Sarah Mayle is Senior Vice President, Consumer Bank Sales Strategy Director for Huntington Bank. With more than 15 years in banking, she began her career as a personal banker and worked her way up to her current role. She is responsible for executing the branch sales strategy, improving sales training execution and developing partnerships across business segments.
Prior to her current role, she served as the Retail Area Manager for East Michigan, overseeing a team of five district managers and 120 branches responsible for achieving revenue growth targets, production targets and customer satisfaction results.
Her prior experience also includes 13 years with FirstMerit Bank in a succession of increasingly broad roles within the Retail Bank. She held many leadership positions in retail, including Director of Retail Banking in Michigan, district manager and branch manager.
Sarah earned her bachelor’s degree from Malone University, in Canton, Ohio.
How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
My experience as a leader really traces to the encouragement I had early in life. My parents raised me to be driven, success-oriented and independent – a woman who wouldn’t need to rely on someone else. From birth, I had a strong support system where I was allowed to fly with the promise of a safety net under me. I can’t emphasize those early experiences enough in making me who I am today.
How has your previous employment experience aided your current role?
In my career, I’ve had the luxury of ‘growing up’ in the retail banking world. I began as a frontline personal banker and then worked my way up to becoming a branch manager and then district manager. Each new position taught me valuable lessons and allowed me to grow my base of knowledge and love of the field. When I eventually pivoted to the corporate world, it was to develop more of a strategic focus incorporating what I learned in those earlier positions. What has really aided me in my current role is my past experience occupying the roles of those I supervise, enabling me to empathize with their goals and their struggles. This helps me help them feel more confident in the experience they’re creating for customers.
What have the highlights and challenges been during your current role?
The main highlight, for me, has been my ability to make a positive impact across the Consumer Bank. One of Huntington’s core company principles is that we believe strongly in taking care of people. I feel that I get to act on that principle in a tangible, effective way every day in my role.
Whether that’s my relationship with branch managers, those managers’ relationships with their colleagues, or the relationship between each branch’s frontline employees and our customers, I feel that I’ve been able to move the needle create a positive environment that makes a lasting impact.
As far as challenges go – there are many stakeholders across the company, at every level, and they may not always have aligned agendas. Because such a big component of my role is relationship management, I’m also tasked with managing the various, and sometimes conflicting, goals of everyone I work with. My aim is to bring partners together to deliver strategic projects. That requires understanding the agenda, goals and challenges of everyone I collaborate with. Collaboration at its core requires a lot of balance, hard work and the building of trust. It is, however, a challenge I enjoy taking on.
What advice can you offer to women who want a career in your industry?
I would encourage them not to think of banking as a ‘number crunching’ job. Banking is really a relationship business, where one can combine a maternal heart – a focus on the idea of family – with a business expertise and hunger to learn.
I’d challenge my fellow women in the industry to focus on relationship building – from relationships with colleagues to direct customer work. A huge component of my position, and the other positions I’ve held in banking, is understanding who you’re working with and what’s important to them.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career to date?
Perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learned to date is to embrace productive discomfort in order to experience growth. A number of times I’ve had to go outside of my comfort zone and get away from things I’ve always been good at, and that certainly wasn’t the easiest thing to do, initially. At times, being open to things that are new and uncomfortable really makes one learn to be humble. That’s how I’ve learned to add new skills to reach that proverbial ‘next level.’
How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I maintain a work/life balance because I have a great support system at home. My husband is a stay-at-home-dad and contributes a large amount of the domestic work. I could not be the leader I am today without him.
There are also some things I will not sacrifice. I am happy to work hard, put in the hours and ensure that a job gets done to completion – but I’m going to be home for dinner with my family, and I’m not going to look at my phone while we’re at the table together. It’s so important to me that I’m able to do art projects with my daughter or play video games with my son. At the end of the day, all my hard work is about giving my family the best life possible. I don’t want them to look back and say “Yeah, mom was a great banker.” I want them to look back and say “She was always there for me.” To the best of my ability, I try to make that possible.
What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
There are still many inequalities and subconscious biases in the dynamic of business right now.
As far as how to address that, I believe there is an incumbent on all of us to stand up as leaders. By using candor and transparency, we can stick together and ensure that we’re continually making progress toward being seen in the same light as our male counterparts. Diversity is an advantage in any business, and the more opportunities we have to show diversity at the head table, the better the company will be – regardless of the business.
What would you say to encourage more women to start their own businesses?
Whatever it is you’re passionate about can drive the decisions you make in life. Trust your gut as the driver of where you should go in your career.
If you want to hit snooze and dread your day every single day, that isn’t a sustainable or ideal way to live. If you don’t love the job you have today or feel unfulfilled, then take the time to figure out what you really want to do. By chasing your passions, you can deliver your full self, will feel inspired to learn and will want to give more. Work, when tied to that passion (even if not in the way you expect), will stop feeling like work and feel more like a way you are contributing to the world.
How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Mentorship has been incredible valuable in my life, both personally and professionally. I’ve had many strong women in my life – including my mother and grandmother – who encouraged me to stand up, by myself and want to succeed. That really set the foundation for me, and helped establish my mentality.
In the professional sphere, I’ve always made a point to actively seek out mentorship opportunities by reaching out to people proactively, asking them tough questions, and making sure I listen for the answers so I can incorporate it into my plans for professional development.
I’ve had many mentors here at Huntington, especially as I progressed along my branch banking path, and I’ve been able to take away different learnings from everyone – both good and bad. It’s helped make me much better rounded in all walks of life.
Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
Huntington executives Mary Navarro (now retired) and Sandy Pierce come to mind as two leaders I admire most, having had a chance to work alongside each of them as I grew my career.
Mary was the epitome of my earlier message about having a maternal heart. She was a bulldog in the boardroom while remaining always focused on the human side of anyone she worked with. I really admired her warmth and kindness that focused on watering her garden of relationships, while also being tenacious in a way that gained the respect of all senior leaders.
I admire Sandy because of how she articulates herself. She is able to command her language and direct her core messaging without it coming across the wrong way. People understand the ‘why’ of her directives and points of view even if they don’t necessarily agree with what’s being said. It enables productive, respectful discussions and I always try and emulate that.
What do you want to professionally and personally accomplish in the next year?
Professionally, my goal is to continue to empower as many colleagues across the Huntington network to love their job and be able to do it successfully. I am committed to making life better for them so they want to stay for the long run, and so that they want to provide the best experience for our customers possible.
Personally, I want to continue to do everything I can to be a “supermom.” I want to help my kids enjoy their lives, and to be better tomorrow than they are today.
What are the top three tips you can offer to an entrepreneur starting out?
First, become an expert. There’s really no substitute for this for anyone looking to be an entrepreneur or a leader in their field. Sometimes, that involves really digging in and teaching yourself concepts. Next, presenting is a critical skill – find ways to articulate yourself better and to communicate your messaging in the best way possible. Success if often incumbent on this aspect of communication. Finally, find a way to connect to your passions and life, and a way to connect those two things to one another. If you are truly passionate about what you do, the chances of success for your venture rise greatly.