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Sunday, March 01, 2015
Volume 20 | # 475
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If you stand and be counted, from time to time you may get yourself knocked down. But remember this: A man flattened by an opponent can get up again. A man flattened by conformity stays down for good. » Thomas J. Watson, Jr.

Doesn't Take a Miracle

I found myself having an impromptu “life lessons” conversation with my sons last weekend. The impetus of the conversation was the ESPN “30 for 30” episode entitled “Of Miracles and Men.”

It told the “other side” of the famously-coined “Miracle on Ice” in which the US Hockey team defeated the Soviets at the 1980 Winter Olympics. To most of us, the “Miracle on Ice” has always been about the young American good guys beating those seemingly unbeatable villains from Russia.

After watching this program, I found myself with a few more nuanced thoughts and emotions about it. Don’t get me wrong. I’m still amazed and thrilled 35 years later that the USA won.

But the narrative that they defeated a bunch of bad guys in the process doesn’t hold up when the rest of the story is learned.

Watching interviews with that old Soviet team and learning about their childhoods, the cultures they grew up in, the incredible amount of training and conditioning they put in… I couldn’t help feel a little different about the event.

I remarked, “We don’t always know what it’s like in someone else’s shoes, do we?” My younger son said, “What does that even mean?”

(Doesn’t he know you shouldn’t question dad’s clichés?)

I explained that we might feel differently about a situation when we consider it from the other guy’s point of view. Some folks who seem to be in a bad mood may have understandable reasons for it.

It doesn’t mean that they’re bad people.

Maybe they don’t feel well. Maybe someone close to them has health issues. Maybe there are things out of their control affecting them.

It doesn’t mean that you ignore or excuse bad behavior or actions… but you may be better at dealing with – or forgiving them - when you understand the causes.

Both either understood or were smart enough to pretend that they did. It worked for me.

Too many people confuse empathy for passivity. Understanding what may be driving behaviors does not mean accepting them. But it does better facilitate positively affecting them.

Some of the toughest – and most effective – managers are highly empathetic. So are the most productive sales people.

Take just a few extra seconds to consider the “why’s” behind the “what’s” you see people doing this week. It’s time well spent.

Curb Enthusiasm

An outing last weekend reminded me of a long running joke with my wife and me that house hunting is the only weekend outdoor activity she really likes. For 20+ years now, we’ve enjoyed driving around on nice days to check out model homes and/or new developments.

During a few periods, we’ve been serious shoppers. Other times, we’re just recreational browsers.

She loves seeing the latest and greatest features that builders are putting in homes. I enjoy observing the marketing strategies and techniques that go into selling what for most customers will be one of the largest purchases of their lives.

One of my favorite things to do is reference the pretend “happy family pictures” designers place around these homes.  I’ve long joked, “If you buy this house, your lives will be as great as the beautiful people in these pictures.” (Still gets a chuckle.)

I also like observing how certain salespeople are able to make visitors feel like welcomed guests. I note whether interacting with a salesperson during a visit makes you more or less interested in a home.

I often ask a related question to branch folks. Will a customer’s interaction with you today make him feel more or less impressed with your institution?

I’m also a fan of the great landscaping and various curb-appeal enhancers home sellers employ. It sets a tone. I’ve preached the importance of “curb appeal” to branch bankers for years.

The state of our parking lots, drive-up lanes, ATM areas, etc. of our brick-and-mortar branches also set a tone.

Sure, we have different “landscapes” in the in-stores. But if we don’t think that visible clutter behind our counters or tattered marketing pieces around a branch make real impressions, we’re kidding ourselves.

And even if the spilled substance or random waste paper on the floor in front of our branch wasn’t “our fault”, they are still our issue.

Trash or spills on the floor in front of an in-store branch tend to grab as much attention as our marketing pieces. It may not be our mess, but it’s our problem.

One of the most impactful marketing tools of an in-store on any given day is sometimes a broom, mop, or dust rag. Yes, funny… but true.

Take a couple of minutes today to make sure that, whether customers are driving cars or pushing carts by your branch, the type of impression you intend to send is the one they are actually receiving.

Humility leads to strength and not to weakness. It is the highest form of self-respect to admit mistakes and to make amends for them. » John J. McCloy

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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