members of the digital marketing team involved in developing a new website or choosing a new email marketing platform, put together a small working group consisting of people with different skillsets and perspectives to help build stronger, more collaborative partnerships across the department.
Strategy 2: Find Projects for All-Team Involvement
The reverse is also true: Financial institutions can benefit by identifying projects for all-team participation.
In past years, Western Alliance Bank has held our annual management conference for senior leaders at resort properties in and around Phoenix. This is where our company is headquartered and where winter meetings hold national appeal.
This shared project for the full marketing team, now around 20 people, brings us together for what is always an intense, high-energy event with a satisfyingly clear beginning, middle and end. Long days and long nights of hosting a major event naturally build camaraderie. Importantly, this all-team event also lets our group interact with the bank’s subject matter experts from all over the country on all parts of the business. This helps make team members more even invested and effective marketers. (We are currently planning to resume this in-person company event in 2022.)
Strategy 3: Promote Opportunities for ‘Lateral Leadership’
Find ways to empower experts in the field to bring resources to the corporate team and lead companywide efforts when it makes sense, a welcome alternative to top-down decision-making.
In just one small example of lateral leadership, we have a marketing executive based in a different state with a passion for retail and great relationships with local vendors. This person now runs our “store” nationally — a necessary function and one she actively enjoys — which provides opportunities to mix it up with other marketing people at various levels across multiple regions.
Strategy 4: Think of Meetings as an Art, Not a Science
How you schedule and run your internal marketing meetings makes a big difference, culturally.
In general, holding shorter and more frequent meetings on specific topics is a better way to get things done and accomplish tasks in real time. But when it comes to connecting people and reinforcing the larger sense that everyone is working together to achieve shared company and department goals, nothing beats an all-team, all-day meeting. This goes for whether you’re on video or in person.
One way to maximize engagement during an all-team meeting brainstorming into the agenda. This can be on a particular subject or open-ended. If your bank or credit union has a major milestone coming up or is getting ready to launch a new initiative, consider this kind of big-tent topic to engage the full marketing team at all levels to contribute ideas and think both practically and creatively. Ask questions, get people talking.
Meetings are a great platform to showcase the talents of rising professionals and give them a chance to practice essential presentation skills. Make a point of interrupting and asking questions to foster coolness under pressure.
Another value-add for all-team meetings is to invite a team in from another department to present on their area of expertise. Everyone who works in financial services marketing should know their way around a balance sheet. But having an expert from the Finance Department come in to explain the intricacies of pre-provision net revenue and why this metric matters to the bank can give people a deeper understanding of how the company operates and what’s important.
Similarly, having the Investor Relations team present key information about how they communicate with investors provides marketing staff with a new way to view this critical stakeholder audience.
Strategy 5: Invest in Meaningful Professional Development
Professional development that promotes individual job satisfaction and also supports greater team productivity is a double win. At our most recent all-team meeting, held virtually this summer, we dedicated time to a session on productive conflict, facilitated by an executive coach.
Inevitably, with every good team, people will have different opinions. Investing in pre-emptive training together can help people better recognize their own behaviors and characteristics so they can work well as a team, even (and especially) when there is disagreement.
While many people have completed personality/communications assessments to better understand their own personal style, this learning experience took it further to help transform potentially destructive workplace disagreements into more positive behaviors.
Strategy 6: Encourage Relationship Building Internally
For most banks and credit unions, Marketing acts as a service department that works across the company to support a sometimes-dizzying array of internal and external efforts. When done well, everyone from product teams and IT to HR and company leadership will want more of your team’s focus and support.
Just as senior level marketing leaders work to build productive partnerships with their peers in other departments, encourage team members at every level to build strong relationships with their own set of go-to partners around the company to fuel success and heighten every team member’s involvement in the department’s overall success.
Strategy 7: Celebrate Wins
Finally, don’t underestimate the power of generous positive feedback when it comes to teambuilding. No matter how busy people are or how fast your team is moving, it’s important to take time to recognize people’s good work and celebrate well-earned wins, big and small, with your team.