case study

Fulton Financial Corporation

CEO Phil Wenger

The Fulton Experience: Ending the blame game to restore accountability and high performance

 In profitable, high-performing companies, employees seem happier, more optimistic, more energized, more willing to collaborate. There is a higher level of trust and accountability. People tend to see solutions instead of problems, and seem more willing to go above and beyond to contribute new and bold ideas. But when times get tough, sliding financial results can paint a sobering picture. Cracks begin to surface, and these cracks show up in behaviors.

When the 2008 recession hit, Fulton Financial Corporation, a regional financial holding company headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania with 3,700 employees and $18.1 billion in assets under management, was among the many financial services companies fighting to survive. Instead of working together to overcome challenges with agility and collaboration, leaders began playing the role of victims. Unhealthy behaviors of blame, lack of accountability and resistance to change led the CEO Phil Wenger to determine that a culture shift was needed to enable a return to high performance to create a lasting, brighter future.
 
Wenger wanted to create a lot more accountability and overcome clear resistance to change. “It would have been a whole lot better if we had done it about seven years earlier. But, it just was absolutely necessary at that point in time for our survival. We wanted to improve in every area. We were an organization that accepted mediocrity, and in a lot of cases, accepted less than mediocrity. We were victims and were having a really difficult time understanding what needed to change for us to be successful again.”

 

Results from The Fulton Experience culture program

Senn Delaney helped Wenger and the senior team to simplify the organization values from 12 to six and add a change value that has enabled a mindset shift to one of always being ready to change. A higher purpose was established and communicated to guide the organization for years to come. Key culture concepts of The Fulton Experience, the values and the purpose, are being embedded into the organization’s DNA and integrated into all learning programs and a recognition program.

The culture work has created more accountability and vitality, and helped restore Fulton Financial to growth and positive performance. Wenger said the organization feels much different. “People are energized. They understand what accountability means and what it can do to drive success.“
 
“Before this process, our valuation was underperforming compared to our peers’ average; now we’re performing better than average. Our growth rate is the strongest it’s been in several years and it’s all organic, or internal, growth. That can only happen through everyone’s efforts if everyone on the team is working to be at their best. No one really has any idea what the future holds. But we do know it’s useless to play the victim. Thanks to the work we’ve been doing to shape a more positive, collaborative and accountable corporate culture, I think we’re in a better position to tackle future challenges than ever before.”

 

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