HR Professional caught up with Gross to talk about his new role
and how his years in HR – and a dedication to lifelong learning –
helped build the foundation for the job of his dreams.
When did you decide you wanted a
career in human resources?
Ernie Gross: I graduated from the University of Western Ontario
with a BA in economics in 1985, and jumped right into TD as a
management trainee. I worked in branches for seven years, doing a
number of different managerial roles, and I was also a bank audi-tor.
Through that exposure to leadership, all the people aspects
resonated with me, both good and bad. I was spending 80 to 90
per cent of my time managing people and that’s where it all started.
I made some academic investments in HR, and the bank really
supported me along the way.
What was your first HR job?
EG: In 1992, I needed to move closer to Toronto. The bank said
they had an HR job for me there, as assistant manager of employ-ment
standards. I provided advice and counsel to HR business
partners on complex employee-related matters, including assess-ment
of performance management, application of progressive
discipline, managing investigations and employee terminations. It
was a 90-degree learning curve for me. The people who welcomed
me into that discipline knew they had some work to do with me.
They helped me through the learning curve. It was a pivotal point
in my career.
Tell me about your current job. What are
your main areas of responsibility?
EG: I’ve recently moved into a coaching role at the bank, but my
most recent HR job was as associate vice president of HR for the
Western Ontario region in Branch Banking. I was responsible
for the talent initiatives in a region with more than 170 branches,
3,500 employees and 11 executives. My job was to make sure we
were drawing our talent strategies together to optimize our tal-ent
and ensure it was in the right place. While there, I decided
to enroll in the Adler International coaching program at the
University of Western Ontario. I took a couple of years to learn
that and began to integrate some of it into day-to-day practices
at the bank. I started to blog through a virtual community that
attracted more than 8,000 members from within the bank. It built
momentum over time, and eventually the bank introduced a new
role and offered it to me. Today, my title is associate vice president,
Management Coaching, TD Branch Banking. My responsibility
is to build leader coaching capability and to advocate for coach-ing.
I do quite a bit of blogging, keynote speaking at conferences
or executive/non-executive meetings and advising members on
matters related to coaching. I am also helping to build coaching
capability throughout our network of about 1,100 branches across
What do you love about your job?
EG: It’s actually not a job for me, it’s a passion! I’m doing some-thing
I love to do, and I see how coaching can change people. If
First job: I was a stock clerk at
Sears in Sarnia, where I grew
up. I was also a painter that
Childhood ambition: I wanted to
be a professional fisherman or
hockey player. I’m a fly-fishing nut.
Best boss and why: I’ve had a lot
of bosses at TD over 33 years. The
best ones were good listeners,
caring and transparent, but they
also challenged me.
Current source of inspiration: My
wife, Joan. She is the one who
keeps me going and supports me
Best piece of advice ever received:
Be vulnerable and transparent and
let people see who you are and not
just what you do. When I was first
titled as an executive in this bank,
the best piece of advice I was given
was don’t let the title take away
from who you are. People need to
see you as a person.
Favourite music: My son is in his
third year of music at Western.
His band, Age of Athena, plays
symphonic metal – so that would
be my favourite.
Last book read: Quiet Leadership:
Six Steps to Transforming
Performance at Work by David
Rock. It’s a coaching-centred
book that explains why getting
employees to think for themselves
is so important and it includes the
physiological reasons behind it.
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40 ❚ MARCH 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL