Sean St. John, National Bank Financial VP, Talks Positive Workplace Culture

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Sean St. John is recognized by his peers for his drive, reliability and willingness to guide others to professional success within the National Bank Financial community.

With more than 25 years of experience, Sean serves as the executive vice president, managing director, and co-head of the fixed income, currencies, and commodities group within the Toronto-based financial group. Notably, in 2016, Sean oversaw National Bank become the top advisor on the topic of Canadian debt issues for corporations and governments.

Guided by his commitment to giving back, Sean has been a long-time advocate for charitable organizations and has served as an active board member for several philanthropic groups, including Right To Play Canada and Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer. He is also a dedicated supporter of the Children’s Aid Foundation and Connected North.

National Bank Financial has a culture of developing a team-focused working environment that places people first. Given your long tenure at the bank, what, in your opinion, are some of the keys to developing that kind of workplace culture? 

Sean St. John: It takes time. Successfully cultivating a team means listening to input from each team member and thinking about their opinions. As a leader, you have to create an environment where the team is the solution and has a stake in the outcome.

It seems as though part of the culture at National Bank involves recognition of the contributions made by individual team members towards the organization’s overall goals. Why do you think it’s important to have the right people on your team to make those contributions?

Sean St. John: One of the most important things I’ve learned is how to find good people, and specifically, what qualities to look for. I’d say that I’m always looking energy, intelligence and humility. Those are the kinds of employees you want to have on your team if you’re trying to build something sustainable and successful.

Today, millennials make up a large percentage of the workplace, creating a new challenge for managers to bridge the gap between generations. How do you effectively manage your millennial employees?

Sean St. John: This has certainly been an interesting shift in workplace dynamics. The priorities of this generation are vastly different than generations of the past. Millennials have a desire to be heard. They want to have face-to-face conversations with management, and they also want their manager to be approachable. Make time. Be close to them.

With that said, what is an effective way to keep millennials engaged?

Sean St. John: Millennials crave opportunity, so I think managers need to create new ways for them to develop and broaden their skillset. Assigning different projects and exposing them to other avenues of the business are both excellent ways to keep the younger generation engaged in their work.

Who is a person that you considered a role model early in your life? How and why does this person impact your life? 

Sean St. John: I had a great mentor early on in my career as a corporate bonds trader. As a sports fan, he told me a baseball analogy that still resonates with me today. That was–come in to work everyday, hit singles and doubles, but do it everyday. No home runs. But be there everyday.

What is most important to you and your organization – mission, vision, or core values?

Sean St. John: I think all three are important and although distinguishable, they are also inseparable. Every organization has to have a mission, for instance –what are we here for and what are the goals we are trying to achieve. Having a clear vision is crucial because it provides motivation and inspires us to keep moving forward. And core values are the philosophical foundation of a corporation.

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MiLLENNiAL is a lifestyle magazine profiling those who are shaping the world we experience. From business innovation and career strategy to sustainable health and cultural disruptors, MiLLENNiAL shines the light on the young change makers of the world.

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