When Lisa Stirgus first became a district manager for Wells Fargo six years ago, she thought the transition would be simple. “I had it in my sleep,” she said. “I was always a top-performing manager.” But, as her boss had warned, going from managing individual contributors to managing managers presented a new scope of challenges.
Lisa soon realized that with her district being spread out over eight towns and cities across Northern Nevada, she could not be everywhere at once. She had to rely on her managers and the best way to get the results she needed was to mentor her managers in a way that would inspire everyone who worked for them to excel as well. This required an individualized approach, and with 10 managers on her team, Lisa had to learn how to teach to 10 different personalities, adjusting her leadership to fit each one separately and together as a whole. She believes that this is what created the team she has now, a team that has just completed its third straight year with the highest engagement scores in the state!
I have known Lisa for eight years and have heard firsthand from her team how much they admire, respect, and love her. Setting a meeting with her was my opportunity to find out from Lisa’s perspective what makes her a leader that people love.
Lisa started out by telling me of her reputation as a “pit-bull with a smile.” After a chuckle, she said the analogy was something she had taken to heart, and was even proud of. She’s created an environment where she can give honest and sometimes tough feedback—this works because she cares and because her team knows that she genuinely wants them to succeed in life and at work. Giving honest feedback means a combination of positive reinforcement as well as developmental feedback.
“My job is to build, grow and develop talent,” she said. Lisa knows that building confidence together with helping her team identify ways to grow and stretch is the key to breakthrough performance and engagement. Building confidence is an important aspect of a successful team; it changes the game. When a team member has a sense of purpose and confidence, they are going to do a great job no matter who is watching. Once this is achieved, a leader can then focus on providing direction and guidance.
We sat and talked for about three hours and as our meeting drew to an end I had a sense that what Lisa truly loved about being a leader was helping people achieve what they never thought was possible. She has a passion for what she does and believes that if you focus on cultivating talent and invest in developing your team, you’ll not only achieve your goals, but you’ll exceed your goals. It also creates a ripple effect; an engaged team leads to an engaged customer base. Love your team the way that you want them to love your customers. I call it contagious leadership. Setting the bar high and modeling the way every day sets the tone for everyone in the workplace. Lisa is constantly asking herself, “Am I living and breathing what I expect from my team?” It’s a top-down approach and it is truly inspirational.