The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Friday, June 01, 2012
Volume 18 | # 409
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Don't let yesterday take up too much of today. » Will Rogers

Feet, Don't Fail Me Now

I’m reminded of how connected we’ve become when I realize I’m aware of things that I’ve made no effort to learn. For years, I could tell you who the contestants were on American Idol, even though I never watched.

(I’m now only aware of whom the judges are. The show must be slipping.)

I’ve paid even less attention (if that’s possible) to Dancing with the Stars. But I’m always aware of the athletes competing. ESPN (sister station of ABC) always highlights the football players in the competition.

While watching a recent sports show, I learned that Packers’ wide receiver Donald Driver had won the latest competition.

The commentators began discussing why football players always seem to do very well in a competition that most of them start off woefully inexperienced in. My first inclination would have been to chalk it up to simply being great athletes.

But while this kind of dancing requires athleticism, it can be done pretty well by folks on that show whom you’d not really consider athletic. One of the sports dudes mentioned that he had asked one of the professional dancers on the show why she thought football players do so well. Her answer intrigued me.

She says that, sure, these guys work hard, but the key is that they are also far more open to coaching and criticism. They are able to receive negative feedback and not become defensive about it.

On the contrary, they are able to quickly take that feedback, internalize it, and use it to improve.

In the end, it’s the guys you would expect to have the biggest egos in the place who tend to behave the humblest when receiving coaching. They realize that accepting a more experienced or more qualified (or simply more objective) person’s critiques is not a sign of weakness.

In fact, the more secure a person is in his abilities, the more likely he is to accept and act upon constructive criticism.

Senior managers tend to talk an awful lot about the importance of being good coaches. But it’s likely that we don’t talk enough about the equal importance of being coachable.

Too many of us are more focused on defending what we do now than in considering the possibility that someone else’s suggestions may actually benefit us.

Sure, some folks’ advice is worth ignoring. But many are worth listening to.

How coachable will you be this week?

Talk it to the Top

A young man walked up to me during a break at a recent seminar with a smile on his face. He said, “Mr. Martin, I couldn’t wait to tell you how fired up I was about something you said this morning.”

I smiled, thinking it might have been my take on a particularly interesting piece of research. Or maybe it was about the need to accept change and evolve along with our industry. Maybe it was a funny story or personal anecdote.

He then said, “I so agree with you. We just need to talk to customers more!”

That was it.

That’s what had him fired-up.

I chuckled and said, “Well…uh… I’m glad I was able to bring that kind of earthshattering knowledge to the group today.”

He got my quip and laughed saying, “No! No! I’m taking lots of notes. But I like how everything comes back to actually getting in front of customers and talking to them about the things that are most important to them – themselves, their families, their work, etc. It struck a nerve with me.”

He then told me a story that had me wanting to take notes as well. Late last year, he had been moved from an in-store branch into a traditional brick-and-mortar. He had been promoted and was given a desk job in the “new accounts” area.

After only a few days, he asked to work a teller window.

When the manager of the branch asked why on earth would he want to deal with “all of that,” he simply told him he liked it. He told me, “But the real reason I want to work a window is personal. Tellers are the only people in the place who actually talk to anyone. We are all competing to make our numbers, and I know I make mine by talking with customers.”

I laughed as he spoke the simple truth that the folks on the frontlines get to actually speak face-to-face with customers. In his in-store, he was able to simply step in front of the branch to chat with shoppers.

In his new location, the only real traffic was across the room from his “desk job.” And he knew that this dynamic wasn’t going to work for him.

I asked him how it worked out for him. He smiled and said, “I’ve been promoted again. But I’m still the highest ranking guy on the teller line. If they make me a manager, I’m still working that line.”

I told him that I’d wager that both of those things are likely to happen.

Whether or not you are currently “working the line”, how many customers will you find a way to speak with today?

I can explain this to you; I can't comprehend it for you. » Ed Koch

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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Dave Martin

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Dave Martin has become one of the most prolific writers in the banking industry. His columns and newsletters are read in thousands of financial institutions each month. His keynote presentations, seminars, and podcasts have an authenticity and humor that brings teams of all sizes and seniority levels together.

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