“Leadership is a responsibility to elicit- and help people discover – the greatness they already possess”.
I enjoyed meeting Peter Aceto at the Art of Leadership Conference in November. His focus on ‘we’ and an open leadership style was refreshing. He reinforced the importance of emotional intelligence along with the ‘soft skills’ that are often missed with today’s strong focus on the data and statistics of lean bottom line approaches. Don’t get me wrong, data and efficiency is important but it needs to be valued when it is combined with leadership, EQ, collaboration, communication, empathy and a team approach.
Aceto is the CEO of Tangerine (formerly ING Direct). He uses examples from his day to day work and his experience transitioning from his roles as a lawyer to working in a unique banking organization and sharing his ‘people-first’ leadership approach. Tangerine does not focus on titles, Aceto does not have an assigned parking spot or even an office. He encourages and actively listens to feedback from his team and even answers calls in the call centre to remain close to customers and to listen to ideas from all members of the team.
He strives to put “people first in the short term so that the company thrives in the long term”. He feels that the first part of each meeting should be ‘wasted‘ by chatting with the team and showing that you care about members since “people who are happy in their work and feel valued will probably want to work with you for a longer time”. He shared the great feeling he has when, even if a staff member moves on, they have been mentored and likely continue to be a positive spokesperson for Tangerine.
“Be the positive person in the room today. You’ll bring everyone up”.
He talks about hard work, being prepared and being able to admit and learn from mistakes. He shared that at the end of his first year as CEO, he enabled the team to vote on whether he would stay or go. In a dramatic move, he empowered the team to decide his fate through anonymous ballots – 97% of the team voted for him to stay which is a tribute to his leadership style.
“It is my job to set people up for success. People, by nature, are good and want to contribute to something worthwhile. Leaders have to put their people in situations that will enable them to do that. There is more to it, though. To start, people need to know what is expected of them, how they are doing and to get coaching to help them do better”.
Like many businesses, Aceto comments that “change is part of our foundation” and suggests that “we can’t wait for an adapt to change – we have to instigate change”. He notes that “change creates opportunities” and that “change is constant. So you either manage it, or it manages you”. This is certainly important advice for leaders. Working in health care, I feel that my career over the past 2 decades has been constant change. While this is stressful for some, I appreciate the innovation and look forward to new opportunities and the chance to make a difference!
He reinforces the importance of downtime, whether it be spending time with your family, volunteering in the community, playing/coaching sports or simply taking a walk. This gives time to recharge, to refresh and to return to work with focus. This is a challenge for many of us, we forget that we need to apply our own air mask first and seem to be focused on attending the needs of others in our roles as leaders and as parents.
At times, the book did read like a Tangerine commercial but I do admit that it makes me tempted to look past traditional banking and open up an account and give this customer service approach a try. Overall, Weology provides a great number of practical tips and encouragement bound with real-life examples and honesty. Aceto has learned, made mistakes and made a difference to his team, his customers and his community. He really does seem like the guy next door. I have a list of fiction authors that I would love to have lunch with and Peter Aceto is a leadership author that I would love to have coffee with him and discuss his leadership style.