Founded on the core values of family, tradition, and personalized banking, Wood & Huston Bank is at the center of the state of Missouri and the heart of America. In this episode, Steve Farber introduces Susie Thompson, one of the speakers of the Extreme Leadership Experience in San Diego at the end of February 2020. Susie is the Assistant Vice President and HR/Culture Officer at Wood & Huston Bank. A certified Extreme Leadership facilitator, she shares what the Extreme Leadership Methodology is all about and details the love story about a road trip to find the perfect culture for an amazing bank.
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Wood & Huston Bank: A Love Story With Susie Thompson
The name of the show, Love is Just Damn Good Business, is also, by some startling coincidence, happens to be the name of my newest book, Love is Just Damn Good Business, which is available everywhere you can buy books and I hope you will check it out. If you’re enjoying this show, you’ll love the book and obviously love is the operative word. I’ve got a good one for you. I’m going to take you back to our Extreme Leadership Experience, which happened here in San Diego at the end of February 2020. Right under the wire, before things started shutting down due to COVID, we had our event and it was phenomenal. I’ll be bringing you a few of those presentations over.
I want you to read about Susie Thompson from a company called Wood & Huston Bank. I’m going to tell you a little bit about Susie, and then I’m going to give you some glossary terms that you may want to keep in mind as you read her incredible presentation. Susie Thompson has enjoyed a long and interesting career in a variety of different roles, all connected to her love for learning and leadership. She’s currently the Vice President of Human Resources and Culture Officer at the Wood & Huston Bank in Marshall, Missouri. She says that she loves helping make sure that her teammates deliver extraordinary experiences and feel they get to come to work versus having to come to work. You’ll learn all about that here. She’s a graduate from the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. She is also one of our certified Extreme Leadership facilitators. When you hear Graduate School of Banking, I’m going to guess you’re going to have a certain stereotypical image of what Susie Thompson is like.
What are bankers like? Like any other stereotype, there’s some truth and some untruth in whatever image you have in your head. I guarantee you, she does not fit the mold of the “typical banker.” Before she was in banking, she spent seventeen years at Hallmark cards where she was responsible for Learning and Development, and Leadership Development and Retail Training and Executive Coaching. You’re seeing a picture emerge here, banker right now, then before that, seventeen years at Hallmark Cards. Prior to that, she received a Master’s Degree in Teaching, and spent nine years as an English teacher, as a yearbook advisor, and also a varsity tennis Coach at two Missouri Parochial Schools. Put all that together. Banker, Leadership Development at Hallmark, English Teacher, yearbook advisor. when you start to put all those ingredients together, you’re getting a little different picture.
It may be a little more accurate picture of who Susie Thompson is. I’m excited that you’re going to get to participate in and experience Susie’s incredible energy. A couple of terms that you need to know, so you’ll understand the full context of the story that you’re about to read. You’ll hear a lot of references to LEAP, which is our Extreme Leadership methodology. It stands for Love, Energy, Audacity and Proof. The Extreme Leader is somebody who cultivates love, generates energy, inspires audacity, and provides proof. This has been the foundation of my work at the Extreme Leadership Institute. It’s been the foundation of every book that I’ve ever written. Susie is a practitioner of these ideas, and you’re going to read the story of how she took LEAP back to the Bank and the impact that it had on their culture. The other term that you’re going to hear thrown around a bit is the OS!M, which stands for the Oh Shit! Moment. This is the other side of love. Love is the motivation that gets us to step up, take action, and change things for the better. The OS!M is that experience that we get when we’re pushing ourselves outside of the proverbial comfort zone in order to change things for the better. Without further ado, let me introduce you to my friend, and soon to be yours, Susie Thompson of Wood & Huston Bank. Enjoy.
This is a love story about a road trip to find the perfect culture for an amazing bank, my bank, the Wood & Huston Bank in the center of the state of Missouri, in the heart of America. Everything about our road trip, everything about this story is rooted in love. Love for our business, love for the place, love for our customers, and most importantly, love for each other. I want to give a shout out to my peeps. Thank you for all your love. This is a great story and I hope when you read this story, there are some things about our journey, about the process that we’ve gone through. Maybe there are some ideas that we’ve implemented that you might think about applying to your line of work or your business. I think we’re about halfway through our story, but it truly is a love story.
I want to give you a little bit of background. I guess with a good story, you start with once upon a time. Once upon a time, there was a fifth-generation community bank founded in 1874 by two men, William Wood and Joseph P. Huston, Jr. They founded the bank based on the core values of family, tradition, and personalized banking, which continues even now. There are three of the Huston brothers at the helm. There’s Nick, Matt, and HJ and some of their sons and daughters are wanting to get in the banking business too and continue that legacy. Their father, John, who is 92 years young, he’s in the state of Missouri in our region. He’s a legend in banking for his strong morals, values, ethics, and extraordinary customer service. He’s an amazing man.
At Wood & Huston, we’re close to being an $800 million bank. We have 12 banking centers in about 6 different markets. We’re getting ready to open our 13th banking center. What’s cool is the last three banking centers that we’ve opened have been within two years. We’re growing at a fast and furious rate and it’s so much fun. Also, in two years in a row, we’ve landed on the Top 100 Healthiest Banks list. We’re incredibly proud of that. We are a strong, healthy, and thriving bank and that’s where our culture transformation began, much like the story of OAC. We’re not in a place where we have to do this. We’re in a place where we want to be good but continue to enhance that and get even better than where we are now. That’s a little bit of background.
I want to take you back to about January of 2018. This is where our story began. We got word at the bank that we had won this national award. It was the Extraordinary Banker award. In the particular category that they said we had won was the Thought Leader Award, which was good to hear. I didn’t have a definition behind it, but we inferred some things. There was a conference tied to this award ceremony and it was a great conference. We said, “What the heck? Let’s go.” We took six of us and we went to Minneapolis, and yes, Minneapolis is an awesome city. We went to Minneapolis and the first night was the awards night. We walk into the venue. I’m a new banker. I had been a banker for a short time. I walk in and I swear to you, the first thing we saw was a red carpet and the women in ball gowns. I’m in my $49.99 dress from Kohl’s. One of these things is not like the other. I see this red carpet and I’m like, “We’re bankers. This is weird.” I stepped on the carpet and it felt good. There was paparazzi, so they’re taking pictures as we’re going down. I thought like, “Do I do a pageant wave? What do I do? Do I pop a pose at the end?” I’m a banker. I thought it was sexy and cool.
We walk into the venue. It was this huge venue, and I’m not kidding you, it was literally the Oscars of banking. There was this monstrous stage. All of these lights, there were teleprompters, there were presenters, and music and entertainment. It was intoxicating. We got to sit up close to the front. When it came time to receive the award, our CEO went up on stage and they had said we had won the Thought Leader Award, meaning we are visionary in our thinking and what we’re doing with our bank to stay ahead of the game. When he went up there, it was such an honor and such a privilege. I was proud to be part of our bank. I was in tears and he accepted the award. It was a highlight for me in my career to get to be a part of that.
I’m going to go to the next chapter here. When we returned home, it felt great to say, “We’re extraordinary bankers.” Every employee, we got mugs to prove it. We had our little name on it and said, “Extraordinary Banker.” Once the dust settled, we come off our high a little bit, we started to ask ourselves some questions as a leadership team. The first set of questions, “What is extraordinary in our world here at Wood & Huston? Do we know how to find it? More importantly, do we know how to be it?” We never verbalized it or documented it anywhere. It led to even deeper questions. Do we know the purpose of our bank? Do we know what our beliefs and values are? I remember when I started a year before that, I think it was in the employee handbook that I read on my first day of orientation, but we had never unearthed those. I couldn’t even tell you what they were. We got to the big question, “Do we truly have a culture that supports the vision that we have for our bank?” We knew because of the rapid nature of change in banking that we had to stay ahead of the game. If we truly wanted to get to the billion-dollar level, once you get to that level, it’s a game-changer. We knew we had to be ready.Slow change equals fast progress. Nothing is an overnight journey. Click To Tweet
We had to have answers to these questions that we were asking ourselves. We also knew that as true competitors, we could not rest on our laurels. We had to keep perfecting. We had to keep defining, aligning, refining, and we had to create a culture that was going to help us do that and continue to be successful and continue to thrive. It was time for us to take a little bit of a culture temperature. We designed some surveys. I personally went around and I asked every single employee the same question. I went on what we call the loop, which is about 1,000-mile journey to all of our banking centers around the state of Missouri. I asked every employee the same question. I said, “How would you define culture at Wood & Huston Bank?” About half of them looked at me as if I had four heads. Many of them asked me, “What exactly do you mean by culture?” It’s a weird word. Mostly everybody gave me a one-word answer, I know my people know this. When I ask you, “How would you define culture?” What is that one word? Family. Everybody said, “We’re like a family” and that’s great. We asked ourselves, “Is that great enough? Is family enough of a definition of culture that’s going to take us to that next level of banking?”
I had done a lot of culture work. Steve had mentioned I worked for Hallmark Cards. I did a lot of cultural work for Hallmark, so I was familiar with culture in the greeting card world. I had not done any kind of work with community banks. We found someone that we had met at a Missouri Bankers Conference. He had done a lot of work with hundreds of community banks. He’s from this very city, Mr. Ray Adler. We partnered with him and we said, “Let’s partner. Let’s put pen to paper and get this story written.” My English teachers, with any great story, you need a robust and diverse set of characters. We said, “We need to gather a group of people that from all pieces and places of the organization that we’re going to call, for lack of a better term, a culture committee.” That was going to help us author this story that we were getting ready to start to write.
I put out an email. I said, “I’m looking for people who are passionate about our bank. I’m looking for people who are passionate about taking our bank to the next level. I’m looking for people who are passionate about wanting to create a vibrant culture that’s going to help us be even more successful than we are.” We actually did something I thought was smart. We did a lot of active recruiting. There were a lot of people that we knew we wanted on that team who were heavy influencers in the bank, who we knew were going to be our change proponents. That was important to get them on board first. I started getting email after email, phone call after phone call. I had people come personally into my office and asking to be a part of this. We ended up capping it at about 25 people. We felt that was a manageable number to start us off and to help write the story. We brought all these people together. These are my peeps. This was our first culture committee.
The cool thing about this group of people, you see tellers, you see consumer bankers, you see lenders, you see someone from HR, you see someone from accounting. You see somebody from audit and compliance, you see branch manager, you see a president, and you see our CEO. All levels, all roles, and all generations. A diversity of thoughts, a diversity of opinions and ideas, a diversity of backgrounds and experiences. I call them my veritable stir fry of love right here. This was our original team of amazing people.
We met for the first time in a small community outside of St. Louis. You can imagine now, many of these people had never even met each other. Our banking centers are far apart. We were nervous, but we were excited at the same time. We knew we were part of something much bigger than ourselves, but we weren’t quite sure what yet. We’re all here together and because we’re nervous. Rachel, one of my favorite culture committee members, said, “Do not sit me next to a president. I don’t want to do this.” I knew a lot of people were nervous. We did some level setting and we set some expectations. The first thing that we said, one of our first messages was, “We are here to deepen relationships. We’re in the business of doing that. We’re here to deepen relationships with each other as a culture committee.” Once we get to know each other, we need to take that back to our markets and deepen relationships with the people in our markets, which is going to translate to our customers and deepening relationships with them.
Everybody knew what the objective was at first. We said, “Slow change equals fast progress.” This is not going to be an overnight journey. This is going to be a long journey, but we’re going to be methodical. We’re going to take our time. We’re going to do it right. We talked a little bit about safety. We knew we had to create a safe environment. Right off the bat, we said, “Judge ideas, not people.” We want you to raise your hand. We want you to give your ideas, share your thoughts, and share your opinions, but we don’t judge you for it. That was important. We also talked about the stages of team development, the forming, storming, norming, performing. We said, “We’re forming here. There’s going to be a lot of storming and we’re going to go in and out of the stages. It’s normal and it’s okay. Be aware of that.”
For that two days that we were together, we talked about what we believed, what we valued, and what we expected out of all of us as a culture committee. We designed what we called the culture attributes. All of the behaviors that we felt were important to our business. At the end of the two days, we were gassed up and firing on all cylinders, but we knew we had a long way to go. We did commit to having monthly meetings. We said, “We’ve got to keep in touch with each other, so every month we would have video conferences,” and we committed to that. We were going to continue talking, strategizing, talk about issues, and make decisions. I’ll tell you we went down some unplanned side roads. We ran out of gas a couple of times, we lost our GPS signal, but every month we brought ourselves back onto the road again. Something important happened in September of that year. We had realized we were missing a critical component. That was the most important part of what we were trying to do. It was the common thread that was going to weave everything about our culture together. That was a leadership philosophy. I knew it was missing because we didn’t have one. I’d never seen it before.
I did a little mini exercise at one point. I gave them 3×5 cards and I said, “For the next 30 seconds, go ahead and write down our leadership philosophy. I know it won’t take you long.” You heard a lot of nervous laughter and people were looking around, “What is it?” They were writing fast and furiously. One was writing a novel and another guy wrote one word. I said, “At the end of 30 seconds, on the count of 3, I want you to share it out loud. What is our leadership philosophy?” It was obvious that we didn’t have one. I walked away from that and I started to do some research. I went back to my old Hallmark leadership development days and unearthed some of those leadership books. I was looking for past workshops that I had facilitated or conferences that I attended, and nothing was connecting or clicking for me. In my further research, I stumbled on this dude named Farber. I went to his website and I was hooked. I clicked in and I watched him deliver his message. It was like the heavens parted and the angels were singing. This stuff resonates so strongly with me.
I had to take my Susie hat off and I had to put my Wood and Huston Bank hat on and asked myself, “Is this the leadership philosophy that is going to work in the context of the culture that we’re defining?” It was clear that it was a perfect message. I decided to dive into the weeds and become a certified facilitator. Some of my classmates are Tim, Josh, Matt and Maria Tang. I have to tell you, it was by far and away the best experience of my career. I’ve had a long career. It was amazing. I went back to the bank. I’m a very excitable person. I hope you can tell that. Whenever I go to a conference or a workshop, I’m feeling good. I take the workbook, I’m writing, and I rewrite my notes. I do that. I pick things I want to key in on and do all these things. I get back to the bank and I sat in my boss’ office. I said, “This is fantastic. We have to roll out. This is amazing.” She knows me well enough. Our CEO walked in the office and he knows me well enough too. They said, “Give it a month. We want to see how you feel after a month.”
That was not working for me. I was too excited. Usually, it dissipates with me when I go to a conference. I give it a couple of weeks and I put the workbook away and it gathers dust somewhere, but it was not dissipating. It was growing. My excitement was growing. At the end of the month, “Let’s do this.” Our CEO, Mark Thompson, he’s a banker. Seeing is believing. I brought him to this conference. The poor guy, he had a horrible head cold, sicker than a dang dog. I’m thinking to myself, “Dang it. He’s going to miss this. He’s going to miss the power of this.” He was off in medicine land.
The minute we got on the plane to go back to Marshall, he turned around and he looked me in the eye and he said, “We have to roll this out to every single employee at Wood & Huston Bank. Not just our leadership team. Every single employee.” I was, “Yes, I’m excited.” We pulled out our workbooks, and I have the workbook with me. What was amazing, we had written the same thing on John Beeder’s page. We figured out there was a missing piece to our puzzle, and we discovered it. He and I had written the same thing and circled it. It was our purpose, our bank’s purpose. I have it written. “Mindset. We make dreams come true.” He said, “We help make dreams come true.” Totally separate of each other. That was destiny. It was amazing. With our purpose in hand and with the excitement of the experience and of LEAP, we went back to Wood & Huston and we were ready to rock and roll.
We said, “We have to be strategic about how we roll this out,” because I can’t go around one day and deliver 49,000 workshops to all of our employees. We said, “It’s got to start from the top and we have to gain buy-in there.” It started with the Huston brothers. We sat them down and there were a couple of salty things about love and banking, but they got it. They were all on board. We decided the next step was with our senior leadership team. We actually conducted a two-day workshop with that level. The first day was LEAP as it’s been designed. It was a focus on them as individual leaders. They have their action plans at the end of the workshop. Day two, I think it was Ross that posed the question “What’s in it for us?” That’s what we did. We said, “How does this work within the context of us? What does this mean for the entire organization? How are we as senior leaders going to influence, motivate and lead this effort?” That was amazing. We assigned accountability partners from there. We had our own action plans that we were armed with.
A couple of weeks later, we brought in all of our supervisors and managers into Marshall, and we delivered a one-day workshop with them. Action plans, accountability partners, and they were pumped and ready to go. They were excited that their staff had an opportunity to get a leadership experience too. Keep in mind a lot of our employees, especially the teller level, even our janitor came to the workshop, they had never been given the opportunity to go to a leadership experience. They never even thought that they were even considered leaders. I’ll talk about that in a minute. I went on the loop again, the 1,000-mile journey and I delivered, all in total, 23 workshops. I was exhausted, but I was exhilarated. I was so excited about the potential of love in our workplace and what that was going to do for our business. I realized too that there was a lot of HRA stuff that we had to deal with. Interviewing selection, LEAP was going to affect onboarding and performance management. I brought my little pocket pal with me.
It’s a fourfold. This is the outline of our story. on this thing, we shared this in every workshop because English teachers, for a good story, you’d have to answer the why, what, how, and who. We did. We said, “Why do our customers love us? It’s because we help make dreams come true.” Isn’t that a cool purpose? It’s awesome. We said, “What do we need to deliver in order to help make dreams come true? We have to deliver extraordinary customer experiences every single day, not just external customer experiences, but most importantly, internal customer experiences as well. How do we deliver extraordinary? These are our culture attributes.” We have to be trusted advisors, live the ethics, the morals that John Huston stood for. We have to be pioneering in how we think and how we design processes, programs, and products. We have to be driven every single day to come to work, knowing that we’re going to be better today than we were yesterday. We knew we had to be accountable. We had to be reliable and we had to be efficient. This is what we believe. This is what we value, and this is what we expect every single day.
The cool thing is on the back of this is the common thread that weaves it all together, and that’s LEAP. Cultivating love, generating energy, inspiring audacity, and providing proof. This is such good stuff. Every employee now knows that they have the ability and the permission to change the world of Wood & Huston bank for the better. We are here to do what we love in the service of people who love what we do. Every single one of us leaders in this effort. We provide proof every day. We walk the walk and we live LEAP to bring our story to life every single day. I got to tell you, after these workshops, people were emotionally charged. I had people come in my office in tears. People were asking me for extra copies of the book to give to their spouse or their friends outside of work. They were aching to pursue LSMs. They were desperate for growth, learning, and development. It was amazing. I realized this is where the fun began. This is where the power and the impact of LEAP became visible in our organization. It’s where the payoffs became huge.
I want to break down LEAP and tell you some things that we’ve done for each piece of LEAP. I could talk for two hours about all the things that we’ve done, but I’m going to keep it at a high level. I would love to chat with you about the things that we’ve done, but the first thing is around cultivating love. We’re a community bank, so we take pride in cultivating love in our communities. We sponsored over 300 events in all of our markets. We either wrote a check, donated an auction item for a fundraiser. We walk in parades. We teach financial literacy to our school children. We usher at the local theater in town. We do a lot of different things in our communities. We’re proud of that. This is my favorite thing that we did to cultivate love. At our last culture committee meeting in our newest market, Sedalia, Missouri, we always have an activity at the end of day one. This was our acts of kindness activity. There was 25 of us, we broke out into teams of five and every team got $100. We had one hour to go generate acts of kindness in our community of Sedalia. No rules, just kindness. We gave every culture committee member a t-shirt.
We help make dreams come true. It was a cool PR thing too in the community, but that wasn’t even the intent. We went out. I have to tell you, I stayed back at the hotel. I said, “Send me your pictures as you’re doing this. I’m going to put them on a PowerPoint. When we come back for dinner, I’ll share this PowerPoint of all the love and kindness that we’ve spread throughout Sedalia.” My phone was blowing up. I couldn’t keep up with all of the pictures, so I stopped. I can’t do this. It was invigorating to see. We got phone calls for weeks after from people that had said, “Thank you so much.” They went to the police department. There was this one woman did her laundry at the local laundry facility. They gave her all the quarters to do her laundry. One of the team bought a woman a Starbucks there in Sedalia. Her daughter was visiting her. Her daughter worked for Starbucks in Springfield, Missouri, which is where another one of our markets is. One of our Springfield employees, the next week in Springfield, went to Starbucks, her daughter said, “You work for that bank. I was in Sedalia. You bought my mother a Starbucks.”
It traveled through the whole state. That’s the power of kindness and it is awesome. Think about doing that with your businesses, with your groups, because it made a difference, not just in the community, but it made a difference to the culture committee. As a matter of fact, we went back and Mark, our CEO said, “We’ve got to do this for the whole company.” Every market, each employee got $10 and were broken into teams of five and out into our markets to continue the kindness. What’s cool is it didn’t end there, because that was right around the holiday time. Our employees did this for their families. I did this on Christmas Eve with my family. I broke my family into teams and gave my grandkids money to go do acts of kindness in the community. It was a pay-it-forward thing. The power was amazing. My friend, Melinda, teaching financial literacy. She’s our payroll gal. She’s awesome.
We generate energy through recognition, and we have a great platform that I would love to talk to you about. It’s called You Earned It, or now Kazoo. It’s a social media platform. You create your own profile. There’s a feed every day, a feed of recognition, so you can see pictures of people in other markets. You can put a face to a name. What’s incredible is we said, “In order to do this, your recognition needs to be specific. Thank the person and be specific about what they did, but tie it to one of our core values.” It has to be tied to a culture attribute or OS!M or living LEAP. I pulled a report. OS!M and living LEAP account for 50% of our recognition. It is a big deal in this one. Haley Carson is in our Sedalia market and she went on the radio. She’s one of the most introverted people I’ve ever met, so this was a huge OS!M for her. Now the coolest part about our recognition is that our number one recognizer is our CEO. He is on there, every day giving high fives, making recognition himself. He has the least amount of recognition in the whole bank, but he’s amazing.
We also generate energy through communication. We created a newsletter called The Trusted Advisor. Every month, a different president in a different market writes an article about how they’ve helped make dreams come true in their market, and gives us a little bit of background about their market. All of our employees understand all parts of our business. We also have a LEAP article every month. Mark wrote the first one, and that’s important. “We have to keep the momentum going. We have to keep the messages alive all the time.” We also generate energy through emails. We use the LEAP language in emails. The best example I can give you is what happened to me. I received 170 text messages from all of my coworkers at Wood & Huston Bank wishing me luck, telling me they love me. My husband is a farmer. He has a flip phone and has never taken a selfie. Mark brought my husband into the bank and gave him a t-shirt. He took a selfie with him and said, “Go pursue that OS!M.” Love, energy, audacity and proof. My daughter lives in Kansas City, 1.5 hours from Marshall. He sent her a T-shirt and a sign that said OS!M. She held it up and took a selfie of herself wearing the t-shirt with my granddaughter, Tido. That’s who we are and how we are.When our kids see how much we love doing what we do, that makes an impact on them. Click To Tweet
I’m going to ask you, did that give me energy? Damn straight. I feel like I could fly home without a plane. It’s awesome. Now we also inspire audacity. Every team member has a specific LEAP goal. We have several team members that have more than one LEAP goal. Cassie, one of my favorites, she has a LEAP goal and this is her OS!M. She’s an introverted gal. She’s our bookkeeper. She volunteered to help plan one of our face-to-face culture committee meetings. She’s already led two of our meetings and done a phenomenal job. Everybody has a LEAP goal.
We also inspire audacity through OS!Ms. Every Halloween we put on what’s called trick or treat on the square. We transform our bank lobby into a children’s theme. We had 1,000 people come through our lobby and it was the Aladdin theme. Colin and Lisette stepped way outside their comfort zones and became the LEAP. They were Jasmine and Aladdin. Talk about commitment. Colin even shaved his beard for the role. The cool part of the story is the growth that I have personally seen in both of these people. As a matter of fact, Lisette who always told me, “I’m going to be as a teller.” She interviewed for a job in our credit administration area and she blew it out the roof. She got the job and she’s getting ready to start that new job. I’m convinced it’s because she pursued it in OS!M, which gave her the confidence to know that I can do anything.
We provide proof through development. Rachel Howery, rock star, my favorite. She developed this program called the COPS Program. It stands for Career Opportunities and Positions Shadowing. It offers anybody the ability of if you want to go shadow someone, you want to learn about somebody else’s job. You’re interested in a job and you want to shadow for a little bit to see if it’s right for you, we give you that opportunity. You can go to other markets even. We pay for it and we want it. We promote it. We’ve had 27 applications, 22 people have gone through this program, 5 have gotten new jobs. All of them have credited this program for their learning and growth. One of our tellers from our Southernmost market is going to shadow our CEO. That’s a cool opportunity. I think he’s excited about that. Mark is more excited than he is.
We also provide proof with our accountability partners. I know Janice and Angie who’s here. Angie is our President of the West Plains banking center. They are accountability partners, and both of them have been doing an amazing job. Some of our accountability partners talk weekly, some monthly, some quarterly, but everybody connects. Everybody holds each other accountable. We do what we say we’re going to do every single day. All of our monitors, our screensavers have LEAP on it, so we’re reminded of the message every single day. We have these in our conference rooms as well, and on our video conference TVs. You can’t miss it. I have flown through the story.
This has been the best trip ever. This has been so rewarding on such a deep level for me personally. It’s not about me and what I feel. I have seen the power of LEAP every single day because I walk into the office and there’s more laughter than there’s ever been before. It’s fun to come to work. I have the best job in the bank. I always tell everybody, “I get to help make sure that people feel like they get to come to work versus having to come to work.” That laughter and the noise in a bank. You never hear noise in a bank, but you do at our bank. As a matter of fact, we play music in our lobby and every so often I’ll go out there and I’ll dance with our customers if I know them. I don’t just pull somebody out. We have fun. Here’s the magic of it all is that we’re having fun, and we love what we do in the service of these people who love what they do. They’re thanking us with their business. They’re going out and they’re inspiring, and cultivating love and generating energy and inspiring audacity and providing proof in their own businesses. It’s like a boomerang effect.
This is one text, “I want to remind you how amazing you are and say you are going to crush it. One of my favorite things about you is your ability to see the best in people and to not only see it, but to speak it to them, so they know they are valued. What a great way to cultivate love. You also generate an awesome energy from when you walk in a room. You are audacious and go after your own OS!Ms and inspire so many along their journeys to do the same. You provide proof every single day by walking the walk and loving what you do in the service of people who love what you do. You are two examples of living LEAP. Have a great day, Susie, and know that we are all cheering you on from home.” I don’t read that out of a place of ego, but LEAP has a boomerang effect. The energy that I have right now is unbelievable. I am inspired now to make somebody else’s day right now. I can’t wait to go out and make a difference, not only in the space of my bank, but in the space of my bigger world, with the people that I love and live with, and friends with. It’s an absolute pleasure.
I want to introduce you to some important people on my team. Mark is our leading LEAPer. He’s our CEO. This is not something he is comfortable doing, wearing a lei. What he did with my husband and with my daughter, that is who he is. He’s generous. I love him. He’s my work husband. He models what you got to do every day and inspires everybody. We’re about halfway through our culture journey. It’s been a hell of a ride we’ve had so much fun with it. We have a bigger culture committee now that we’re starting more people want to be involved and we’re like, “Heck, yes.” There are going to be 170 of us on this culture committee at some point. We’ve got a long way to go. We know it. I want to thank you, guys, Steve, Jenna, Veronica and Renae, the whole team. Thank you for changing my life and allowing me the opportunity to share our story. I hope you get the sense that I’m excited about it. I love what I do, so thank you so much.
About Susie Thompson
Susie Thompson has enjoyed a long and interesting career in a variety of different roles – all connected to her LOVE for learning and leadership. She is currently the Vice-President of Human Resources and Culture Officer at the Wood and Huston Bank in Marshall, Missouri where she LOVES helping make sure her teammates deliver extraordinary experiences and feel like they get to come to work versus having to come to work every day. She is a graduate from the Graduate School of Banking at the University of Wisconsin – Madison and she is a certified Extreme Leadership Facilitator.
Prior to her current career, Susie received a master’s degree in teaching from the University of Central Missouri and spent nine years as an English teacher, yearbook advisor and varsity tennis coach at two Missouri parochial schools.
Susie also spent 17 years with Hallmark Cards, Incorporated where she was responsible for Learning and Development, Leadership Development, Retail Training, and executive coaching. While at Hallmark, Susie’s passion for speaking led her to a side motivational speaking business that, for the past 15 years, has landed her engagements with over 200 groups including Cisco Systems, American Academy of Family Physicians, Sprint, Mannington Flooring, Agriculture Future of America, and multiple universities and schools.
Susie is a graduate of the University of Notre Dame where she was the first female tennis scholarship recipient, two-time captain, and two-time MVP. She still holds the records for highest doubles winning percentage and credits that team experience for guiding her down the path of leadership. While at Notre Dame, the importance of a lifetime of community service was instilled and remains an important part of her life.
She served as a board member for the Marshall Public Schools and is currently a member of the Sacred Heart School Foundation and a founding member of the Lyceum Liaisons, a volunteer group supporting Arrow Rock Missouri’s Lyceum Theater bringing a bit of Broadway to the Midwest. In addition, she has been a board member for the Stephanie Waterman Tennis Foundation and the Fitzgibbon Hospital Foundation.
Most importantly, Susie is a farmer’s wife (in title only – think “Green Acres”) to Joe who produces corn and soybean crops and raises Black Angus cattle. Their daughter, Lexie, is a recent graduate of Rockhurst University in Kansas City.
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