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Leading Through Ambiguity

Portrait of Martin Thibodeau, Regional President, British Columbia of RBC Royal Bank
Regional President, British Columbia
RBC Royal Bank

Key Highlights

  1. Learn about Martin Thibodeau's unique decision-making approach that combines self-awareness, humility, and community understanding. How does the Regional President of RBC make informed decisions in an uncertain world?

  2. Discover how Thibodeau, overseeing thousands of employees, navigated the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, driving innovative solutions and maintaining transparency. What valuable lessons did this traditionally conservative bank learn from their quick pivot to remote work?

  3. Dive into the innovative initiatives Thibodeau has implemented to gather unfiltered feedback and foster trust within the organization. How have Listening Circles and other platforms impacted RBC's support for diverse employee groups?

Embracing a Unique Approach to Leadership

As the Regional President of RBC in British Columbia, Martin Thibodeau is no stranger to making big decisions in an uncertain world. Responsible for overseeing the bank's operations in British Columbia, Thibodeau has developed a unique approach to decision-making that combines self-awareness, humility, and a deep understanding of the communities he serves.

A key part of Thibodeau's strategy is gathering feedback from senior management and those on the ground. Upon arriving in British Columbia, he visited 170 branches in less than 10 months, speaking with hundreds of employees and local mayors to understand the business landscape. He says this direct, unfiltered feedback is crucial, as it often reveals issues that have been diluted or even masked when they reach his desk.

Seeking Fresh Perspectives

Thibodeau also looks to external sources for fresh perspectives, such as reading newsletters and listening to podcasts from John Stackhouse, a former Globe and Mail editor who joined RBC in 2014. By synthesizing these various sources of information, Thibodeau can make informed, confident decisions when allocating millions of dollars in investments.

Navigating the challenges of the pandemic has further tested Thibodeau's leadership. To keep his 4,000 employees in British Columbia informed and engaged, he initiated weekly calls that mirrored the clear and constant communication provided by Dr. Bonnie Henry, BC's provincial health officer. These calls have since been scaled back, but the focus on communication and transparency remains.

Communication and Agility

The pandemic also forced RBC to become more agile. In just 48 hours, 50% of employees transitioned to remote work—a feat that would have been unthinkable for the traditionally conservative bank. This rapid shift demonstrated that RBC could be both nimble and innovative when necessary, a valuable lesson that applies to all areas of the organization.

In making decisions, Thibodeau is mindful of the influence he wields. Taking a cue from Barack Obama, he often speaks last in meetings to avoid unduly shaping the conversation. This approach extends to Listening Circles, confidential employee forums where Thibodeau can gather unfiltered feedback on various topics. These sessions have led to meaningful changes in RBC's support for diverse employee groups and have fostered a greater sense of trust and engagement within the organization.

RBC Innovation

As a banker, Thibodeau must balance risks with openness to bold new ideas. To that end, the bank has established RBCx, a tech-focused division unlocking exciting new possibilities, particularly in “clean-tech”, where companies ‘wear capes’ and solve problems that will positively impact our planet.

Looking to the future, Thibodeau acknowledges the complexity and interconnectedness of today's leaders' challenges. From global conflicts and supply chain issues to environmental concerns and food security, leaders must grapple with seemingly insurmountable problems. However, Thibodeau remains optimistic, drawing on the resilience and ingenuity demonstrated during the pandemic as evidence of humanity's ability to find solutions.

Thibodeau's Blueprint for Success

A key component of Thibodeau's leadership style is giving back to the community financially and with his time. By leveraging social media platforms like LinkedIn, he raises awareness of important causes and champions RBC's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion.
In an ever-changing world, Martin Thibodeau's approach to leadership provides a blueprint for navigating uncertainty and fostering success. By staying grounded in humility, embracing diverse perspectives, and maintaining a focus on communication and community, Thibodeau is poised to lead RBC into a prosperous future.

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