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Investment banks want their employees to work 30% harder and achieve the objectives of the organisation. The only way to do this is to develop better relationships.

11 easy steps to create a more productive investment banking team

Getting closer to your colleagues can do wonders

Financial services firms don’t only want their employees to work harder, they want them to work smarter and this means not only putting your nose to the grindstone, but directing it in the way that will most effectively drive success for your organisation.

We covered this in my last article about making it as a manager in investment banking, but this essentially means being able to deliver your personal objectives every day and ensuring your actions help your employer hit their key targets. Here, I want to concentrate on one factor of this – getting the most out of the people you work with. It may be that you’re managing a team and need to maximise their efforts, but it’s just as relevant to working with your peers and will help if you move into a leadership role.

We know that probably 60% of people in organisations are performing up to 30% less than they could and still show up as satisfactory in the appraisal process. Getting that extra 30% in the same time for the same money is key to both leadership and organisational success.

You probably already know how it works – as you know what makes you give you best, or not, as a response to the situation, in which the critical factor is your boss. There are certain things that they can do which will probably get you to give your best and be willing to go the extra mile.

Over 20 years I have asked leaders around the world and in every type of organisation what the best boss they ever had would do to make them want to give maximum effort. I have done this with investment and other bankers around the world, MBA students, logistics, public sector, even the Red Cross in Myanmar and the Chinese Space Programme.

What’s amazing is that the list I get is always pretty much the same, really simple things that every human being wants, irrespective of rank, culture or organisation.  It’s things like:

  • Tells me how what I do fits into the bigger picture
  • Asks me for my ideas and listens to me
  • Develops my skills and my career
  • Treats me with respect as a person and as a professional
  • Acts with integrity, honesty and decency
  • Understands if I make a genuine mistake and backs me up
  • Tells me how I’m doing and gives me feedback to help me get better
  • Empowers me and lets me get on with things
  • Praises me when I have done well
  • Cares about me as a person and a member of the team
  • Sets realistic, challenging and developmental objectives for me

You probably agree with the list when you look back at your best boss. When you look at what it includes it is obvious is that every one of those things is something you could probably do immediately, without significant training, and which costs your organisation nothing to do. This isn’t rocket science, and it can deliver that extra effort.

If you break down this list even more, one common theme is that most of them are relationship-focused. Maybe 10% focus on tasks alone and another 15% on something that is both task and relationship dependent. But, here’s the thing, the other 75% relate to the personal relationship you have with your manager. Put simply, you won’t ever perform to your potential – or convince others to do so – if you don’t develop relationships. Yes, the task will get done, but you’ll never achieve the level of performance demanded by most banks these days.

If you want the best from people the evidence is clear, just do the simple things that you would want your boss to do for you. Focus on inspiring them to want to do the job through their trust, respect and loyalty to you not just because you drive them to. If you do, the rewards are significant and quickly deliverable.

Chris Roebuck is visiting professor of transformational leadership at Cass Business School. He was formerly global head of talent & leadership at UBS 2002-06 and also head of management development for HSBC investment bank. He has worked with organisations as diverse as RBS, the UK National Health Service (1.4m staff), international law firms, and London Underground to the Myanmar Red Cross and the Chinese Space Programme. His new book Lead to Succeed, on which these articles are based is available from Waterstones or at a discount directly from the website ( in both hard copy and digital versions.   

AUTHORChris Roebuck Insider Comment

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