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Diversity of Thought in Leadership Teams with Pete Dunbar

Diversity of thought is essential for evolution, but a lot of times, leaders don’t embrace this opportunity.

In this episode, Pete Dunbar, Regional President of American Bank of Freedom, joins us to share actionable advice on the importance of diversity of thought in leadership teams and the value it adds to decision-making processes, the power of intentional, day-to-day leadership, efficient planning, and more.

Listen in for more of Pete’s leadership insights and gain a deeper understanding of the power in making room for a range of ideas and perspectives.

After You Listen:

Key Takeaways:

  • Knowing strengths fosters self-awareness, allowing to compensate for weaknesses and leverage diversity of thought within teams
  • Develop a clear plan and write it down to steer leadership and teams towards success
  • Slow down, be intentional, and maintain presence in day-to-day operations for immense value to your leadership journey.

Things to listen for:

  • [02:11] Lightning round with Pete
  • [04:00] Foundational leadership ideals
  • [10:53] Upholding ethics and respect in company development
  • [13:46] Challenges in treating everyone equitably at work
  • [25:48] Valuable insights on leadership and diversity
  • [26:38] Plan, focus, and slow down for success
  • [25:03] Pete’s advice for his younger self
  • [25:48] Craig’s takeaways

Pete’s Transcript:

[00:00:00] Craig P. Anderson: I stood up, looked across the entire room at the one clearly exasperated person in the corner and I interrupted the group and said, it’s time for you to listen to him. Welcome to executive evolution.

As part of my coaching practice at ClearPath Coaching and Consulting, I have the opportunity to work with a variety of companies and facilitating their strategic planning process. And before I start that process, I always have the group take the core values index and assessment that I use to help teams understand themselves better.

And what I find is often that leaders surround themselves with people much like them because let’s face it, it’s comfortable. But we lose out on diversity of thought. And in this case, I had a room full of innovators who were churning ideas over and over again. But what they lacked was the builder instinct, the builder core energy.

Except for the 1 person in the corner of the room who you could see was frustrated with the constant ideation without reaching a conclusion. It’s important to know who those people are, who are different from us and make sure that we check in with them on their opinion as we’re going through things as a leadership team.

On this episode of the podcast, my guest is Pete Dunbar, the regional president for Indiana of the American bank of freedom. Pete’s story of his executive evolution covers many years as he’s worked in the banking industry. And one of the things of many that we discussed today as part of that leadership journey is how diversity of thought is a value add for leadership  teams.

So let’s jump into today’s episode.

Pete, welcome to the Executive Evolution Podcast. Glad you could be here today.

[00:01:52] Pete Dunbar: It’s my pleasure, Craig, and, uh, our association, though brief has been a lot of fun. I’ve enjoyed it.

[00:01:58] Craig P. Anderson: Absolutely. Yeah. It’s always good to have a couple of good connections with old banker guys and current banker guys, right. And so it’s good to talk to you. Well, let’s jump right in. Are you ready for the lightning round today, Pete?

[00:02:10] Pete Dunbar: Let’s do it.

[00:02:11] Craig P. Anderson: All right. Question number one. What is the best leadership book you have ever read?

[00:02:18] Pete Dunbar: The best book is Mega Trends by John Nesbit.

[00:02:23] Craig P. Anderson: Why so,

[00:02:24] Pete Dunbar: Well, I read it when I was in college and it had a profound effect on how I viewed the future. And, probably the part of the book, which, has stayed with me almost daily is the chapter called High Tech, high Touch, And technology, which was in its infancy as we know it today, would not survive without the knowledge and the handholding of the company providing the technology that there was only a certain number of pioneers that would really go out and try it on their own.

That everyone else would adopt it slowly, but they would adopt it faster and more effectively if the company simultaneously developed a high touch mechanism, and, belief that if the technology was that valuable to the customer, that they would really work with them on a one-on-one, or in a group basis to get the technology to be functioning at the highest level.

[00:03:27] Craig P: And it’s so interesting ’cause I remember mega trends when it came out. And to have that kind of an essential truth as we’re sitting here today as leaders, as with the people listening in the leadership roles, trying to figure out their way through this. There are some lessons that are still valid around technology, like that high touch piece, and as we talk about things like, well, we should have AI answer all the questions, that’s not high touch.

That’s just data. So it’s interesting to see that we had those lessons so long ago. Question number two, is your leadership crush?

[00:04:00] Pete Dunbar: Leadership crush is probably, I would say it’s changed through time when I was a younger man, my leadership crush was John Reed, the chairman of City Corp.

I didn’t ever meet John Reed, but I met his number one lieutenant Tom Theobald, who came to work for Continental Bank to try to save Continental Bank. And I spent a lot of time with Tom Theobald in the 18 months he was there. And he had, uh, John Reed’s mind and he had. Developed it into the Midwestern mindset of John Reed, who was very New York centric.

[00:04:34] Pete Dunbar: and then as I, I went through time, and this is, this is gonna sound cliche, but,but my, my who was in the banking business his whole life was a tremendous relationship person.

He taught me a lot. I used to say to people when I was young and I was trying to get a job, I said, I learned this business at my father’s knee. but I would hear half of conversations he would have with people on the telephone,

[00:04:57] Craig P: Mm-Hmm.

[00:04:58] Pete Dunbar: and I just remember my dad asking a lot more questions than providing answers and that stuck with me.

currently as I look atthe world today from a leadership standpoint. I’m on the fence right now. business leadership, in my opinion, has become too political and it’s become, we’re gonna do this or that. It’s not as much, uh, inclusive and, um, building consensus as the leadership models that I came through as I was coming up as a younger and, and middle level executive.

[00:05:29] Craig P: And it’s so interesting if you tie that back to what you said about, I think Tom Theobald who the New York knowledge. With a Midwest sensibility and leaders kind of meeting where they are and how do I do that in a way that I’m kind of authentic and representative of my people that I’m leading.

Right? Because it’s different in the part of the country you’re in, I think, for how people want to be led and, what will motivate people.

[00:05:55] Pete Dunbar: I agree. I, I lived in Chicago for a long time. I lived in Miami, Florida for a long time, and now live in Indiana where I grew up and the style that I developed in South Florida, it played of well when I was at JP Morgan in the Midwest. But it, I had to adapt both as a, client facing, person and a leader.

[00:06:16] Craig P: Absolutely. Okay. Now, given all that, in 10 words or less, how would you define leadership?

[00:06:23] Pete Dunbar: I am gonna use, uh, words, not an actual phrase.

[00:06:27] Craig P: Sure.

[00:06:28] Pete Dunbar: teamwork, respect, accountability. Integrity, trust, collaboration, candor, communication. I think that’s eight words. those are concepts that I think about every single day.

[00:06:42] Craig P: Yeah. Yeah. And they’re so important and, always think people Look at leadership saying, well, I’ll be in charge and, and I can tell people what to do and it’s gonna be great. But then you start layering in things like integrity and trust and candor and communication, and all the things that you actually have to be thinking about every day as a leader and balancing that with trying to move a business forward. Leadership can feel a bit overwhelming when you start looking at it that way. Don’t you think?

[00:07:09] Pete Dunbar: know, this is an often used economic phrase, middle-outor a bad phrase from a HBO, sitcom, but I view business that way, that we have to teach everyone on our teams to speak to each other with respect.

Mm-Hmm. To realize that it is the collaborative efforts and communication that will get the best results.

And how do you do that? You empower people. You make them accountable for their own actions. You obviously reward them at the same degree. And if you teach everyone on your team to . Be brave and to go into a conversation and as long as they remember to speak with respect, with candor, which means truth, you use facts  you can build a company effectively by looking at the core  and going out.

[00:08:10] Craig P: Yeah, a hundred percent. this is a great lead in. So that’s the earned knowledge that you have around leadership. Let’s go back in time, Pete, to your very leadership role. What was that first leadership role for you? I.

[00:08:24] Pete Dunbar: I was, uh, 30 years old working for City Corp in Chicago. I didn’t wanna move to New York, so I had to find another job in the bank. And, our, local president, who’s a person I still stay in touch with, he said, I’m gonna make you the salesman. Uh, I, I came from a credit background. he says, I’ve got a sales manager job open for you our largest branch, which for those that are bankers, it was an $800 million branch in 1993.

so put that into perspective that is bigger, well, that’s bigger than the bank that I work for today. Let’s put it that way. . and the branch manager came with no banking experience whatsoever. She had been a legendary leadership trainer, people builder, specialist, and came with all the technical knowledge about how to

Teach people to be leaders and teach people to train other people, and he threw us together. And over the next 18 months, we did phenomenal things together because we knew our strengths. We also, didn’t ever expose each other’s weaknesses. We worked together. To make sure that we were the combined perfect team to lead the organization, especially at a time of rapid transformation that, the bank was going through at, the time.

And, I was mesmerized by her ability to make decisions so quickly, and I asked her how she did it, and she pulled out a book, which I, I looked for the copy of it, Craig. I couldn’t find it over the weekend. is basically, it is a Venn diagram of making management and people decisions,

[00:10:05] Craig P: Wow.

[00:10:06] Pete Dunbar: And I’m a credit guide by training, so that’s the way my brain works.

And I poured through this book and I would find situations that were confronting me and I go, oh, I remember that. You know, ask this. And if it’s yes, go this way. No, go this way. Now it’s like routine in, the way I do things. but that was it. And, you know, by the way that, woman’s name’s Nora Brennan, Nora’s still alive, lives on the south side of Chicago.

We talk every year on her birthday, and I give her tremendous, credit for any success that I had in being able to be an effective leader.

[00:10:41] Craig P: So when you think about that, what were the key lessons that she taught you as far as, sounds like people decisions were a big part, but what were the real big lessons you learned as a young leader from her?

[00:10:53] Pete Dunbar: well, she knew that, my upbringing had given me, a moral center and an ethical center. That I was gonna treat people with respect, didn’t matter what their background level of education was. What she taught me was how to move them towards a place that was gonna be better for our company and in the long run, hopefully better for them in their life and in their career.

And you and I both know you don’t move anything quickly.

[00:11:24] Craig P: Mm-Hmm.

[00:11:25] Pete Dunbar: you move it incrementally. especially with some of our employees that had the biggest gaps to get through, And she asked me one day, she said, is so and so ever going to get to where we need them to get? I said, absolutely, without a doubt.

And she said, you need a plan. you can’t say tomorrow you’re gonna be here.

[00:11:45] Craig P: Mm-Hmm.

[00:11:45] Pete Dunbar: And. I knew that, but she said, you need a plan. And she made it, write it down, you know, on a monthly basis, quarterly basis. She made me write down the steps that we were gonna take to getone of our team members from where they were to where they needed to go.

[00:12:00] Craig P: AndYeah.

[00:12:01] Pete Dunbar: so she made me have, each employee that I worked with had to have a plan. Of course, they were all different ’cause they did different things.

and, had different scope of the importance of the roles. But, that’s what I learned.

[00:12:13] Craig P: Yeah, and that’s really that idea of having a vision as a leader, getting everybody aligned behind it and have a plan to get there. So everybody’s kind of focused and they know which way we’re going, and that’s such an important leadership trait. when you were doing this, what were your struggles?

What were the things you really were struggling with at that time as a leader?

[00:12:34] Pete Dunbar: my mind works very quickly. I prepare my mind all the time for eventualities. and I struggled with other people’s minds and then their behaviors were too slow for me, and that would create frustration and then frustration would be manifested in different ways. my mind’s not going to slow down.

I can’t make it. But I’ve had to adapt my response, my,  process, if you will, when I work with other team members to make sure that I, understand, I’ll say how their mind works, but really what are they really prepared to do and how fast or realistically are they prepared to get there?

[00:13:15] Craig P: yeah, that struggle of meeting people where you are. And that’s one of the challenges too in leadership is not everybody’s like you. And if you surround yourself with people like you, you’re gonna miss a lot. So,

[00:13:25] Pete Dunbar: For sure.

[00:13:25] Craig P: but it also necessitates maybe changing your approach. You can’t treat everybody the same way. You have to get ’em there in a different way. And that’s something I really find with a lot of leaders is they don’t realize that. not everyone’s like me and I’ve gotta figure out how to still get ’em to buy into that vision and get ’em move in in a way that makes sense for them, not for me.

It’s a challenge.

[00:13:47] Pete Dunbar: And,I think one of the added challenges that to Craigis the environment we live in today of inclusivity and, you know, everyone has to be treated, you know, nominally the same regardless of, you any type of, description thatyou would put on them. it can be challenging and sometimes I’m, I’m remiss to, invite a male employee to do certain things because I know they’d wanna do ’em and know they’d like to do ’em, and it’d be enjoyable and it might even help ’em in their career.

But I’m remiss to do it ’cause I, couldn’t or wouldn’t invite a female employee to, to do the same things. it’s a challenge for leaders today to, think about you have to treat everyone, nominally the same and, and equitably. I do think a lot about that and make sure that we’re on common ground.

And oftentimes I’ll throw it out to the team and I’ll say, you know, I’ll use an example. One of my teammates today loves to play golf. He’s also the only current male on our team. And so we’ll go play golf after work. We’ll play nine holes of golf after work. I’m not inviting the women to play golf ’cause they don’t play golf.

They don’t like golf, they don’t want to, and they really just don’t wanna, you know, do anything after work. But I have to be cognizant of that because, not because it’s an activity, but because I’m doing that activity with a single staff member that might look different than the other staff members.

[00:15:04] Craig P: Yeah. And, and when you talked about kind of equitability about it and really figuring out, okay, if I’m gonna do that here, what do I need to do here? So the whole team feels like we’re all working in the same direction and everyone’s getting the opportunity to be with me as the leader. And getting that access.

And so we wanna keep it so everything feels on a level ground, but again, we gotta do it a little bit differently.

[00:15:25] Pete Dunbar: an earlier experience, you and I both sat and listened to a, very experienced and successful female executive, you know, talk about this.

And the term that she used that has stuck with me was to grow your company, you need diversity of thought.

[00:15:43] Craig P: right.

[00:15:44] Pete Dunbar: And, I don’t wanna take authorship for this because it wasn’t me. I give caroline young complete, uh, credit, but it just struck me to get diversity of thought. You need diversity of background. You need diversity of all the other descriptions of, people that you might have. And if you’re open to seeking diversity of thought, you will get diversity, as defined by other, ways, on your team.

Because you have to, if, every single person was a, person that looked like you and me, that grew up in the same part of the country, diversity of thought is going to be at a minimum.

[00:16:28] Craig P: Right.

[00:16:29] Pete Dunbar: And so.  It’s, been top of mind for about the last month about attracting a team that will provide diversity of thought

[00:16:41] Craig P: Yes.

[00:16:42] Pete Dunbar: it is that diversity which is going to lead us ultimately to the successful outcome we’re looking for, for ourselves, for our customers, and for our business.

[00:16:53] Craig P: Yeah. One of the things I speak with a lot of my coachees and the leadership coaching that I do is we have this tendency to wanna surround ourselves with people like us. ’cause it’s comfortable and it’s easy and there’s less confrontation. But we also lose something in that, and having people who are different, come from a different background or even, sometimes it’s just some different assessments you could take of people who approach problems differently than you, right?

When you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail. So maybe you need to find other tools at your table that will help you really find ways to successfully grow, because this is not an easy world. The challenges and the headwinds for leaders are significant for economic and all kinds of reasons. So having people who who might see a solution you don’t see is huge in in this environment.

[00:17:38] Pete Dunbar: the other thing that I we’re all trained to do is we’re, we’re coming up through leadership and building teams and looking at, specific needs for our team and how to solve for those. And so we’re always, you at the skills and, the experience and oftentimes we miss a lot of the other attributes of a potential teammate.

if they’ve lived in a different part of the country or different part of the world, they may look like you and me, but they’re gonna bring a whole different viewpoint. this whole diversity of thought has just occupied my mind over the last month. And, and now when I’m asking questions, I’m trying to pull that out of people because it was, so intriguing to me.

[00:18:19] Craig P: And so that’s interesting and leads us into kind of how you’re viewing leadership today, right? So there was all those lessons you’ve learned early on. How has that kind of shown up in the way you’re leading today? We’ve talked about really valuing the diversity of thought around the table. What are some of the other things that are part of your leadership style today?

[00:18:36] Pete Dunbar: I’m very fortunate. I’ve had some. Wide and varied experiences in financial services over a very long period of time, which I won’t give an exact number of years. I’m very fortunate that I now work in an organization that, as much as anything else values that value the geographic, Associations that I have, you know, working with companies pretty much in the eastern half of the United States, but different states. and I’m trying to build a team here that sees value in understanding the bigger picture than we’re getting a business off the ground in Westfield, Indiana.

And we’re trying to focus on, you Hamilton County, which is all true. . But the impact that we will have, you know, needs to be broader than that. And one way that we can do that is I can share my experiences, I can share the challenges and the successes that have come from working in different types of companies and different parts of the country, yet still having success.

And so, you know, when we have our team meetings here, I ask the team to, Ask me, have you experienced this? Have you been involved in this? Because I had a conversation with a customer last week, or prospective customer last week, and so they’re getting very comfortable now understanding that there’s more than just looking at the product guide of the rule book.

They’re,let’s think about some of the context and let’s think about maybe some of the, differences of outcomes that we can get. so they’re asking me to, weigh in on those. And for me it’s just experience and it comes somewhat natural and that’s one of those moments I have to slow my mind down.

[00:20:20] Craig P: Yeah. Yeah.

[00:20:22] Pete Dunbar: let’s clarify the question. Let’s maybe even rephrase the question so that we can march to a conversation or through a conversation that will get a better outcome for our customer, for our team, and, for the bank.

[00:20:37] Craig P: and have you found it as you’ve kind of been higher and higher in leadership roles? Harder to get the team to tell you things,

[00:20:43] Pete Dunbar: Oh,

[00:20:44] Craig P: to elicit real feedback.

[00:20:46] Pete Dunbar: so, you know, we’re starting this company here, the whole staff was new and we’re getting to know each other. We’re clearly in that, forming stage of who we are and. My schedule’s varied. sometimes I’m the first guy here, sometimes the last guy to leave, but often I’m coming and going.

And our branch manager came to me and she said that one of our staff members was very nervous every time I was in the office.

And again, you don’t know me really well Craig, but we spent another time. I’m not like this fearsome, imposing person. I. I have a smile on my face. Sometimes I move very quickly. Sometimes I move with purpose. Sometimes my mind is going quickly. And so what I’ve had to do is I don’t wanna make anybody here nervous.

I don’t want them to act differently when I’m here versus when I’m not here.

So I’ve had to be cognizant of that as, as we’re building our, our, team in every organization there is a leader and that there’s a . Somebody ultimately responsible. that’s something we can’t change.

But how we administer that and how that functions on a day-to-day week-to-week basis. I think that’s where the, the change has been is regardless of roles, and maybe it’s ’cause I’m older, I don’t need to care about a title or a org chart. I care about getting the right outcome. again, I’ve said it over and for our customers, for our team and, and for our company. so I just keep everybody focused on that. and the other thing is I’m a process person.

So we talk a lot about process around here, and I want the process to be the team process, not a brain dump, but Pete Dunbar’s process because. we will miss so many things if it’s just my process.

And so our team is getting very comfortable saying, Hey, we talked about how to do that last week, and we, we’ve come together andwe’ve gotta think a cool way to do it. I’m all ears. And I go, what do you think? I go, sounds great. and it may not be perfect.

It may not be exactly the way that I would’ve done it, but I’m like, that is great. Go, go run as fast as you can and do it.

[00:22:53] Craig P: Yeah. Yeah, again, if we come back to some of those early lessons, right? Setting a vision. Here’s where we’re going. The process you talked about, here’s kind of the guardrails of how we get there. As long as you’re running towards a vision and you’re inside those guardrails, go tell me how I can help and get stuff outta your way instead of waiting for me to tell you.

It’s okay.

[00:23:12] Pete Dunbar: Yeah.

I, try to boil things down. I try to make things simple. I use like . I guess they’re, pneumonics where you, you know, you take a word and the first initial of each ’cause, remember things better that way. and it’s the same way with, process. you know, I’d say, well, waitare we doing? And why are we doing it?

And if I can’t get people to verbalize it very well or articulate it, I say, okay. What’s the outcome we’re looking for?

there’s inputs, outputs, and outcomes, and we just have to think about, which activity are we doing? Is that an input to the process? Is it something coming out of the process? And as you weave through that equation, is it gonna lead? Maybe not immediately, but is it gonna lead us to the outcome?

Ultimately is gonna move the needle on our, long term objectives and our year to year financial goals.

[00:24:01] Craig P: I love it. Yeah. Getting everybody going. So Pete, we always like to end the. Episode with giving you the opportunity to jump into a time machine. Go back to young Pete in that first leadership role. is the one piece of advice you would give him that would help him the most in his leadership journey?

[00:24:20] Pete Dunbar: Slow down.

[00:24:22] Craig P: Love it.

[00:24:23] Pete Dunbar: Be more intentional. One-on-one with the individual. Don’t wait until the monthly, plan update or one-on-one conversations. just be more intentional on a basis.

[00:24:38] Craig P: that doesn’t mean you spend with every single person on the team every day, but when you do. Make sure that you’re there, that you’re present, that you’re intentional,

[00:24:47] Pete Dunbar: for a person like me, that means I gotta slow my mind down.

I gotta stay. in the moment, and that would be the best piece of advice.

[00:24:57] Craig P: Yeah. And that really ties into kind of your leadership book, going back to that book about the high technology, which allows us to do this. But that high touch is so crucial for us today to be successful leaders for our teams.

[00:25:10] Pete Dunbar: Mm-Hmm,

[00:25:11] Craig P: Great. Well, Pete, thank you so much for sharing the story of your executive evolution. If people want to get in touch with you, get in contact with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

[00:25:20] Pete Dunbar: Best way to do it is send me an email. my email address is p my american or you can find me on, through our, uh, website at American Bank of Freedom Bank.

[00:25:32] Craig P: Great. We’ll drop all those links into the show notes. Pete, thanks again for being here and we’ll look forward to speaking to you again in the future.

Thanks so much, Craig. It’s, it’s been my pleasure to be here.

[00:25:44] Craig P. Anderson: I really appreciate Pete taking the time to help us go through the story of his executive evolution. He has such a great story because the banking industry is one of constant change and lots of team leadership that you have to go through to build those teams. And I really appreciated his insights. As always, I like to provide you with my key takeaways in the areas of confidence, competence, and calm.

Where Pete demonstrated the idea of confidence is when he talked about the importance of knowing our strengths, really having self awareness as a leader is so important when we know our strengths, that also helps to know our weaknesses and where we need to compensate for them. And that drives us into what Pete talked about, about the importance of having diversity of thought and being willing to have that as part of your leadership team.

In the area of competence, so simple, but so important. Have a plan and write it down. Really be intentional about where you’re trying to take your leadership team and how you’re leading that gives you that sense of confidence because it gives you the touchstone to focus back on. And then finally, what he talked about was the importance to just slow down.

We always want to move so fast and the world wants us to move fast. The word of business tells us that moving fast is important, but where we can slow down where we can be. Intentional from a day to day process of how we want to move forward with our business is going to bring value to us. So again, thanks Pete for the story today.

As always, remember, you can go from being an accidental leader to the greatest of all time leader. It just takes a focus on your confidence, competence, income. We’ll see you next time on executive evolution.