Whenever Randy Reichmann needs to illustrate to his managers that what works for one person may not work as well for others — and that there may be other options — he usually talks about sifting flour.
“A mother and a daughter were making cookies at home, and they were getting ready to sift flour,” he says. “The young girl pulled out a fine-mesh strainer … and I remember, this is how my mom did it. She just pushed the flour through it with a fork.
“But the mom said, ‘Oh no, honey. That’s not how you sift flour.’ She reached under the counter and brought out a sifter with a little hand crank. Then she poured the flour in and sifted the flour while she turned the crank. The little girl said, ‘No, Mom. That’s how you sift flour.’
“The question is, if you didn’t see either person sift flour, would the cookie taste any different? The answer is no. The point is there is more than one way to do things.”
The advice that Reichmann, president and CEO of the Indiana region of Old National Bank, gives to new managers follows that mold — that they have to figure out what motivates people to do the things that need to be done in a way that they are comfortable doing.
“That’s really the message,” he says. “Young managers should not just expect people to do the things the ways they did them — but they should help them find the ways that they can do them and still be successful. That takes time.”
There is one way to deal with problems, and that is directly, Reichmann says.
“You deal with them head on,” he says. “You have to be careful, too. I learned this lesson: It is one thing to have a positive attitude, but you can’t wear rose-colored glasses because there are real problems that come up, and you have to deal with those.”
Here’s how Reichmann learned how to look at problems through colorless lenses and teach his executives to do likewise as they confront challenges at Old National Bank, an institution with corporate assets of about $10 billion and 2,300 employees.
Make over your mindset
Surviving a traumatic event can help people develop resilience and the coping mechanisms to deal with the challenge — just as it was with Reichmann.
His experience with an economic crisis gave him the tools to help him and his staff survive future crises. Reichmann was managing about 125 people at an out-of-state bank group when the real estate market crashed as a result of out-of-control speculation, and he had to take action. He was trying to keep the organization afloat while at the same time trying to continue to conduct business as usual. But it was difficult, and he says he drove to work each morning wondering which deal was going to crash that day and what the resulting losses were going to be.
Banks and thrifts had to work hard to prevent panic among the public as well as among financial organizations’ employees. To combat the fear, Reichmann called a leadership meeting.
“It was an interesting meeting to me because it had nothing to do with banking and had everything to do with helping people deal with adversity,” he says.
The whole point of the meeting was that, with the right mindset, they had the ability to stand up to difficult times.
“There is a quotation from author Wayne Dyer, Ph.D., that says, ‘When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,’” Reichmann says. “We were trying to get people to focus not on the behind-the-scenes efforts to keep the bank afloat, because we already had people working on that. We were trying to get them refocused on what we could do with our existing customers and hopefully to acquire new customers to help grow the bank — to help grow revenue at a time when we were taking some pretty significant charge-offs.”
The results of the meeting were significant. But for Reichmann, it was a life-changing moment for his mindset.
“I grew up on a farm in central Illinois and learned that if you worked hard, everything will be OK,” he says. “I found out very quickly that sometimes there are things so much out of your control that there is no guarantee they were going to be OK, in terms of what your measuring stick is for a bank.”
His transformation took some time, however, because he had some “unlearning” to do. He says he needed to switch from a fear, or a scarcity, mentality to an abundance mentality.
“I just meant that we would get through this, we would do what we had to do,” he says. “I remember clearly thinking, ‘Once I get through this, I am going to catch the next train out of banking land because I don’t ever want to go through something like this again. It was horrible.’”
But with some patience, Reichmann found a silver lining.
“As things got better, and we improved dramatically, you get to the end of it, and all of a sudden, you realize that the situation is better; the bank was going to be OK,” he says. “In fact, we were making quite a bit of money. Also, we were the only bank in town that really made it there. Then you think, ‘Jeez, I just went through all that. Why do I want to leave now?’”
So he stayed, and his career continued to grow. But that period of time has stuck with him and has defined what he is capable of in terms of enduring hardship, in terms of leadership and in helping other people to see their way through a very difficult time.
“Ultimately, you come out on the other end in a way that you never could have imagined when you were going through it,” Reichmann says.
Pull back and regain focus
While there are many times when it is important for a business to keep looking at the big picture — an aerial view of your business, if you will — there are times when you should be flying at tree-top level instead. Reichmann says homing in to regain focus will help prevent getting engulfed in a situation, which often is unproductive.
Instead, you need to take your eye off of the big picture and just do the next thing because it is too easy to become overwhelmed with the magnitude of the problems you are facing.
“I couldn’t solve all the charge-offs and nonaccruals and try to get rid of the real-estate-owned properties that we had, but what I could do was I could go work on the next problem,” he says. “I could go on a call with one of our bankers. I could make a call myself to try to develop some new business.”
Once you shift the focus away from the big picture, employee anxieties often decline. Reichmann says that if everyone is doing the things that they are able to do instead of focusing on the things they can’t, the picture starts to become clearer. He says that an improved mindset and a focus on tying up loose ends can go a long way to restore stability to a business. And that’s what happened in his situation as he and his staff finally knew that they were going to make it and that they were positioned well in the marketplace.
“We were the only bank in town that cleaned up its balance sheet, and that effort was just fabulous,” he says. “I’ve never seen a bank generate more profit in that period of time. We were much more disciplined than we had been. We were requiring equity, getting appraisals and doing all the things that we are doing now and just made it a healthier environment for everyone. It was just an incredible period of time.”
You have to bring perspective to a problem, a belief that you are going to solve that problem no matter what it takes. Reichmann says it’s easy to take on a defeatist attitude and begin to believe that you aren’t going to make it. But if you reach that point, you are never going to win. Instead, you need to remain positive and maintain the belief that you are going to come out ahead. If you lose a sale or even a customer, it’s important to adopt the attitude that it is not necessarily a loss.
“That’s not the way to look at it,” he says. “You are certainly not happy that you’ve lost the business, but you need to learn what you did wrong and what you could do differently to do better the next time. There is more business out there. Are you going to sit around and feel sorry for yourself about what you lost or are you going to focus on getting out there and seeing what you can win?”
Making the effort takes time, however, and it can be difficult. People tend to get into habits, and it takes a conscious effort. You have to make the effort to change your thought patterns and think in terms of abundance. Reichmann says that changing his mindset made him more optimistic, removed some of the fear and made him a better leader. That allowed him to step up and lead his employees to the light at the end of the tunnel.
He says that as a leader in difficult times, you have to show employees that there is a way out of the current situation. Then, as positive things occur, share those wins with them. However, you also need to share the negative, along with information about how you are going to deal with it.
Blend and make magic happen
As a challenging situation begins to improve, the ultimate measure of success is not financial achievement but personal enhancement. When you can tie a company’s level of earnings with an employee’s goals for personal development, you have what software engineers call “a killer application.”
“When you have blended those two things, you have a magic potion,” Reichmann says. “You have self-motivated individuals who feel like they are making progress not only in their roles but also in their personal goals for their lives, and that’s a pretty positive experience.”
If you can do that, employees are no longer working for themselves in one sense and working for the bank in another sense. As a leader, it is your job to find out what makes your employees tick, as everyone has their own personal goals and what works for one may not work for another.
Reichmann says he often tells new managers that they are not one of the rank and file. Instead, they have to move up the chain into a new position, which includes figuring out how to motivate individual workers.
“Typically, if I have an up-and-comer who is eager and aggressive and clearly has a bright track record, he or she may say, ‘OK, I did A, B and C, and I got here. So therefore, I need to have my people do A, B and C, and then they will get here,’ he says. “The point that you have to get through to them is that A, B and C worked for you, but perhaps X, Y and Z will work for somebody else to get the same results. To me, what leadership and management are all about is trying to figure out how people grow personally, because when you do that, they perform better professionally.” <<
How to reach: Old National Bank, (800) 731-2265 or www.oldnational.com
The Reichmann File
President and CEO
Old National Bank
Born: Carlinville, Ill., a small agricultural town about 45 miles south of Springfield, Ill.
Education: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I majored in agricultural economics.
What was your first job?
I worked on a dairy, hog and grain farm as a youngster. Aside from that, when I went to college, the first job where I got a check from somebody other than my dad was working for the university. I would fuel up the pool cars on evenings and weekends. I learned, having always worked for my dad, that it was fun to work hard for other people and see them appreciate it — for somebody besides your family. That served me well in my career because, on a dairy farm, there is no vacation from milking cows. What I found out is that, when you get into the professional world and you just work hard, you can go pretty far.
Whom do you most admire in business?
I admire Jim Morris, president of the Indiana Pacers. Being president of the Pacers is a high-profile position, but Jim is all about helping other people. Whether it is Boy Scouts or whatever else makes Indianapolis a better place to live, Jim probably is involved in that somehow.
What is the best business advice you have ever received?
I wish I could remember who said it, but, ‘Put your head down and do the next thing. And stop worrying about things you can’t control.’
What is your definition of business success?
Business success is being successful financially, and I hesitate to use the term ‘more important’ but just as important is that you are seeing people grow — that you see those things that you’ve invested in in terms of teaching and guiding pay dividends. Success is when you see them able to handle a situation that, heretofore, maybe they couldn’t have.