The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Tuesday, February 01, 2011
Volume 16 | # 377
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Fairness is not an attitude. It's a professional skill that must be developed and exercised. » Brit Hume

A Fair Assessment

I heard a compliment about a manager last weekend that stood out in my mind. Shortly after hearing it, I told my wife, "I think that's the best compliment a manager can hope to receive."

I wasn't really surprised to hear it about Jim. His sons and mine are in Boy Scouts together, and he has become a good friend. Jim manages one of the most successful restaurants in our restaurant-saturated town.

I have enjoyed many conversations with him about what it takes to run such a large, high-volume business.

One of the subjects he is most passionate about is finding and keeping the best wait staff he can. He totally understands that these folks make or break his business.

Sure, the food is important; however, there are well-tested recipes and procedures for producing the dishes. And he has a ready list of folks qualified and eager to step into a chef job when it opens. Lots of folks want to be a chef.

But he recognizes that it’s the level of service delivered by his dozens of wait staff that has the biggest impact on a customer's experience.

Our waiter last weekend was a nice young man named Israel. He had an easy smile and a good sense of humor with my two sons. Over the course of about an hour, we interacted with him many times. He was topnotch.

Shortly before leaving, I asked him how long had he worked for Jim. When he told me, "A little over two years," I put on a straight face and said, "Man, I'm so sorry for you."

He burst out laughing and said that he loved working for Jim. It was then that he paid him that fantastic compliment. I expected to hear something about how nice or supportive or informative Jim was. And I know he is all of that.

Instead, Israel simply said, "He's fair. You can always count on him to treat you fairly."

Those words rang in my ears for the next day or so. I often find myself in conversations with managers about ways to retain their more productive employees. Israel's comment will likely find its way into my own comments to managers in the future.

At the end of the day, all that most of us ask of the folks we report to is to be treated fairly. Ask yourself if your team would say the same thing about you.

More importantly, strive to give them reasons to.

Down By the River

A little over a week ago, I was the keynote speaker at a banking association's quarterly meeting. Shortly before I went on, I happened to pick up an agenda.

What I read under my name made me chuckle. It also made me a little nervous.

My title wasn't listed. My topic wasn't listed. It simply said, Dave Martin: Motivational Speaker.

I can't read the term "motivational speaker" without thinking of Chris Farley's "Matt Foley" character from Saturday Night Live: "You don't want to end up like me…living in a van, down by the river!"

I immediately began imagining the rolling eyes when a room full of senior bank executives read that a "motivational speaker" was on the agenda between their salad and entrée.

Being tagged a "motivational speaker" suggests you're more rah-rah than substance.

I laughed while thinking that I would bet I was the only "motivational speaker" in the world about to get up in front of a group with slides that included Ben Bernanke, Barney Frank, and a description of the open-loop nature of the brain's limbic system.

But the audience was great, and the speech was well received. I even avoided referencing a van down by the river… although it did cross my mind.

It later dawned on me why the dreaded "motivational speaker" tag had appeared. I had been invited to speak to this group by a person who had recently seen one of my presentations.

Among dozens of slides on the past, present, and future of the banking industry, it's the "personal growth" comments that often stick in folks' minds. Bankers actually enjoy analyzing the total transformation we are witnessing in our industry. They also appreciate hearing ideas, suggestions, and examples to help them deal with it.

But it seems that the message that smart people working in a great industry will survive and thrive strikes the biggest chord. Outside forces and influences can and will affect the way we do our jobs.

But focused and dedicated folks will find ways to adapt and succeed. And they tend to get motivated when being reminded of it.

Our folks don't have to look hard to find commentary on everything that's wrong with our industry. Take a minute now and then to remind them that they are part of what's actually right with it.

All the adversity I've had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me... You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you. » Walt Disney

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these columns are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of any affiliated entities or sponsors.
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