Mark C. Crowley

Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century

What people feel in their hearts has profound influence over their motivation & workplace performance.
“In contrast to longstanding management thinking, the heart is the driving force of human achievement, and employee engagement is a decision of the heart.”
– Mark C. Crowley
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How Washington Mutual Lost Its Heart

Posted by on Sep 26, 2011 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons | 0 comments

Washington Mutual

Note: This blog post was first published in the Editorial section of The Seattle Times on Sunday, September 25th, 2010

In a stunning coincidence, today marks the 122nd anniversary of Washington Mutual’s founding – and the third anniversary of its demise.

WaMu survived the Great Depression and a crisis that wiped out a quarter of all US thrifts in the 1990’s. It became a national brand.

With such endurance behind it, how is it possible this once stalwart institution ended up as the largest bank failure in American history? Within the answer to that question are important lessons for leaders about building and maintaining successful organizations.

Its spectacular collapse has been reported to be the result of extraordinary loan losses followed by a massive run on deposits. What really killed WaMu, however, was a change in the company’s century-old culture and values – a misguided move that marginalized its historic regard and care for employees and customers in the interest of driving an ever-expanding bottom line for shareholders.

Washington Mutual had been “a friend of the family.” And employees felt they were part of a family. A former senior executive told me his co-workers sent so many care packages when he served in Vietnam he couldn’t wait to return to WaMu.

In the late-90’s, the bank launched an aggressive period of national expansion. By 2003, WaMu’s ranks swelled to nearly 50,000 employees.

To preserve the culture that boasted a century of success, Killinger decided to reintroduce the bank’s five enduring values (Fair, Caring, Human, Dynamic and Driven). At “brand rallies” held across the country, employees were immersed in everything WaMu. They learned that the first three values were the foundation of our culture and the final two made us competitive and successful. However, we only “lived our brand” when all five were in balance.

The brand rallies took place until mid-2003. In 2004, WaMu suffered a significant financial loss. Convinced the bank had grown too large for Killinger to run alone, the Board of Directors named Steve Rotella as President and Chief Operating Officer.

Rotella acted quickly. He believed certain high-ranking executives needed to be replaced in order to succeed at a national level. He also openly disregarded the first three values. Making an all-too-common error about what kind of corporate culture drives the greatest and most sustainable productivity and profit (and what could have restored the firm to high achievement), he asserted that too much emphasis had been placed on being “fair, caring and human,” and nowhere near enough on “dynamic and driven.”

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More Control Is The Antidote To Workplace Stress

Posted by on Sep 21, 2011 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

For over forty years, Sir Michael Marmot, professor of Epidemiology and Public Health at University College in London, has been monitoring the health of 28,000 workers – people who all work at “Whitehall,” the citadel of Great Britain’s civil service.

Seeking to determine if professional rank influences workplace stress, Marmot found Whitehall ideal for his study because all of his subjects worked in the same environment and in jobs that were ranked in a precise hierarchy. In other words, there were few variables which affected Whitehall employees other than their rank.

If you’re inclined to believe that people higher up in an organization – people in leadership roles with much greater degrees of responsibility – are likely to suffer the greatest workplace stress, Marmot has proved conclusively otherwise.

Instead, people whose jobs fall lowest on the totem pole suffer more serious stress-related consequences. They’re far more likely to experience heart disease and weak immune systems – and their life expectancy is also well below average. Men in the lowest job grade (messengers and door keepers), in fact, were shown to have mortality rates three times that of men in the highest administrative ranks.

According to Marmot, the degree of stress we all suffer in our jobs is directly – and linearly – related to where our roles fall on company’s organization chart. The higher our degree of responsibility, the less stress we suffer.

“How can this be?” you may be asking.

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Unite As A Team – And Win!

Posted by on Sep 14, 2011 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons | 0 comments

Unite as a team and Win

One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned about leadership is how amazingly well employees perform when they’re united as a team and committed to a shared mission.

Several years ago, I was leading a region of 30 bank branches that had been consistently high achieving. Month in and month out, we ranked in the top 10% of the 85 nationwide regions – but never once had we led the firm.

One weekend, I took home a pile of reports and poured over them with a goal of identifying what specific performance distinguished the three highest performing regions. I was surprised to discover the gap between us was nowhere near as wide as I’d imagined.

In time for my next meeting with all my direct reports, I prepared a few slides which illustrated the results we would need to achieve in order to move to the top. Wanting to challenge my team to get the satisfaction that only comes from being number one, I asked them directly, “Why don’t we set our sights on becoming the best region in the bank?”

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Display Equanimity (And Never Lick Anyone’s Sandwich) When Others Succeed.

Posted by on Sep 7, 2011 in Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons | 0 comments

I have a twin brother and, as ten-year-old kids, we made a firm agreement: whoever made it into the TV room first got to pick which shows we watched.

More often than not, we enjoyed a lot of the same programs – Superman, the Three Stooges and Bugs Bunny cartoons. But there still were times when my getting into the den second meant I was stuck watching the Munsters – or some tedious game show – all at my brother’s insistence.

One afternoon, my brother had dibs in the room and proceeded to watch one show after another he knew I had absolutely no interest in. I sat stewing knowing he was the one in power – and quite unlikely to relinquish control.

After a couple hours of this, my brother suddenly got hungry and informed me that he was heading into the kitchen to make a sandwich and would return to watch more of his shows.

I, of course, promptly objected to his plan and reminded him that his leaving the den for even a second would make me the first one in. I told him directly that my shows were going on just as soon as he left the room.

In that moment (and perhaps all moments), my brother was much more clever than I was. He went to the doorway and laid himself on the ground. With his toes still touching the carpet in the den, he reached around into the kitchen and grabbed one of the many floor rugs my mother had placed there.

Brilliantly, he used that first rug to overlap the carpet in the den and then proceeded to build a chain of connected rugs allowing him to go fully into the kitchen, make himself a huge sandwich and, technically, remain in the den all at the same time.

In the moment, I saw my brother’s genius and knew I’d been beaten.

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Distilled Wisdom From America’s Chief Executives

Posted by on Sep 1, 2011 in Current Affairs, Heart Leadership In Practice, Leadership, Life Lessons, Wisdom From Other Authors | 0 comments

The Corner OfficeHave you ever wondered whether American CEOs share similar leadership traits – whether there’s a short list of qualities which propelled all of their careers?

New York Times writer, Adam Bryant, did, and interviewed more than 70 top leaders in order to find out.

In his new book, “The Corner Office: Indispensable and Unexpected Lessons From CEOs on How to Lead and Succeed,” Bryant says his discussions with senior executives point to five essentials for success – “qualities that most of the CEOs share and also look for in people they hire.”

Bryant found these five characteristics so common in to managers, in fact, he concluded they inherently represent a magical leadership formula.   He therefore urges leaders to adopt these traits and confidently promises the rewards for doing so: “They will make you stand out.  They will make you a better employee, manager and leader. They will lift the trajectory of your career and speed your progress.”[1]

So what were the five common qualities Bryant found in top executive managers – the ones he’s convinced will set us all apart?   Here’s a quick summary of the list:

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