The Wells Fargo Fiasco: Faulty Leadership Skills or Faulty Incentives?

    

The incredulous news story of how fake customer accounts were created by Wells Fargo employees leadership-skills-fiasco.pngto bolster revenues and profits at the expense of unsuspecting and loyal customers is mindboggling.  The fact that more than 5,300 employees have been fired tells you that this was more than just an isolated incidence of an overzealous small group of employees but rather a global and systemic culture that illustrates a serious lack of credibility and business ethics. I am stumped as to why there isn’t more outrage and widespread media coverage about this situation. This is not only stealing and deception, but it breaks every confidence and trust a bank stands for between itself and its customers.

The $185 million fine is also ridiculous.  I am hopeful that somewhere one of the Wells Fargo executives isn’t sitting there doing a cost-benefit analysis of the increased revenues vs. the miniscule fine and saying to himself, “Hmmm, that’s not so bad…”

It is interesting to watch and listen to how this story is positioned.  A few of the “causes” identified by the so-called experts include:

  • “The incentives made them do it.”
  • “The regulations weren’t strong enough.”
  • “The internal compliance training wasn’t good enough.”

While 5,300 people got fired for their illegal actions and the blame is conveniently thrust at the incentive plans, the government, and the internal compliance training programs, it doesn’t seem that anyone is discussing the actual cause of the problem and that is the leadership and the leadership skills of this organization.

As a training and development professional who specialized in helping our clients develop their leadership skills, every leader needs to take a moment to reflect on this story and to make sure their organization has the foundational leadership skills to create a culture and an environment where everyone knows the difference between right and wrong.

Based on our own research, focus groups, and observations from our leadership business simulation workshops, here are three critical questions you should ask today to make sure your organization doesn’t end up in the same place as Wells Fargo.

Are your values clearly understood and believed in?

A business is only as good as its values.  As a leader, you need to ask some very hard questions including, are your values clearly understood and believed in?  Conduct a survey, talk to employees formally and informally.  Close your eyes and think about it hard.  On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is great and 1 is very bad, how do you score your organization, team, or business unit in terms of the understanding and belief in values?

My Score: ______

Do your values support your business strategy and value proposition to your customers?

An organization is only successful if it’s delivering a value proposition to customers who see the value and are willing to pay for it.  The next question you need to think about is, do your values support your business strategy and value proposition to your customers.  If your values are misaligned or aren’t strong, then you will never be able to execute successfully.  Close your eyes and think about it hard.  On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is great and 1 is very bad, how do you score your organization, team, or business unit in terms of alignment between your values and the value proposition to customers?

My Score: ______

Do you walk the talk?

The final question requires the most self-reflection.  Do you as a leader walk the talk?  Do you set the right tone to create an environment where there is no question between right and wrong?  Do your people work in an environment where people do the right thing no matter what? On a scale of 1-10 where 10 is great and 1 is very bad, how do you score yourself in terms of your ability to walk the talk?

My Score: ______

I hope this blog challenges you and makes you reflect.  Leadership is difficult, and it is serious.  The right business leadership skills can not only can help you execute your strategy, but they are also critical to help your people do the right things.

why business acumen matters

Robert Brodo

About The Author

Robert Brodo is co-founder of Advantexe. He has more than 20 years of training and business simulation experience.