CEO's doodles go a long way with First Bank employees

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On quiet Saturday mornings, Mark Mohr, president and chief executive of First Bank Financial Centre, likes to sit at his desk at home with colored pen in hand, thinking about what to draw — a big-bearded wizard swinging his ward, a grinning snowman holding a cold drink, or a stout elk in a suit and tie.

These creations appear on the envelopes of work anniversary cards for the bank’s 338 employees. Each illustration is unique and reflects the employee’s personality and interests.

“I wanted to do something memorable, something that the employee knew wasn't just routine,” Mohr said. “I could have given them an anniversary card with a message in it. That's great, but I thought, ‘How do I make this different? How do I make sure employees know how much I appreciate what they do?' "

Mohr, an amateur artist without formal training, came up with the idea of personalized drawings during his first year at the bank 11 years ago. Initially the sketches took him half an hour at most to complete, but now he can create more detailed ones in about 15 minutes.

Mohr sketches 10 to 12 pieces every month. He gives them to employees on their first, third and fifth anniversary dates and then every five years after that.

“It's fun to do,” he said. “I am using part of my brain that I don't normally use during the week. It's therapeutic.”

The challenge is to decide what to draw for a person, Mohr said. He gets inspiration by chatting with employees about their hobbies and significant life events. A newly engaged employee could receive a hand-drawn ring, while someone returning from vacation may be treated to a Hawaiian-themed sketch.

Instead of just setting the card on someone’s desk, Mohr adds another personal touch by turning the delivery of the drawings into a small party.

Rachel Dumke, talent development manager at the bank, said she has been amazed at how Mohr cleverly matches cartoon characters with fun facts he remembers about each employee. Dumke recalled that Mohr drew the beloved Muppet, Kermit the Frog, for a colleague who had connections with almost every person she met when she started at the bank. The Kermit picture was a nod to that trait because the song “Rainbow Connection” is featured in “The Muppet Movie,” Dumke said.

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While delivering that particular card, Mohr made a speech that shared some stories about the employee and thanked her for her service, as her co-workers looked on and the song, “Rainbow Connection” played in the background.

The drawings are indicative of Mohr’s leadership style. He described himself as a “walk-around president” who likes to stay connected to his co-workers. He scraped a plan that would have moved his office to the fourth floor. Instead he chose to stay put so he could regularly see employees and customers, Dumke said.

“Wherever he sees people congregating, Mark stops so that he has the opportunity to interact with everyone,” Dumke said. “He just understands what every individual person's motivators are. He knows what makes them tick.”

Through his drawings, Mohr wants to let employees know that the CEO is somebody who is approachable and cares.

“Ultimately I want them to know how much I appreciate what they do for us every day and for our customers,” Mohr said.

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