Ever have someone say something early on in your life and it kind of sticks with you forever? Well that’s exactly what happened here. Back in the day, the best leader I’ve ever worked for, Mableline Johnson (real name), taught me a lot about employee relations, leadership and compassion.
The company was Boatmen’s Bank; it was a small mortgage and personal loan banking company. Mableline was our manager. We were “Mortgage Analyst” but really it was customer service. I was a young hot-shot looking to become a manager because I thought that was cool. Anyway, Mableline knew I was aggressive and eager or learn and so she would talk to me about being a good employee – supervisor and leader. But more than just talking about it, she lived it.
I don’t know this for a fact but I’m pretty sure Mableline did not have a college degree but still the way she managed us was pretty incredible. She’d come in the office and speak to everyone. She made time throughout the week to visit with each of us at some point in the day and ask how we were doing. She built relationships with us by getting to know us – on a personal level.
One Friday, I was on a break and I stopped by her office to speak and as we were conversing, she looked beyond me and noticed many of the analysts were also standing around talking to each other – but they weren’t on break – or wasn’t supposed to be. Mableline said to me “Excuse me Chris, but you know what? I hate Friday’s. It’s my least favorite day of week.” I asked why? And she said “Pay attention to Friday’s and how I have to stay on you all to do your jobs. It’s the only day of week that I have to come out of my office and remind everyone that we have calls waiting – these members need our help.”
She then stepped out of the office and gently reminded everyone that there were callers waiting.
From that day forward, I noticed that Friday’s was in fact the only day she had to step out of office and talk to us about work. Coincidently, I noticed this same loss of productivity on Friday’s at every other office I’ve worked. There are various reports and studies which correlate causal dress Friday’s with a decrease in production.
Here’s my fondest memory of Mableline. We had heard rumblings-rumors-word of mouth that Boatmen’s was going to be purchased by another bank. Ultimately those rumors were confirmed, it was official and the news hit the staff pretty hard. After the announcement was made public, the next morning, Mableline came out of her office – there were a bunch of calls in the queue -clearly emotional she stood at the front of the room and asked everyone to place their callers on hold. I knew it was very important because it seemed like all of our customers were calling in to find out the status of their loans since we were being bought out.
Mableline waited until every analyst had their caller on hold, and holding back tears she said, “Listen, I know this is tough news. It’s hard for me too. I’ve known many of you for years and you are my friends as well as my employees. I want you to know that I appreciate your hard work and professionalism. And as hard as this is for us all, we have a job to do and we are going to do it till the end. We are going to be professionals.”
And in the following months, until they closed the doors I think only 2 people left early; the rest remained until the end. No one half-assed their job duties. No one complained. We worked hard because we respected Mableline – her character – her leadership – the way she treated us with respect and compassion. We wanted to make her proud; even if she hated Friday’s.