At the age of 30, Scott DiGiammari took what many believed to be, an impossible job.
He accepted a position as sales manager for the struggling Mid-Atlantic region of American Express Financial Advisor Network. His new region ranked 173rd out of 176. His had his work cut out for him!
As a former high school football coach, he loved spending time with people – developing, challenging and nurturing them. He knew he wanted to create a work culture in which his team would make principle-based decisions even when the boss wasn’t looking. That would take some training.
His goal was to empower his employees and bring out their best.
During the first month of his new position he reviewed the performance appraisals of each of his 36-member team. Those who had sub-standard performances or those who carried a negative attitude and were unlikely to change, he fired! When all was said and done he let fifty percent of his team go. Those remaining he began to train on the value of full honesty and transparency. Integrity, he believed, would always pay off. On one occasion when an employee acted poorly regarding transparency, he called all 36 members into his office for an hour-long meeting to discuss the value of trust. The message was loud and clear – nothing less than complete integrity would do.
He found a way to connect with his team that was spread across a large geographical area, and inspired them on a daily basis. A movie buff at heart, he sent out Hollywood movie clips to demonstrate lessons he wanted them to learn. One morning he played an excerpt from Robin William’s masterpiece Dead Poets Society. At one point in the movie all the students stood on top of their desks and pledged support for their professor. He followed it up by asking, “What are you doing today that would inspire your staff to stand on top of their desks for you?
Within one year his Mid-Atlantic region jumped from 173rd to first place! The following year, with Scott often reminding them that it was one thing to win first place, and another to keep it, they won first place again. For the next 13 out of 15 years Scott’s team maintained the number one position in the company. During this time he maintained a 97% retention rate… virtually unheard of in the industry. By the time of his 15th year of success he decided to leave Amex and start his own company.
A short time later, American Express wanted to know the secret to his success. Naturally they wanted to duplicate his methodology and spread it across their nationwide offices. To determine his winning formula they hired internationally renown management consultants McKinsey and Co. to provide a thorough investigation. Using several metrics including Scott’s management philosophy, his incentive system, his office structure and the attitude of his employees, survey data from customers and partners, they completed their comprehensive analysis.
The reason Scott was able to achieve such success was due to his ability to train others to care about the results they delivered. His team was fully engaged. In turn, they grew a great sense of pride at being able to be a part of the team. As one author cites, “To this day his track record of success in building a successful team of financial advisors has been unmatched.”