Filling the Leadership Gap at First United Bank — 100% of New Leaders and Their Managers Recommend The Leadership Journey™

photo of leaders participating in The Leadership Journey

Highlights: First United Bank


  • Leadership training for new and emerging leaders to complement their existing best-in-class program for high-level leaders.
  • Prepare frontline workers to be ready to step into supervisory roles.
  • Address rapid growth as the bank had recently doubled in size.
  • A sustainable, turnkey training solution that could be implemented immediately.
  • A program that could be customized to meet the bank’s unique needs.
  • Training that wasn’t dependent on being instructor led.
  • A focus on practical and relevant content rather than theory.
  • Flexible delivery options to meet the needs of customer-facing team members.


  • Audience – New and emerging frontline leaders
  • Curriculum The Leadership Journey™
  • Delivery – Two courses a month in small groups. E-learning for participants who missed a class.
  • Facilitation – HR team members delivered the first course. Participants took turns leading subsequent sessions.
  • Discussion – During group training sessions.
  • Application – Two weeks to apply personal action plans in the workplace.
  • Follow-up – During the first 10 minutes of group sessions. Participants also shared personal action plans with their managers.


  • Supervisors consistently step up and take responsibility.
  • 100% of participants and their managers would recommend the program.
  • Management confidence in supervisors at an all-time high.
  • Team member satisfaction improved.
  • Frontline leaders improved supervisory skills.
  • Constructive feedback and coaching is now common.
  • Supervisors are confident.
  • Supervisors feel valued and appreciated for being chosen to participate.
  • 95% of graduates refer back to course materials.
  • New leaders ready to step up during times of growth.

The Company

Leaving a Leadership Legacy for the Next Century of Service

Every organization needs strong leaders with the knowledge, skills, and abilities to lead others. The need for strong leaders wasn’t lost on First United Bank. But while they had been doing internal training to address training for high-level leaders, there was a group they had overlooked—new and emerging leaders.

The bank has been recognized as one of the best places to work in Oklahoma, Dallas, and Fort Worth, no small feat given the size of the market. But despite such success, the bank understands that it can’t just rest on its laurels.

Staff development—especially management staff—must be an ongoing priority they realized, and not just for senior leaders.

In addition, they recognized the importance of a solution that could be tailored to meet the bank’s needs.

Century-old Bank Considered One of the Best by Clients and Staff

First United Bank is one of the largest well-capitalized banking organizations in the Southwest with assets of more than $5.5 billion, 70 community banks, and 15 mortgage offices in Oklahoma and Texas.

Established in 1900, First United Bank is well into its second century of service and is one of the largest privately held community banking organizations in the country.

The company’s vision is a real and relevant driver of the bank’s success: “First United is dedicated to building a culture of care in the communities we serve and helping others find their path to success. We build lifelong, multigenerational relationships and use our collective talents to make our community a better, stronger, more stable place, one customer, one family, one company at a time.”

The kind of longevity and brand strength First United Bank has built over several decades doesn’t just happen by chance. They’ve historically focused on assessing the satisfaction of both customers and staff, and their scores have consistently been high.

Their market share has grown exponentially—they’ve doubled in size over the past five years, growing from 30 to 85 locations.

The Challenge

Addressing a Leadership Development Gap so Frontline Leaders Can Seamlessly Step into Their New Roles

First United Bank has long understood the importance of strong leadership among management staff and had invested a lot of time, talent, and money developing a best-in-class leadership development program for high-level leaders.

But they came to recognize there was a leadership development gap. Frontline workers weren’t receiving the training they needed to step into supervisory roles. There was nothing in the bank’s curriculum to address newly promoted supervisors, managers, or team leaders.

Promoting from within is an important priority for top employers. But what can often happen is that newly appointed supervisory staff lacks the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to manage employees effectively. While stars in their individual contributor roles, these new leaders had either limited or no experience supervising or managing others.

First United wanted a sustainable turnkey training solution they could implement immediately. Rapid growth and a growing number of locations made the challenge even more immediate.

They knew the time was right to pay serious attention to growing and nurturing their new crop of leaders. They just needed to determine how to do that.

The answer was right in front of them: The Leadership Journey.

The Leadership Journey is an excellent curriculum. The content is relevant and practical regardless of the area of business. We couldn’t find this variety and quality from any other vendor’s courses.”

Ricca Paris, Assistant Vice President, Organizational Development, First United Bank

The Leadership Journey™

A Turnkey Supervisory Skills Training Program that Delivers Fast Results

First United knew that their ability to develop new and emerging supervisors and managers needed to be addressed quickly. But they didn’t want to take a band-aid approach or use a generic solution that didn’t meet their unique needs.

  • They chose The Leadership Journey for its customizable turnkey approach, its focus on practical and relevant content, its ease of use, and its cost-effectiveness.
  • They liked the fact that the modules were brief, specific to day-to-day supervisory activities, and could be used both in group and self-directed settings by frontline and newly promoted supervisory staff.
  • Offering training in short bursts over time helped supervisors and managers learn practical skills.
  • The 10 core competencies their leaders developed aligned with the skills they needed to lead their teams through massive growth.

The bank decided to offer two courses a month and schedule them in advance—on the same day and time—to make the sessions a priority.

In situations where staff had conflicts that meant they couldn’t attend the live sessions, they were asked to take the self-paced course. That allowed groups to stay on track while team members—especially those with customer-facing responsibilities—had the flexibility to balance training with their other on-the-job duties.

supervisors participating in a group discussion

HR team members modeled delivery of the first training session; participating supervisors and managers took turns leading subsequent sessions.

Group interactions really make the learning “stick”—and also lead to a sense of camaraderie among participants. As the bank’s VP of HR says, “They take responsibility. They make the meetings. They take turns leading. They’re in charge of their learning. And, in our culture that’s a real positive.”

The variety and practical elements of The Leadership Journey add to its value.

Materials include pre-video questions for participants to consider before watching a video for each module. Then they answer open-ended post-video questions, take a quiz, and create an action plan to indicate how they will personally apply the skills back on the job.

They share their action plans with their own managers which provides additional accountability. The diversity and reinforcement of topics lead to an easy transfer of learning to on-the-job application and the most meaningful impact.

The Results

Improved Supervisor Performance and Team Member Satisfaction with 100% of Supervisors and Their Managers Recommending The Leadership Journey

With so many members of their leadership team having had the opportunity to go through The Leadership Journey, First United says the program has come to be recognized as “the foundational part of our efforts to develop First United’s employees’ leadership skills.”

The bank continually receives positive feedback from participants and their managers about the impact of this targeted learning experience. In fact, 100% of participants say they would recommend the program to other First United supervisors and managers.

But while participants’ satisfaction with the training is clearly important, the perspective of their managers may hold even greater value. They’ve seen the competency of supervisors increase, which gives them greater confidence in the way supervisors manage their teams. Supervisors are consistently stepping up and taking responsibility for the success of their teams.

Team member satisfaction is also a testament to the effectiveness of the training and its on-the-job application.

And, perhaps best of all, employees given an opportunity to participate in the program feel honored to have the chance to be part of the next group. “They feel very special that they have been chosen to participate.”

That participation isn’t a one-and-done event. First United’s internal surveys show that 95% of participants continue to refer back to course materials long after their training is completed. These resources offer ready access to useful information on communication, providing constructive feedback, holding employees accountable, and more.

First United is confident that their participation in The Leadership Journey will serve to cement their reputation as a great place to work for years to come.

“This turnkey program was easy to use, launch, and tailor to our needs. It’s cost-effective and not dependent on being instructor led. It’s so valuable.”

Ricca Paris, Assistant Vice President, Organizational Development, First United Bank

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