By Evan J. Cutts
Dr. Betty Uribe is one of the world’s foremost experts in financial services, organizational turnarounds, and value-based leadership. But none of these capture the essence of what enabled Dr. Uribe to rise to her current level of success and influence. “Build trust and value in relationships that will last for generations,” is her daily mantra, personal goal, and life’s mission, the foundation of her international best-selling book, #Values: The Secrets to Top Level Performance in Business and Life.
The dedication, respect, and curiosity that Dr. Uribe has for every person she meets reflects her earnest desire to enable people to be the very best they can be. In the words of Monsignor Giacomo Pappalardo of The Vatican, “What I feel is the most important meaning [to be] found in Dr. Uribe’s writing [is]: the positive value of people and their potential for good.”
It is an honor to share her hopes, wisdom, and story with you, our readers.
CM: Can you tell me more about your role as Executive VP of California Bank & Trust?
Dr. Uribe: At California Bank & Trust, a division of Zions Bancorp, I run the Greater Southern California Division, which is a $3.5 billion business line covering retail and business banking. CB&T has loans of $8.8 billion, deposits of $10.5 billion, and total assets of approximately 60 billion. Under my team’s leadership, CB&T has been named “Best Bank in Orange County,” for three consecutive years by the voting readers of The Orange County Register.
CM: Is this your passion?
Dr. Uribe: My passion and my life’s work are linked. Part of my life’s continuum is making a difference and an impact on people’s lives. I wouldn’t have the influence or support to do that without my team and mentors at CB&T. What I do is—and has to be—bigger than me. I could not do this on my own.
CM: In what ways do you promote or support Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives?
Dr. Uribe: When I approach diversity and inclusion initiatives on an organizational level, I do so in accordance with Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Specifically, I address the basic human need for belonging. From that perspective, diversity isn’t a strategy to increase the bottom line. It’s a way of life. To date, I’ve developed 30 Employee Resource Groups at CB&T, including African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, LGBTQ members, baby boomers, millennials, you name it. Everywhere I go, I look to make an impact and a difference. If I do an event for one community, I host an event for another community. I’m very conscious of diversity, and I go out of my way to make sure I match the needs of the communities we serve, always keeping in mind the need our associates, clients, and communities have for belonging.
CM: Tell us about your book.
Dr. Uribe: #Values: The Secrets to Top Level Performance in Business and Life takes a look at creating sustainable business results in one’s business and personal life. I want to use the book as a tool to open doors around the world, to change the conversation from competition to collaboration, teamwork, and communication, which always begins with the art of listening.
I believe what is needed in the world–not only in our business lives but in our personal lives–is another look at our values. We need a back-to-basics approach, a return to the lessons we were taught when we were younger. Teamwork and collaboration, sharing, caring, being honest, empathic listening, and giving unconditionally, for example. That’s what #Values is all about.
CM: Can you share with us your goals?
Dr. Uribe: Like my job at CB&T, my book exists on my life’s continuum of making a difference and an impact in people’s lives. Running a $3.5 billion operation in Southern California gives me a platform to really make a difference in the United States. #Values has expanded that platform to an international outreach.
My goal is to use this momentum and influence to create 100 scholarships for underserved students on each continent by the time I’m eighty.
The day my book came out, I unveiled this project at one of the inaugural galas in D.C. and raised $1 million that same day. I partnered with Chapman University and Rob Carr’s organization and, as a result, we now have an opportunity to impact the lives of 54 underserved students in Southern California.
Through the Unstoppable Foundation, we’re building schools in Kenya. On my return from Sir Richard Branson’s Necker Cup, I made some incredible connections and friendships. I feel the doors opening wide. We’re on the path to making a big difference for people all around the world.
CM: How would you describe the psychology of leadership?
Dr. Uribe: All leaders are in the people business. No matter where you’re leading, what you’re leading, or whom you’re leading, if you’re a leader, you’re in the people of business. In my experience, even in the digital era–when you may never come face to face with an actual client— you’re in the people business. I realized that at the core of leadership is the person—the employee, the client, the listener, the community. At the end of the day, unless you tap into the core of the person’s mental and emotional intelligence, you’re not going to be successful.
I’d never been in a room full of billionaires, but at The Necker Cup, I was able to connect with incredibly successful business leaders in a way that was aligned with their core values. Many of those values, in fact, are ones I discuss in my book.
CM: As an internationally-recognized expert on value-based leadership, can you share your beliefs on what it takes to be an effective and influential leader?
Dr. Uribe: There are many ways to be an effective leader. From hiring practices to community engagement, leaders must know their values and lead with them every step of the way.
When I hire people, I walk them through the Strengthsfinder Test. It’s a test designed by Marcus Buckingham, discussed in his book How To Discover Your Strengths. After getting to know my new employees, I assign a role to them that is aligned with their strengths. This allows them to work in an area where they’ll not only be invested but positioned to succeed. In doing this, I add value to the company, as well as my employees.
Beyond that, a leader has to be willing to think creatively about the business and their approach to it. Leaders don’t want their growth or performance to be confined to the box of what their paycheck defines. Adding value beyond the numbers is where sustainability and exponential growth comes from.
CM: What would you list as some of your core strengths? What value do you bring to the table?
Dr. Uribe: Using the terms coined in Buckingham’s book, first and foremost, my strengths are creativity and ideation. I’m the type of person who tries to find value in every aspect of my life. I see beyond what is in front of me. For example, where others see an empty wine bottle, I see a roller for cooking, or a vase if it’s a nice bottle. Things like that. I’m also an avid learner, but one who also likes to teach. You can ask my teams. We joke that when I got my doctorate, they got theirs too. I shared everything during my education with them. Anything significant I learned, I made a point to share with them.
Being a maximizer is another key strength that allows me to take something that is “good” and make it “great.” As Michelangelo said, “I carve out the marble to expose the David.” As a maximizer, I can handle a lot of projects at the same time. People often ask, “How are you able to accomplish all of this?” It’s a natural talent to have many balls in the air. I also hold myself and others responsible for getting the work done. I listen and am humble enough to realize I don’t have all the answers. So, collaboration, communication, and teamwork are some of the ways I lead.
CM: And so, how do you define success or gauge the value you add to your company and team?
Dr. Uribe: As a leader, my responsibility is to inspire people to be their very best 100% of the time, to create opportunities for others to follow suit, and to become their own leaders by maximizing their strengths.
If I’m 100% committed to your success, and you are to mine, we’ve created a beautiful partnership, whether in marriage, family, friendship, employment, or community. I live by a mantra that surmises my values, goals, and point of view on effective leadership. It’s also a promise—and the foundation of everything I do:
“Build trust and value in relationships that will last for generations.”
CM: Can you say more?
Dr. Uribe: There are some keywords in my mantra: Trust, Values, Relationships, and Generations. How do you build trust? You do what you say you’re going to do, and you do that consistently. To build value, you have to be in a mindset where you’re constantly looking to add value, open doors, and make connections with people around you. When I talk about relationships, I’m talking about being present with the people I’m with. When you’re having a conversation with someone, that person should feel like they are the only person in the room and the only object of your attention. In terms of generations, I want my employees to be so satisfied with working for me that they want their children to work for me at CB&T, or at any other area I work in the world. For our customers, I want them to want their children’s children banking with us because we add that much value to their business and personal lives.
You know the old adage: “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” I ask clients, “What’s your story?’ and “How can I add value you to your life?” When things like price are no longer a part of the conversation, they realize that I’m genuine. A paradigm shift occurs. And the bond becomes deeper.
CM: In your opinion, what does it mean to be a Woman of Color in 2017?
Dr. Uribe: I’m a realist. I bring all of me to the table. I’m very comfortable in my own skin. I believe that what it takes to be a successful Woman of Color is directly related to our ability and commitment to learning about the environment around us, which I call innocent curiosity. When you lead your life with innocent curiosity—instead of judgment—you’re able to break down walls and build trust with those around you.
Being a Woman of Color is being comfortable in my own skin, no matter what circumstances are placed in front of me. It’s making a priority to open doors for others to walk through. Doing it with grace, tact, care, and innocent curiosity. And doing so long after I’m gone from this earth.
If I can impart one additional piece of advice, it’s one of my mother’s sayings: “Dime con quien andas y te dire quien eres. Tell me who you are with, and I’ll tell you who you are.” When I consider joining an organization, I do a full cultural study of the organization. I ask myself who I might be surrounding myself with. My advice? Choose who you surround yourself with. Don’t let others choose for you. And when you choose an employer, employee, client, personal relationship partner, or teammate, don’t let time or money distract you from your core values.