On getting people to follow you

Former CEO of the Zuger Kantonalbank in Switzerland, Pascal Niquille, speaks with former BBC interviewer, Nisha Pillai about avoiding distractions and patiently explaining the obvious to, ultimately, get people to follow you.

Pascal Niquile
Pascal Niquille
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The Agenda Podcasts

The Agenda brought to you by Sherpany uncovers the journey leaders take from facing challenges to making decisions. In this unique series of podcasts, leaders talk candidly with former BBC World Service interviewer, Nisha Pillai. #Leading together

In this podcast episode, you will hear:

Former CEO of the Zuger Kantonalbank in Switzerland, Pascal Niquille, shares his experience in shifting Zuger Kantonalbank's focus from retail banking into wealth management, and his perseverance in helping build a new banking sector. Armed with plenty of patience, Pascal Niquille learnt how to avoid distractions and to communicate with his teams so that they fully understood the company's goal, and ultimately, follow him in a new venture. Here are some of the topics covered in this podcast:

  • How to avoid distractions while building a new sector
  • The value of having a personal coach who knows how to ask the right questions
  • The importance of being patient in bringing change, and of dedicating time in getting people to understand and follow you.

Key learnings on getting people to follow you from Pascal Niquille

How to avoid distractions while shifting the focus of your company

"When I joined Kantonalbank in 2009, it was the typical small Swiss retail bank focussing on mortgages, but had no wealth management at all. Zuger is a great place, many wealthy people, very international, so it was obvious to me that this was the way to go. And I needed to get the bank focussed on really this way, which was completely new for everybody. [...]

There was absolutely nothing regarding wealth management. So we had to bring in the know-how, which means we had to bring in people. We had to build up the structures. We had to really get the bank into wealth management and wealth management is banking, but is a separate way of banking. People doing mortgages, doing the retail business are not wealth managers. So it changes culture a lot if you bring in such a new business. [...] So we had to bring in new people with this specific know-how for wealth management.

I was convinced that it would take about three to five years to get a track record, to get all the people ready and to convince clients that they should work with us. Finally, it took us almost 10 years. [...] To change culture, to bring in new business, it takes time for people to really accept that this is the right way to go."


The value of a personal coach who asks the right questions

"I was working over the whole time with a personal coach, and that helped me a lot. She is not coming from banking, so I mean the know-how I have myself. But what I needed is somebody who helped me find the right way to convince all my people that this is the way to go. And she is really an expert in how to find your way to convince your people and make them follow. 

I learnt that if you have an idea as a CEO and you're convinced that this is the right way to go, it doesn't mean that everybody else believes the same thing, and that it takes time and effort to convince them. And sometimes it's not even that they don't believe you. It's maybe just not in their benefit to do what you want them to do. [...]

I became much more personal, individual, in my communication and probably more open. In the beginning, I always thought it's easy, it's so clear to see that you don't have to explain too much. And then I started to communicate more in detail. [...]"

Try to learn how to get people behind you, that's the most important thing you have as a leader.

A leader's key ingredients to get people behind you

"Have your long term view. Not everything which happens today and you think is important is strategic. So be focussed on your long term view and try to separate daily needs and strategic needs. And this way you can really focus on a longer term. [...] 

If you want to change an organisation and change is always necessary, be patient. It always takes more time than what you think and what you hope. Keep your freedom. Keep your freedom by probably controlling costs. Then, the board and shareholders will let you do your work. Don't lose reality and a coach helps. And last but really not least, keep your private life well organised. Then you have enough time to do your job. [...]

Focus more at university on social sciences and really try to learn all the techniques, how to get people behind you, that's finally the most important thing you have as a leader. It's relatively easy to have good, good strategic ideas, but to make your people follow, that's the hard part."

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Pascal Niquile
Pascal Niquille
About the author
Pascal Niquille is the chairman of the Board of Directors Viseca Holding AG. After almost 25 years with UBS, Mr. Niquille joined Zuger Kantonalbank as CEO in 2009 and retired in 2021. In 2015 he joined Viseca’s Board of Directors and became its president in 2017.