A Series On Our 10 ATBs



Story: We had a serious debate in our company regarding the importance of having clearly articulated values. Some folks had the view that hiring people with the right DNA (basic attributes) was sufficient. Others like myself, felt that we need to be more explicit in declaring what to expect from each other. While we wanted a wide variety of viewpoints, and a workforce that reflected the diverse community we live in, we also determined that we could foster greater inclusion through shared values. Having explicitly published values in organizations is hardly a new idea. However, we felt that being obsessive about them daily, with regular storytelling to showcase and reinforce, was something many institutions did not do well. So we launched what we call our 10 ATBs in 2015, based largely on an initiative led by our CEO. Many outside ATB ask me about them, and even people in ATB appreciate a refresher. So this is for all of you. I will write a blog about each one of them, and even though we number them sequentially, I will pick a random one each time. The important thing to remember is how the 10 work together as a system. I’m a fervent disciple of the notion that a clear, compelling PURPOSE deeply matters, so does obsessive, practiced, and fierce execution of values that both advance the company and employees as “better humans.” Let’s start with:

A: Think Yes First.

Key Point: In banking, it is easy to say NO. As one might imagine in the business of taking in and lending out money, risk management is essential. Subsequently, a bank can become so rule-bound and narrow that a propensity to think NO first can become a default position. This can permeate the entire business. Have you ever worked with people who think NO first? Occasionally, even departments like credit, IT, and HR in some companies get labeled as the NO or CAN’T folks. In today’s disruptive world, organizations need to be THINKING YES first (not necessarily always saying yes). It’s fundamental to achieving minimum innovation and transformation for survival, let alone the ability to flourish.

Key Actions to further establish THINKING YES first as a value in yourself and organization:

  1. Listen, listen, listen by connecting, understanding and THEN acting. (See previous blog on this).
  2. Use the phrase “how might we?” or similar phrases to continuously explore opportunities to get to the possibilities underlying “YES.”
  3. Use the conjunction AND instead of BUT. This technique is practiced by improv comedians, because it keeps the possibilities open.
  4. Ask “why?” all the time, and challenge the current value of all rules, processes, etc. Often, people do things just because. It’s surprising how many things are just activities without any real current value.
  5. Always acknowledge and express appreciation when the person you’re working with is someone who thinks YES first, and finds a way to move forward with you.

Personal Leadership Moves:

  1. Are you a think yes first person? Is that how people think of you?
  2. How well do you apply the five techniques above? That will give you an indication.
  3. Don’t be a putz, and use your authority to think NO first. People will find a way to work around you. If that happens too much, you know how that likely ends .

Thinking YES FIRST in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: There’s little that is more frustrating than when upper management immediately shuts down an idea by saying “no,” or claiming they “can’t” without exploring the proper avenues to “yes.” If we’re working with leaders who “think yes” first, it seems there’s a lot better chance we’ll achieve accomplishments that will have the entire company saying “yes!”

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis