Build Teams on Cultural Contribution, Not Cultural Fit (Blog Post)
Today, we’re bringing you the story of Andrew Turnbull, Senior Vice President of Business Banking at CIBC. CIBC is a Supporter of Catalyst, and Victor G. Dodig, President and CEO of CIBC, is Chair of the Catalyst Canada Advisory Board and serves on the Catalyst Board of Directors.
CIBC was the first company in Canada to participate in MARC Leaders, which empowers men to engage in workplace inclusion. In a conversation with MARC’s Jared Cline, Turnbull discussed the imperative for diversity and why he thinks “men have to take responsibility for the urgency agenda.”
It was called the airplane test.
It had nothing to do with obtaining a pilot’s license or the willingness to engage in extensive business travel.
Rather, the airplane test was a hiring criterion for cultural fit. Screeners were told to imagine being stuck on an airplane with the interviewee for six hours.
To its proponents, the airplane test seemed to promote workplace camaraderie. In reality, it led to homogeny, groupthink, and a lack of opportunity for diverse candidates.
When Andrew Turnbull, Senior Vice President, CIBC Business Banking, was first getting started in his career, cultural fit was key to getting hired.
Now, a new understanding for harnessing the workforce’s top talent is emerging, one that Turnbull says is changing history for the better: a focus on “cultural contribution.”
“Think of it like a portfolio,” says Turnbull, who comes from an asset management background. “If I’m going to add another stock to this portfolio, I want to have a completely uncorrelated set of characteristics to the rest of the portfolio in order to maximize my diversification.”
With intentional strategies to promote greater inclusion, the potential of the workforce is being realized like never before. As Turnbull notes, McKinsey’s “best in region” scenario, in which “all countries match the rate of improvement of the fastest-improving country in their region,” could add as much as $12 trillion, or 11 percent, in annual 2025 GDP.
So how can individuals and organizations maximize for cultural contribution? Turnbull recommends a change process in three phases: navigate, participate, and accelerate.
Here are his strategies for each phase.
Navigate New Awareness
We don’t all share the same experiences. This fact of life is both challenging and laden with promise.
For leaders, creating an environment that fosters uniqueness and belongingness can translate to higher performance. As Turnbull knows, this starts with understanding.
“Navigating authentically comes down to drawing on your active listening skills,” Turnbull says. “How do I put myself in another person’s shoes? This acknowledges the power of diversity and advances business goals.”
According to Turnbull, humility promotes openness when navigating new awareness.
“Acknowledging and owning the mistakes that I make was an inflection point for me as a leader,” Turnbull says. “Understanding that it’s not just about what my intent was, but how an action was perceived.”
CIBC is helping its employees navigate new awareness through programs aimed at disrupting unconscious bias and establishing a shared language to talk about diversity and inclusion.
Participate More Effectively
This new taxonomy and awareness can fuel a passion for participation, says Turnbull.
At CIBC, leaders are encouraged and empowered to interrupt bias. Their role-modeling further signals that “we all should be doing this” rather than standing by, Turnbull says.
Individual actions like these are an example of how passion for participation can extend beyond organization-sponsored initiatives. In fact, says Turnbull, it needs to.
“We all have to learn to build inclusion into our everyday. It’s got to be a part of our psyche and culture.”
In Turnbull’s case, his personal resolve is connected to creating a better workplace for his colleagues today—and his children tomorrow.
“I’ve got three kids—two of them are girls—and I want them to experience a level playing field.”
According to the UN, the only way to achieve that level playing field is to change deeply entrenched gender norms, like the idea that women should be responsible for caregiving at home.
Organizations can create the conditions for change by offering flexible work arrangements for men.
However, as Turnbull points out, “it’s not just about the availability of the programs that we run—it’s about the utilization of them.”
Men, particularly senior men, should actively use parental leave and flexible working arrangements to signal that “we all take equal responsibility for duties at home.”
Building the workplaces of tomorrow means rethinking traditional hierarchy today—a hierarchy in which men hold a disproportionate amount of power.
This is why “men have to take responsibility for the urgency agenda,” says Turnbull.
Luckily, he has a solution for that: “All of us can be mentors and sponsors, no matter where we are in our career.”
In his day job, Turnbull also sees opportunities in business banking for women startups.
In this way, inclusion isn’t just about large corporations, Turnbull says—it’s about “achieving the full potential of the Canadian economy by proactively supporting the participation and inclusion of every Canadian.”
This broader view of inclusion is central to driving the transition from “cultural fit” to “cultural contribution.”
Andrew Turnbull is Senior Vice President, CIBC Business Banking. As CIBC’s head of business banking and member of the bank’s operating committee, Andrew leads a team who are transforming what Canadian entrepreneurs and professionals can expect of their financial institution. Previously, Andrew led CIBC’s direct investing business, and was chief administrative officer and head of strategy for its wealth management division. Prior to CIBC, Andrew was with Oliver Wyman and World Economic Forum advising financial institutions on growth strategy. An active speaker and diversity advocate, Andrew champions accelerating Canada’s path towards gender equality, and is a volunteer leader with Ronald McDonald House Charities.
Jared was a Director in the Learning and Advisory Services Department where he supported on-going engagement opportunities for individuals who have participated in MARC (Men Advocating Real Change). Prior to joining MARC, Jared worked for Time Out Beijing magazine. He graduated from Truman State University and currently resides in Pittsburgh,…