I had the opportunity of again teaching a course at the Southwest Graduate School of Banking at SMU last week. My course was the last one a group of seniors was going to take before the graduation ceremony that afternoon.
I kidded that the instructor’s role in teaching the very last course was to make the courses that had come before look good by comparison. And I was the man for the job.
My particular course was about keeping bankers relevant in an increasingly “online” industry. One of the points I make (repeatedly) is that no matter how technology-driven banking becomes, our teams will still be either the reasons customers choose us or the reasons they look elsewhere.
The banks and CU’s with more good people – people who are good at their jobs, good with customers, good with their co-workers, good to their communities… will win.
One of the topics we discussed was the widespread experimentation going on with universal banker staffing models. While I believe that it will become the norm within the next decade, I point out that it is not a panacea.
Many strategies make sense on paper, but turn negative if poorly executed.
During a break, a young woman who was graduating that afternoon asked me if the universal banker model ran the risk of having a team full of people not particularly good at anything. She said, “Can’t we end up with employees who know just enough to be called ‘universal’ but aren’t really good at their individual roles?”
I laughed and said, “Yes, absolutely!” I think she expected that I would tell her why that usually does not happen. But, of course, it can.
If managers are not committed to keeping their universal bankers engaged in all aspects of their expanded job descriptions, employees naturally gravitate to their familiar job duties and comfort zones.
We end up with customers being as handed-off and queued-up as ever and wondering why our smaller, more flexible team strategy is not working.
You can easily give people similar titles, but you cannot easily give them similar skillsets.
Those have to be developed.
We get competent at our jobs and then good, and of particular value, through experience.
Whether you are leading a large team - or a team of one – competence and confidence come from action.
How active is your team today?
While working out of my home office recently, I watched a video of folks struggling to herd about 200 head of spooked cattle out of a flooded field and onto a highway.
When the camera pulled back, I realized that scene was happening only about 10 miles from me. Several cities around Houston experienced flooding only seen about once every other century.
To those not thinking of the danger, that video may have seemed comical. However, I knew the risk that the police and good Samaritans were taking in trying to save that herd.
When 200 tons of chaos gets a head of steam, things can go wrong quickly.
I watched that video, knowing that only a small portion of the people risking life and limb were being paid to be there. The majority were every day citizens and neighbors stepping up to help.
My younger son was invited to a friend’s birthday sleepover the following week. When he texted me the next day to see if it was okay if he accompanied his friend’s family to move and clean furniture for folks with a flooded home, I had to smile.
He never asks permission when he is about to do something ridiculous. But when he’s going to do something very generous and human… he somehow feels the need to check in with old dad.
Those incidents and numerous others I witnessed over the past two weeks reminded me of the powerful instinct humans have for reciprocity.
In trying times, folks have a primal drive to help others.
While some of the more sunny among us chalk that up to people just being “naturally good”, many scientists believe that the drive to help others emanates from our engrained desire for reciprocal relationships. It is a survival instinct passed down from our ancestors’ hunter/gatherer days.
We strive to help others in need, trusting that they will return the gestures if we end up needing their support in the future.
People seek out associations with others whom they trust will reciprocate their goodwill.
We see the power of that drive in both big actions and small. Even small, nice gestures over time tend to build strong preferences between individuals and groups.
People want to associate and do business with people they know and like.
Yes, being nice is sound strategy.
What are you doing this week in your stores, branches, and communities to inspire folks to know and like you?