How do you take a company in transition (or a fledgling credit union) and transform it into a force to be reckoned with? The CEO of T-Mobile has a few ideas. When John Legere took over T-Mobile’s top spot five years ago, the AT&T merger had just collapsed and the company was losing customers left and right. They had no iPhone, no LTE, and they were ranked fourth (out of four) in customer service and market share. But rather than throwing up his hands or looking for scapegoats, Legere accomplished what many experts considered impossible. Not only did he salvage a wireless company that many had written off, he built a brand that has AT&T and Verizon scrambling to stay competitive.
Today, many credit unions find themselves in the same boat T-Mobile was rowing just five years ago. “Will we survive? Can we survive?” The answer to both questions is yes. However, that survival may require uncomfortable steps like changing leadership or sacrificing some sacred cows. If you’re a credit union struggling to hold on, there’s a good chance you have a culture of paralyzed office decorations instead of passionate volunteers and staff. You’re most likely focused on what worked in the past instead of what’s working today.
When faced with similar challenges, Legere harnessed the energy of a passionate staff to fuel T-Mobile’s turnaround. They embraced the “Un-carrier” philosophy internally, and that empowered 50,000+ employees to be the primary drivers of the Un-carrier movement. His people built the revolution and pushed an entire industry to do better for its customers. Wondering if you could do the same? Is there a fire burning inside you—maybe one that wants to stick it to Wells Fargo by providing real solutions for your members and community?
With his characteristic candor, Legere’s recent blog post highlights five points every executive should keep in mind when trying to revive a dying organization:
Lesson #1: Shut Up and Listen
Ok, I say this all the time – but I can’t say it enough. The most powerful formula for success is three simple steps:
Shut up and listen to your customers and employees.
Do what they tell you.
This is not a secret. Tons of research and experts back it up, and other top brands and leaders get it. But, too many companies think listening to employees is about surveys or BS “listening tours.” It’s not. Listening must be part of your culture… at all levels. And, it’s got to be direct — not filtered through hierarchy or other media. And, it’s got to be something you’re willing to follow through on. In short, to listen without taking action is nothing. To listen and take action is everything.
At T-Mobile, we’ve cut through the layers — and hierarchy — to listen to employees directly every single day. Anyone can email me or my senior leadership team anytime, and we spend hours each day on social media with customers and employees. In my five years here, I’ve personally flown over a million miles to visit our call centers and retail stores — because it’s so important to cut out all the layers and hear directly from employees. Plus, I’d rather be talking to people directly than reading surveys in a stuffy dark conference room.
And, the ROI is indisputable. Our team and our customers are the main source of our Un-carrier ideas, and those ideas are at the core of our competitive advantage.
Lesson #2: Stand for Something
The past five years have really shown me the difference between a company and a cause. It’s the difference between business as usual and an all-out, no-holds-barred, industry-changing revolution.
T-Mobile’s cause — changing wireless for good – was an easy call from the start. Because this industry has been treating its customers so badly for so long. This Un-carrier mission unites our team in changing one of the most impactful industries and the most important technology of our lifetime.
To give that cause voice, we wrote the Un-carrier manifesto and gave it to employees. The manifesto is both a rallying cry and a clear statement of who we are and what we stand for. And, with every Un-carrier move we make, we deliver on it. And we make a point of talking with customers and employees about how it moves our cause forward and how it changes wireless for good.
People want their work to mean something more than a paycheck or ‘shareholder value.’ It’s our job as leaders to help our teams connect their work to the good it brings to the world. And, for me, in the end, the cause makes the company.
Lesson #3: Get the F#$@&% Out of The Way
T-Mobile employees want to do awesome work. Everybody does. What stops people from doing awesome work are BS corporate policies, outdated management structures and a lack of imagination.
One of the first and best things we did at T-Mobile was to get out of our employees’ way. In fact, most of the ideas for Un-carrier were already being hatched inside the walls of T-Mobile. The teams knew the “me too” strategy wasn’t working. That customers hated contracts and BS fees. They just needed someone to give them the okay and then get out of the way so they could execute. The rest is history.
In customer care, we had BS metrics that incentivized employees to stop customers who wanted to switch away from T-Mobile. That created a bad experience for customers and for employees who tried to avoid those calls. We got rid of that and set goals around customer happiness. A few months later, we jumped from #4 to #1 in customer care satisfaction. Now, a few years later, we rank the highest on customer satisfaction. Just by getting out of the way.
Lesson #4: Share the Success
A job has got to be about more than a paycheck. It’s got to be about feeling valued and doing great work. Tons of research backs this up. When employees can reap the rewards, and participate in the success of an organization – everyone wins. Most companies offer full benefits only to management or full-time employees, overlooking hourly and part-time workers. That’s total Bullsh*t!
From health plans to stock grants, every benefit we offer is available to employees across the ENTIRE company. Frontline retail and customer care workers, whether part-time or full-time, get the same access to the same great benefits as our senior management. Our part-timers have the same medical, vision and dental options that I do — and they’re pretty freaking good. The same is true for employee recognition at T-Mobile. Traditionally at most companies, the best awards are reserved for sales employees. But we don’t work that way. Our amazing Winners Circle and PEAK events recognize top performers from across the entire company.
We’re also one of the few companies in America to give EVERY employee stock. And among retailers, we’re in a very small group. The result is that our people work like they own this company. Because they do. And that’s how they engage with customers. I see it in stores and hear that on calls every day. And it is a beautiful sight to see.
Lesson #5: Enjoy!
Do these first four things and stand back. Because you will be amazed! A company and culture unleashed in this way is a company and culture capable of incredible things.
While some of these ideas are specific to the wireless industry, the underlying principles can be game changers for your credit union. Instead of trying to polish outdated business practices, why not follow the “Un-carrier” example and develop an “Un-banking” philosophy of your own? A fresh approach can be the key to unlocking your team’s enthusiasm and uncovering a bold strategy that gives the middle finger to the banks and predatory lenders currently eating your lunch.
Want to talk more about getting out of your own way and breaking your mold? Email email@example.com to start the conversation!