Be clear: It’s important that a coach knows what he or she wants and articulates exactly how to do it. The last thing you want to do is confuse someone.
The number one leadership initiative in any organization today is improved coaching. Coaching empowers employees, empowerment drives engagement, and engagement drives performance. At its core, coaching is about transformation. Leading distributed teams requires transforming how we coach and changing our play calls and playbooks to get things done. As a part of our interview series called “Moving From Command & Control to Coaching & Collaboration; How Leaders and Managers Can Become Better Coaches,” we had the pleasure to interview John Jordan.
John Jordan is the head of The Academy at Bank of America and a member of the Senior Human Resources Leadership team.
In this role, Jordan is responsible for employee onboarding, global learning and skill development for the company. Serving 200,000+ employees as well as communities around the world, The Academy provides robust educational programs supporting the entire career journey of employees of the company. Under his leadership, The Academy has received over 100 awards including becoming the first JD Power Certified Career Development organization.
Jordan has held a number of senior leadership positions over two decades at the bank, including Head of Client Experience and Preferred Segment Programs. Notably, he led the launch of Preferred Rewards, the bank’s flagship loyalty program with over $1.5T in assets. Prior to that role, Jordan served as Head of Analytics for the Preferred Segment and Consumer Products, providing guidance for the company’s approach to client segmentation, client experience strategy and product pricing. In addition, Jordan has held executive leadership roles for national sales and strategy for Merrill‘s banking division, and also served as a region and market executive in both Consumer & Small Business and Wealth Management.
With an enthusiasm for employee engagement and volunteerism, Jordan serves as executive sponsor for the company’s Disability Action Network. As an advocate for the special needs community, Jordan volunteers with Special Olympics and is a founding board member of The Next Step Clubhouse, a nonprofit that provides facilities and programs for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
As a leader in the financial services industry and thought leader in learning innovation, Jordan serves on the board of directors for the Bank Administration Institute (BAI), and is a Board Observer for STRIVR, an immersive learning technology company at the forefront of Virtual Reality. He also serves as the Bank of America market sponsor for the state of Arkansas.
Jordan earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, and a Bachelor of Science in Industrial and Systems Engineering from Auburn University. He and his wife have four children.
Thank you for joining us to explore a critical inflection point in how we define leadership. Our readers would like to get to know you better. What was a defining moment that shaped who you are as a leader?
There have been a series of defining moments in my career. Perhaps the most impactful was when I was promoted to Market Executive in 2006. In this role, I was responsible for the Consumer Banking line of business in 50 financial centers across the east coast of Florida. It was a substantial responsibility for which I moved my young family (two kids under 2) to a new place and led over 500 employees in a market that had experienced a lot of turnover in the prior year. The stress I felt both personally and professionally was substantial, but I learned incredible lessons about creating a vision, building a winning culture, holding people accountable, investing in skills and creating sustainable results. Those early lessons of leadership helped mold me into the leader I am today — a leader with a passion for our front-line employees and a sense of the opportunity we have to make an impact.
John C. Maxwell is credited with saying, “A leader is someone who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” How do you embody that quote as a leader?
This reminds me of another famous saying, ‘it’s easy to talk the talk, but can you walk the walk?’ Though leaders are not perfect, I strive to continuously ‘walk the walk’ at work and at home with my family. I truly believe when we stick to our word and follow through with action, we are building long-term trust — that’s one of the most important things a leader can gain from their team. Through practice and my 20 years at Bank of America, I’ve learned the importance of making commitments — both tangible and attainable. As leaders, we can’t just “talk the talk” — we need our team to know we can deliver results.
How do you define the differences between a leader as a manager and a leader as a coach?
As an avid sports and Auburn Tigers fan, I tend to think about the difference between leading and coaching often when working with my team. As a manager, we help set the responsibilities and the path. We share the expected outcomes, the guidelines, and the ‘dos’ and ‘don’ts.’ As a coach, we cheer our team on from the sidelines while providing input and support throughout. A coach offers hands-on teaching and support along the way; whereas a manager ensures the work meets the end goal. I see a manager as a future-focused and holistic guide and a coach being focused on development along the way.
We started our conversation by noting that improved coaching is the number one leadership initiative in any organization today. What are some essential skills and competencies that leaders must have now to be better coaches?
It can be easy to skip over soft skills such as empathy, problem-solving and emotional intelligence even though these are critical to develop as an employee and a leader. Ultimately, when we have the emotional ability to put ourselves in someone else’s position recognizing their thoughts and feelings, we become better equipped to work toward the same goal. That’s why we have learning modules through The Academy at Bank of America to teach soft skills and communicate more effectively, with the goal of serving our clients better every day. And these trainings aren’t only for working with our clients; but they also help our teammates work more efficiently.
We’re all familiar with the adage, “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” How are you inspiring — rather than mandating — leaders to invest in upskilling and reskilling?
At The Academy, upskilling and reskilling is core to what we do, working to create an environment where our investment in learning ultimately makes our employees feel cared for and inspired to do great work. Over the past few years, we’ve invested in technology and programs, such as developing a virtual reality learning experience, including conversation simulators, to encourage employee growth and skill development. Upskilling and reskilling can seem daunting, but we’ve seen the payoffs with how our employees respond and our ability to promote career growth within our organization — as well as the value this brings our clients.
Let’s get more specific. How do you coach someone to do their best work? How can leaders coach for peak performance in our current context? What are your “Top 5 Ways That Leaders and Managers Can Be Effective Coaches?”
Think about the best sports teams and the best coaches you’ve ever seen. They create a culture starting with a clear vision for what success looks like. They implement routines and processes that demand accountability for every player on the team. Every individual on the team knows the job required and is coached rigorously on the specific behaviors or techniques needed to succeed. In corporations it should be the same. Leaders and managers have to create an environment in which outcomes required are clear and every individual understands the what, the how and the why of every activity. Once you have that environment, leaders and managers can drive peak performance through great coaching. Over time, I’ve observed 5 key traits of these great coaches:
- Listen: Great coaches have empathy for the people they are coaching and that starts with asking questions, observing behaviors and being a great listener. When you have an understanding of the situation and the context, it helps you coach more effectively based on whether it’s a will or a skill issue.
- Be timely: I like the quote “coach someone while the sweat is still on their brow.” In other words, try to give people coaching in the moment so it will be memorable, and they will improve for the next time. Real-time feedback can go a long way in helping someone navigate more successfully in the next project.
- Be honest: It can be easy to focus only on the positive and bury any constructive feedback. The best coaches are honest even when it’s a difficult conversation. At the end of the day, honest observations are going to encourage peak performance.
- Be clear: It’s important that a coach knows what he or she wants and articulates exactly how to do it. The last thing you want to do is confuse someone.
- ‘Show’ rather than ‘Say’: Most people learn from observation or from their experience doing something, not listening to words or reading an email. Take the time to demonstrate your expectations to help people perform at their very best.
We’re leading and coaching in increasingly diverse organizations. And one aspect of workforce diversity on the rise is generational diversity. What advice would you offer about how to effectively coach a multi-generational workforce? And how do you activate the collective potential of a multi-generational workforce?
A multigenerational workforce is the way of the future. Our approach to coaching and activating this workforce must be multidimensional. When companies decide to provide reskilling and upskilling programs, some tend to take a ‘one size fits all’ approach, which can sometimes lead to organizations failing to address an individual’s learning style and preferences; some may prefer face-to-face, while others learn through immersive programs. At Bank of America, we believe in providing unparalleled and personalized learning experiences — with the key word being personalized. As we expand our multigenerational workforce, we must continue to develop and refine traditional learning styles, while planning and intensifying new ways of learning.
You’re referring to emotional intelligence, in a sense. What are two steps every leader can take to demonstrate a higher level of emotional intelligence?
Definitely, I believe emotional intelligence, should be intertwined with empathy. When thinking about emotional intelligence, it’s important to look inward and outward.
First, I believe a leader should take time to reflect on their strengths and weaknesses. This kind of self-reflection is important because it allows us to check in on how we react to different events. It’s the process of taking ownership of your own behavior. While some people handle stress differently, there is always time to take a step back and understand how and why we react.
The second step is understanding how to read a room, recognize people’s emotions and how they play a part in an organization. One example could be to walk around the office and actively see how people are working and engaging with each other. How are they communicating? Are there ways to foster a more collaborative environment? Communicating effectively helps to manage relationships and move a team of people toward a common goal.
Overall, as a leader, I find myself moving a mile a minute. When I check in on my self-awareness and management, I become more in tune with how I interact with my colleagues, and how together we can drive progress on our work.
Words matter. And we’re collectively creating a new leadership language right now. What are the most important words for leaders to use now?
One word: Culture! People who create a winning culture — one dedicated to constant improvement and the importance of every team member and voice — get the most out of diverse teams and create workplaces where everyone is empowered to achieve their full potential. There’s never been a better time to invest in our employees and build a culture centered on purpose, impact and the success of every teammate. In order to succeed as a leader, you must start with culture!
I keep inspiring quotes on my desk. What’s your favorite quote and why does it mean so much to you?
My dad used to keep a quote on his desk at work that simply said “Results, not excuses.” I probably heard him say it to me a thousand times, and it has become engrained in my approach to life. In the world today, excuses seem to be more prevalent than ever. These include excuses for behavior or excuses for failure, blame shifting and avoidance of consequences, holding ourselves to a low bar or no bar at all. Being outcome focused with a sense of personal accountability is important to me, and it means a lot to me that my dad made the effort to teach me that “Results, not excuses” is foundational to success.
Our readers often like to continue the conversation. What’s the best way for readers to connect with you and to stay current on what you’re discovering?
My social feeds are the best way to continue the conversation, you can find me on Twitter (@JohnnyTJordan) and LinkedIn, where you can hear more about The Academy at Bank of America and the latest trends in learning and development.
Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!