Shannon Johnson, executive vice president and chief administrative officer and one of the most powerful women in banking, shares how her career at UMB, the evolution of her role and the pandemic have made a positive impact on her life.
Tell us about your role and history at UMB.
I joined UMB in 2002 and I’m currently the executive vice president and chief administrative officer where I’m responsible for leading and developing the strategy for our corporate support and oversight functions. I also oversee the human resources, corporate and credit risk and legal divisions, and help support the audit function for the enterprise.
Prior to my current role, I was chief human resources officer for four years, and before that I led the talent acquisition, development, business partner and associate relations departments. Earlier in my UMB career, I was head of compensation, responsible for designing and implementing new executive compensation and equity programs.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted your day-to-day work, and what changes have you made at the bank during this time?
At the beginning of the pandemic, I created an everyday cadence to talk across departments and share what was happening in the company. Whether that was customer-facing or internal, everyone knew they’d be hearing from me every day to provide others with key information our teams needed and wanted to know. I led daily calls with key leaders throughout the company to efficiently make decisions.
I also acted quickly to implement necessary changes from leave of absence policies to pay policies and signage—all within a couple hours during a day. I also established a notification process for employees that were in the building.
Now as we start to navigate a full return to office, I’m working closely with our leadership team to innovate the way we think about roles, including introducing a capacity model to our staffing and helping to build an enterprise-wide way to help leaders, no matter what the job is, determine the capacity of employees.
What challenges have you faced in your career and how have you overcome them?
A specific challenge that comes to mind was when I moved from my human resources role to a broader administrative role. Other associates did not fully understand my new job function. This change happened just over a year and a half ago, and some questioned what value I could add if I wasn’t an expert in their field or niche area. I took that feedback and articulated that this change would improve the functionality and efficiency of the way all the lines of businesses interacted with each other. Now, I can’t imagine myself doing anything else, and neither can my partners.
What positive changes have you been able to make in your work and personal life as a result of the pandemic?
Overall, I will say the slowing of my schedule and that of my family’s – allowing us to have more time together, and to more intentionally choose where we spend our time – is something we will maintain.
From a work perspective, I tried to be deliberate in the frequency and purpose of meetings pre-pandemic, but as I was asked to lead our organization’s response to the pandemic – all other non-essential meetings took a back seat for a few months. In the necessity of that, it became clear that not all those meetings were meaningful or needed to continue. I canceled some, changed the purpose and/or cadence of others, and decided to extend that review to the rest of where I previously spent my time. By not being able to walk down the hall to talk to someone on my team, more intentional outreach and communications (instant messaging, texts, phone calls) have become crucial, and the meetings we do have are less frequent and more meaningful.
At home, the reality of having two full-time working parents, and three, school-aged kids actively involved in multiple sports, church and our community, meant there was rarely a day we weren’t pulled in multiple directions trying to get to everything. When all of that stopped, it brought into focus how over-scheduled our lives were. We are now very intentional about what we choose to do, and how “busy” our schedules get – all of us now value some downtime and uninterrupted family time.
Did you pick up any new hobbies during your time at home?
I have always enjoyed crafts and painting to relax. However, as my family and career have grown, I have not always had the time to paint as much as I would like. During the pandemic, I decided to take more time for myself at home. I encouraged my two youngest kids to join in and we have really enjoyed our time learning to paint together.
Whether we took a blank canvas and made our own creations, used a paint-by-number kit or painted a room— painting became a way to bond, to express our ideas and feelings and to make fun things for our home. It has helped our family, find new ways to talk about tough issues, such as racial equality and social justice, and has given us a new creative outlet together.
Learn more about Shannon Johnson’s recent award recognition as one of the most powerful women to watch in banking in a feature story from American Banker‡.
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