The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Thursday, May 01, 2014
Volume 19 | # 455
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Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway. » Earl Nightingale

Preaching to the Choir

One of the side benefits of writing columns and speaking to groups is that it tends to reveal the types of stories, themes, ideas, etc. that strike nerves with people.

With a column, you can usually tell by which ones get forwarded the most.

With speeches, the feedback is more instant. And whenever something clearly gets a reaction, I find myself making mental notes to review if I’ve written about that particular subject in the recent past.

One such instance happened last week that had me laughing as hard as anyone in the audience.

I had reached a slide with a favorite Peter Drucker quotation on it. He said, “Manners are the lubricating oil of an organization.”

With that slide as a backdrop in certain presentations, I suggest to managers that they are delusional if they think they can somehow insist or enforce that all members of their teams will like each other.

It’s great when that is the “state of the union” at the moment. But even people who like each other can go through periods of annoyance with each other.

So, you’re not being realistic if you think that your branch(s) will always be one big love fest.

That said, what a manager can absolutely insist upon is that team members treat and speak to each other respectfully, and, yes…with manners.

When employees know that courtesy and professionalism are non-negotiable traits in your workplace, folks tend to better get along and work productively – regardless of personalities.

You don’t have to like a person right now to be civil to him.

Before I could finish my thought, a young lady near the front of the room thrust her hands in the air and exclaimed, “Church!”

As the folks around her just about fell out of their chairs laughing, I smiled and said, “Okay…that’s a new one.”

She laughed, “You’re speaking the truth! I feel like I’m in church! Preach!” Most of the room burst out laughing and nodding affirmatively.

As I waited for the laughter to fade, I made a mental note: This topic seems to be resonating more than ever.

The pressures being placed on branch teams to do more with less have increased. It’s a fact of life that we accept.

But increased pressure can lead to friction between the moving parts (employees) of our operations. Too much friction causes burnouts and breakdowns.

Strive to ensure that yours is a culture of courtesy and professionalism to avoid that fate.

Everyone's an Expert Now

I noticed something pretty remarkable while delayed in an airport recently. Thunderstorms had everything backed-up and chaotic in Houston. Long lines stretched from every customer service counter.

None of that was remarkable. In summer around here, we simply call that scene, “Monday.”

I had been “ping-ponged” around as the airline kept announcing gate changes. Particularly frustrating was the fact that the departure time on the digital sign at the gate was obviously going to be way off.

The agent told us, “I can only go by what our system says. It says we’re boarding in 20 minutes.”

I told that gate agent that their own smartphone app was showing that our plane was sitting in San Antonio at that moment. (That was news to her.)

I doubted we’d be seeing our plane at the end of that empty jetway in the next 20 minutes.

Then, they announced a concourse change. So, the fifty-or-so folks waiting on our plane had to walk a few hundred yards, ride a monorail, and navigate large crowds to get to our new concourse.

But at least we’d have a plane, right? Yeah, right.

Fifteen minutes later, they sent us back to the first concourse. It was then that I saw something pretty remarkable.

A different agent was standing there, with a smartphone in her hand. She was using a third-party flight tracking app to give folks estimates of when (or if) their flights might take off.

She was standing there in an airline uniform with an airline walkie talkie on her hip and an airline computer screen right in front of her. But she knew the most updated and accurate information was on her personal smartphone, through a third-party app.

And, well, good for her. She had taken matters into her own hands (literally) to give anxious customers the most accurate information she could.

She was also pointing customers in need to where they should head to reschedule flights.

I’ve preached to folks for some time that the days of customers bowing to our expertise because we have more information than they do are ending.

They have incredible search engines, amazing processing speeds, and the wisdom of the world in the palms of their hands. They know what we know.

Increasingly, folks’ willingness to do business with us is more driven by whether or not they like us, trust us, and feel valued and appreciated when dealing with us.

How will your customers feel today?

When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, 'I used everything you gave me.' » Erma Bombeck

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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