The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Volume 20 | # 459
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There is a reason they call it the 'Group of Death', because we're in it, too. » Jurgen Klinsmann

Technically Speaking

A recent column by Geoff Colvin in Fortune magazine had me reflecting on many conversations I’ve had with managers over the years about finding the “right people” for our branches.

Frequently, the most dissected subject in those conversations was whether branches were best served by employing staff with strong “operations” abilities or those with stronger interpersonal (and sales) skills.

Ideally, we’ve always wanted both. But long-tenured managers can tell you we often don’t live in an ideal world.

I can’t begin to recall how many examples I’ve seen over the years of employees with great personalities and people skills either burn out or wind up terminated because of an inability (or unwillingness) to proficiently handle the “operations” aspect of branch banking jobs.

Colvin’s excellent column, “In the Future, Will There Be Any Work Left for People to Do?” details the transformational points in labor demand that technological advances have caused throughout history. Until relatively recently, the fears that technologies will reduce job opportunities have been unfounded.

If anything, transformational technologies have often expanded job opportunities.

But Colvin suggests that the recent turning point we’ve come upon is different. The kinds of advances in information technology we’ve seen in the past decade are disrupting all areas of human labor, from highly-skilled to basic clerical jobs.

In a nutshell, IT now collects, analyzes, and even contextualizes information faster and more accurately than humans. It is also increasingly handling previously unimaginable physical tasks.

Heck, “robots” have manufactured cars for decades (think welding, assembling parts, etc.). But “robotic” cars are now driving themselves more safely than humans do. (See Google’s autonomous vehicles.)

I agree with Colvin that, for the masses, the skills in highest demand going forward will be creativity and an ability to handle complex human exchanges.

In other words, people who can build and maintain relationships with others.

Technology will continue to replace humans in ever-expanding areas of both analytical and manual tasks.

But as technology transforms the playing field, the people we employ in our branches matter more, not less, as does the folks who will manage and coach these ever-important assets.

With Friends Like These

If you walked up to some of your casual friends on any given day and asked what they’d been thinking about recently, there’s a fair chance that their honest answers would not include, “You.”

That doesn’t mean that we need to find a bunch of new friends. It’s a pretty fair bet that during that same period, you were spending your own time focused on any number of things besides what those extended friends were up to.

We were recently at a gathering with lots of folks we know relatively well. I kiddingly refer to this type of group as “Hallmark friends”.

We know them well enough to send and receive Christmas cards, graduation announcements, wedding invitations, etc. So, these are folks definitely in the “friends” category.

But while catching up, I realized just how unaware I was of what they had been up to in the previous year of so. In fact, there were some folks whom, while I would consider them friends, I hadn’t thought about since the last time I had laid eyes on them.

And that dynamic was mutual. They knew just as little about the escapades of the Martin clan.

Some of the active social media users may have known a little more about each other than the rest. That said, a friend and I joked that much of social media seems to be folks advertising the lives they want people to think they live.

Everyone is always having such an awesome time traveling, eating, playing, etc.! Not as many posts of mowing the lawn or doing laundry or badgering the kids about homework. But I digress.

My point, and one I frequently try to make to both in-store and “traditional” bankers, is that we are nuts if we think that simply because we’ve had a conversation or two with a prospective customer, we’re somehow in their perpetual mental Rolodex.

Heck, most folks don’t think about, or actively keep up with, people they actually consider friends.

And that’s okay. It is what it is. And it’s also why we must market ourselves and engage customers on Day 1 and Day 10,001 on the job.

There is a tendency to think that “established” branches and bankers are well-known, and therefore top-of-mind to the folks in their markets, when they are contemplating financial services.

Both are dangerous assumptions.

In our hectic world, people primarily pay attention to things that are in front of them. Make it a point to be in front of them today.

I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once. I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. » Bruce Lee

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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