Employees respond to leadership that meets them on their turf

Jessica Nollett

“One of the most important features is people who flex to their team,” says Jessica Nollett, discussing effective leadership.

Nollett, vice president, business banking team lead at the Overland Park, Kan., office of Clayton, Mo.-headquartered Enterprise Bank & Trust, feels strongly that leadership is about authenticity, pragmatism and helping team members discover their individual strengths, which will enhance the group as a whole.

“I am attracted to authenticity, to people who are realistic but positive,” she said. “If you’re overly positive, too cheerleader-y, that is not beneficial in leadership, but on the reverse, if you’re too negative and too hard that shuts down the creative process.”

Nollett uses goal-setting and coaching to help her team discover what individual characteristics each member possesses that allows her/him to close deals. Beyond that, strategies for how they meet their targets are up to them.

“I don’t care if you’re a really big fan of picking up the phone and calling people, prefer knocking on doors, want to send out letters, or if you use sports as a focus to start conversations,” she said. “I don’t care what your route is. If you can hit [your target] that’s what I’m looking for. I’m here to help you create that plan but not create it for you. I’m a sounding board, I’m a cheerleader. I’m not micromanaging your job.”

She recalls a former manager asking her to practice her prospective client pitch, to which she responded with the usual “great customer service and we can do remote deposits,” and she distinctly remembers his response:

“That’s all commoditized language. Every bank uses that. You can’t promise great customer service because everyone’s heard that. They’re not going to believe you. They don’t care. What do you bring to the table?”

The manager reminded Nollett that she came from a marketing background and had connections in the marketing world, not a skill all bankers possess. “What if you lead with that?” he suggested.

“I thought that was really cool because it made me feel special, and it helped me create my own way of how I do my job, and I don’t forget about that conversation,” Nollett says.

From her current supervisor, she’s learned to tailor her approach to conversations and meet employees on their ground.

“My boss knows I like to be active, so when we have meetings, we go on a walk,” she said. “The way I think is much more organic when I’m walking versus sitting across from a person at a table.”

Following this lead, Nollett schedules meetings with her team at locations outside the office. She finds that putting her employees in an environment in which they feel comfortable leads to more productive interactions. Further, she encourages her team to apply this inter-office flexibility to customers.

“How’s your client want to engage with you? Do they want you to have a phone call with them or text you? Do they want to be your friend on LinkedIn or Facebook? Do you friend them on Facebook?” Nollett said. “I don’t know – that’s your choice – but just know that these are things you’re going to have to deal with.”

Whether it’s her own team or clients, the ability to make adjustments in the moment is something Nollett sees as key to smart leadership.

“If you put everybody in the same box, it’s not going to work out well … If you put on a façade and you don’t feel approachable, you’re never going to actually be able to lead someone. You can command someone, but you’re not actually leading them and guiding them.”


This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of BankNews magazine.