Helping others succeed: Gratitude for the Bank that taught me the HOW of Flourishing

May 14, 2018 Andrew Soren

I worked at BMO Financial Group, Canada’s oldest bank and one of the top 10 largest financial institutions in North America, for more than 13 years before I came to LRN in 2016. The more I get to know some very impressive organizations around the world, the more I’m struck by how many things BMO gets right when it comes to their employee experience. They genuinely believe, for example, that we all have opportunities to grow – and that with the right support and guidance, we can help each other reach our full potential. For me, this meant opportunities to explore my passions, access formal learning (inside and outside the bank) and take on increasingly challenging roles where I could put my new knowledge into practice.

My career story at BMO in a nutshell: I was hired by their brand marketing department in 2004 to coordinate arts and culture sponsorships in the communities we served. After several years and a few promotions, I became very curious about leadership – what good looked like, how it was measured, and especially, how it was taught. I didn’t know exactly what that meant but knew I wanted to learn more. After a few conversations with people who seemed to really care about my future, I found myself at BMO’s Institute for Learning, in a job basically created for me within their faculty of leadership. The work became a passion.

I saw that the best in the field of leadership development had coaching designations. I learned as much as I could about that on my own and then was given support to attend the Coaches Training Institute. Certification in hand, I got the opportunity to lead a new program designed to train thousands of managers how to coach to high performance. The work we did was extraordinary, but I knew it was missing something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. To take it to the next level, we’d need to learn more about the science of coaching. It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually, BMO agreed to support me in a graduate degree at the University of Pennsylvania to study Applied Positive Psychology.

My studies were filled with breathtaking revelations about all the ways the science of human flourishing could radically impact how an organization thought about and supported its people to thrive. I used an end-of-term paper as an excuse to write a letter I would never actually send to the CEO of the bank. At the encouragement of friends and colleagues, I did, however, send it to a couple sponsors who’d supported me along the way. They passed it along to others and pretty soon I got a call from a leader in BMO’s talent management department who was developing the strategy to revitalize our culture in the quest of becoming a more human bank. (Read the full letter here.)

Suffice it to say, inspired by the opportunity to apply everything I was learning, I joined her team, and within a year, we started working with LRN – famous for its philosophy on what it takes to succeed in a human economy. So much of what I had studied around positive psychology supported LRN’s perspectives on how to build and embed human operating systems that scale values and behaviors. Over the next two years, we worked together to do just that at BMO, co-creating models that would empower employees around the world to bring BMO’s vision to life.

By then, I’d fallen so in love with the work that I felt called to help other organizations discover their HOWs as well. In a testament to BMO’s true dedication to its employees’ potential, it was with tears in both of our eyes that our Chief Talent Officer (my manager at the time and a true sponsor throughout my years at the bank) gave me her blessing to pursue this new chance to grow – making sure I knew I’d always have a place back at BMO if I wanted it.

To learn more about the science of human flourishing and the HOW of building values-driven cultures, join me and my LRN colleague Jan Stanley, at the Canadian Positive Psychology Association’s upcoming conference on May 23, 2018 in Toronto. We’ll be leading experiential workshops that dive deeper into how we’ve applied the science of human flourishing in our advisory work at LRN.

Previous Article
The Moral Imperative of Leadership: CEO Daily
The Moral Imperative of Leadership: CEO Daily

In this edition of CEO Daily, Fortune’s Alan Murray addresses how  CEOs are answering the call for moral le...

Next Article
Principled Performance: Five Questions with Dov Seidman
Principled Performance: Five Questions with Dov Seidman

In a recent interview with Interbrand Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Sullivan, LRN CEO Dov Seidman talks ab...