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Steve Isenberg

A Tale of Goals Gone Wrong

Posted on: June 7, 2017

By: Steve Isenberg


asj - goals gone wrongEvery company needs goals to stay on track and make progress. Without targets, you don’t know where you’re going or how you’ll get there. You set social media goals, recruiting goals, and employee goals. But how much of a good thing turns into a bad thing?

Ask Wells Fargo.

Executives and managers set the objectives several years ago. Bank employees usually had to sell 13 to 15 banking products every day, whether those products were checking accounts, credit cards, or loans—and managers tracked their quotas. That sounds like a good thing; until you see the results.

The pressure and stress harmed employees’ health. They got creative to meet those goals by using fake email addresses, opening unwanted accounts, moving money, and signing customers up for things without their permission or knowledge. Because of these actions, customers have had to pay thousands of dollars in fees, which increased the bank’s earnings. The false accounts affected individuals, businesses, and investors.

This has been going on at least since 2011. Wells Fargo was sued in 2015, California and Illinois have stopped doing business with the bank, and the bank is under investigation. Some hefty numbers are involved:

  • More than 5300 employees have been fired.
  • More than 2 million accounts that may or may not have been authorized were opened.
  • More than 565,000 credit card applications were started.
  • Wells Fargo now has to pay $185 million in fines.
  • They’ve also refunded customers $2.6 million.

Wells Fargo’s stock value dropped. The bank insists that this is not who they are and that it goes against their company values. The CEO, John Stumpf, blamed employees and resigned from the advisory council of the Federal Reserve. He will also give up some of his stocks and salary. Upper-level employees blame lower level employees for unethical behavior, but the lower level employees accuse the bankers of putting too much pressure on them to cross-sell products; even if they didn’t urge deception, employees still had to meet their quotas somehow.

Employees and customers stopped trusting the people at Wells Fargo who were supposed to be the leaders. So, what does this have to do with you?

Every leader has priorities and expectations, with goals to achieve them. Make sure your goals aren’t too big for you and your employees to handle. You’ve heard of the S.M.A.R.T goals acronym, right? Wells Fargo did enact Specific, Measurable, and Time-based goals. But a smart goal maker uses all five letters to create goals for the company that are also Attainable and Realistic.

As you approach the end of the quarter, it might be a good time to sit with your boss or with your employees to review goals from the past months. What areas caused struggles? What was unspecific or unrealistic? And before you make new goals, assess yourself as well. In what areas could you grow as a leader who sets smart goals?

Maybe you’d like to consult ASJ about marketing goals, or you need help interpreting the results from your company’s content marketing. Don’t overwhelm your employees with social media strategies or SEO rankings when the experts at ASJ can take care of it for you. Check out our services, then let us know what you need.


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