Merchants Homegrown Approach to Leadership Development

IBelieveLeadershipSeries-Blog

L-R: Alberta Rosburg, Heidi Viestenz, Alissa Gibson, Mike Swanson, Andrew Althoff, Libbie Longfield, Marcus Krings, Vicky Kamrowski, Sarah Danielson, Dawn Stenberg, Sue Blagsvedt, Kim Kubis, Jim Vrchota, Wendy Cagle, Rachel Larson, Ken Graner and Kristine Valk.

We all want a team of talented staff. A business with skilled employees who care deeply about their customers is on the road to success. The people who work for your business can make a big difference. At Merchants, we feel this combination – our talented team coupled with personalized service – is what sets us apart from other financial institutions.

Attracting and retaining difference-makers as part of the Merchants team has always been important to us. We also feel it’s one of the reasons we’ve celebrated so many successes. That’s why we’re proud to have launched the I Believe Leadership Series, Discovering the Leader In You! in 2018. The program was designed by Merchants’ staff Kristine Valk, Training Director and Alberta Rosburg, Chief Human Resource Officer and is based on the philosophy of servant leadership.

“After recognizing that Merchants needed a leadership program, Kristine and I tried to find one that we could send our employees to,” said Alberta. “However, we quickly realized that if we wanted a program to reflect the Merchants’ culture, we needed to develop it ourselves. I’m so proud of Kristine, all of her hard work and the end result. The 15 students currently attending are growing in new ways to help them be servant leaders for our co-workers and customers.”

Students in the I Believe Leadership Series are from several areas of the Bank, including customer-facing departments such as Credit Cards, Mortgage and Commercial Banking as well as support departments like Compliance & Risk, Human Resources, Marketing and Mortgage/Loan Operations. The program curriculum covers a wide range of topics, relevant for those working with customers face-to-face or behind the scenes:

  • Temperament assessment and working with different personalities
  • Effective coaching skills
  • Understanding and applying strengths
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Communication and conflict resolution
  • Leading through change
  • Employee motivation and accountability
  • Team building

At this time, students are approximately halfway through the series. Many are already seeing a positive impact in their day-to-day interactions with customers and co-workers.

“The I Believe Leadership Series has been such a valuable and positive experience thus far. Fifteen of us have learned about servant leadership and how to focus on traits that lead to good, productive interactions on both a professional and personal level. The section on Finding your Strengths has been one of my favorites to date. A test identified five of our strengths as well as ideas on how to use them to strengthen communication. It’s exciting to think about how each of us will benefit from these new skills and knowledge. “– Wendy Cagle, Loan Review Officer in Winona.

“The information from the program has helped me be more focused on my conversations with customers and associates during my daily interaction,” – Ken Graner, Market President for Lanesboro and Rushford.

In addition, Training Director Kristine Valk has witnessed the impact of the series firsthand: “Before the program began, some of our participants didn’t really know one another. As we continued through the program, attendees have learned more about one another and are embracing each other’s talents. It’s really become an environment of trust and openness that’s resulted in more collaborative work.”

The program will run on an annual basis with current students graduating in April 2019 and a maximum of 20 new students beginning the series shortly after that. As part of one of five strategic priorities for the bank, talent management and leadership development will continue to be a key focus for Merchants in the years to come. Our I Believe in Leadership Series graduates will help all of us strive to serve each other and you better.

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