Leadership Business Blogging

Don Meyer, the EVP and Head of Commercial Banking of Chicago’s Byline Bank

What a thrill it was to see the Cubs and Cardinals baseball series end last Tuesday with a Chicago Cubs victory at Wrigley field.  And now, the Cubs are in pursuit of the pennant and ready to face the NY Mets in the NL Championship series. While all of this is incredibly exciting for baseball fans everywhere, I am equally excited by an unexpected bonus brought on by these baseball battles: Don Meyer’s blog. Here’s the story –

I love it when senior leaders blog. One of the best ways to engage employees and drive the desired culture in any organization is to start a conversation that everyone wants in on. One of the best ways to start that conversation is through blogging.

I encourage leaders to take the time to write a blog that can be posted on the company’s intranet or another prominent internal communication vehicle. Some take me up on it and others find it difficult to set aside the time to do it. I understand that. As someone who writes a lot in my role as a communication strategist it comes as second nature, but for busy executives it often feels burdensome or simply not in their wheelhouse. Nonetheless, I am persistent because when employees get a window into how leaders think and feel – a spark occurs and a connection is made.

Recently, at Chicago’s Byline Bank, Don Meyer, EVP and Head of Commercial Banking, took up the challenge and proceeded in an unexpected way. Rather than simply writing a single blog entry, he decided to write daily during the professional baseball playoffs (and specifically committed to write as long as the Chicago Cubs and/or the St. Louis Cardinals were in the running). Don’s format was to comment on the latest baseball happenings to connect to a common interest of many employees. He found it easy (and dare I say ‘fun’) to do, as baseball is something he is passionate about. Next he would relate what happened at the game the night before to what was happening within the Commercial Banking group at Byline.

He hooked his employee audience with lively, humorous and often irreverent baseball commentary (he, a die-hard Cardinals fan, amidst Cubs fever) and then made the connection to how it applies to employees’ work life, goals and the quest to build relationships with customers.

Don attracted readership through the 3 P’s of effective blogging:

1. Personality

Write in your authentic voice. Write like you talk. Don’s blogs had titles like: “Is that Cardinal-loving jerk going to write again?”

2. Personal Connection

Jumpstart the business conversation with a connection to a personal topic or a common interest shared with employees.

3. Professional Point

Once you’ve established the common ground, segue to the business point you want to make.

Here’s a sample from Don’s blog earlier in the season:

The Cardinals finished their 3 game series with the Pirates yesterday by winning 2 out of the 3 games and clinching the Central Division title and also clinching home field advantage during the National League playoffs because they will have the best record (the Cardinals have won 100 games with 3 yet to play, no other team can reach 100 wins even if they win all their remaining games). The Cardinals have now won 9 division titles and 3 wild card berths for a total of 12 playoff appearances this century out of a potential 16 (if the Yankees clinch a wild card berth this season they will have 13 playoff appearances this century, no other team is close). The Cardinals have been a model of consistency, not only have they been to the playoffs 3 out of every 4 years this century but during this season they moved into first place in the division on April 17 and held that position all season long. The Pirates have 277 regular season wins since the start of 2013, the second-best record in the majors during that time, but they have yet to win a division title because the Cardinals have 287 wins during that same time.

After last night’s game the Cardinals sprayed each other with champagne and slapped high fives and sang songs – how baseball winners celebrate. One of their players was quoted in the clubhouse after the game saying, “Obviously we have bigger plans” yet they chose to celebrate this interim victory.

I know that I celebrated this interim victory in my own way last night (the game ended last night about 9:15, I checked ESPN on cellphone about that time from my bed just as I was about to fall asleep, 9:15 being a little later than I typically fall asleep)

Byline funded $41 million in new loans yesterday. For the month of September we funded more than $50 million. Every lending group closed loans in September; every other group including Credit and Loan Documentation and Compliance and Operations and Treasury and all others contributed to and can claim credit for the success. All Byliners need to give each other a high five for our September accomplishments (we can spray each other with champagne on our own time). Like the Cardinals “obviously we have bigger plans” yet September 2015 will be a month to remember. Thank you, everyone, for your contribution.

Don’s blogs have not only driven traffic to the intranet but they have also stimulated a conversation about relationship management, celebrating successes, and working together. In addition, they have provided an insight into what the Commercial Group is up to – and the more we know about what each other is doing, the more synergies are revealed and cross-sell opportunities abound.

Here’s what I learned from Don about a successful senior leadership blog:
– Go for a series
– Rather than one entry, choose a theme and write daily to cover all sides of the issue
– Balance personal with professional
– Riff on a hobby, interest or passion and then connect it to workplace topics
– Use humor and let your personality shine through
– Write in your authentic voice – even if it is not always the most “PC”
– Be consistent
– If you commit to writing a daily blog for one week – do it, as employees look for it and count on it
– Educate
– Look at that daily blog as a way to educate employees (in an entertaining way) about your team, division or work group.

Thanks, Don, for allowing me to share your best practice!