The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Saturday, August 15, 2015
Volume 21 | # 486
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When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal; You do not change your decision to get there. » Zig Ziglar

The People in Your Neighborhood

A recent change in an exercise routine has reminded me of a topic I’ve preached about through the years.

Yes, there’s a great big world “out there”.  But there’s also a great big world pretty close by that most of us never see.

I remember a bit over 20 years ago when a doctor warned me that jogging on pavement would eventually wear out my knees.  He was only partially right.  

Turns out, it wears out your knees… and your hips.

Begrudgingly, I dusted off my trail bike and began substituting my normal neighborhood jogs for bike rides.

The thing is, you cover about 10 times the ground on a bike and my much-used jogging routes quickly became boring.  So, I began taking turns down streets I never jogged on.

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for 15 years.  It’s big but not crazy-big.  We also have two older neighborhoods and two newer ones adjacent to ours.  I thought I knew them all pretty well.

But my new routine has me feeling like I’m visiting another city almost every day.  I recognize some folks, but I honestly don’t know 75% of the people I see.  I’m sure our kids have gone to the same schools, and we shop in the same stores.

Some now wave at me as I go by.  I felt some wondered if I was scoping out their neighborhood(s) at first.  (Well, I was, but not in that kind of way.)

And several areas I would have been confident that I was familiar with have changed noticeably from what I remember.  People move in.  People move out.  Homes get remodeled.  

Life isn’t static… even if you’ve stopped paying attention to it.

I found myself thinking of the times I’ve chuckled when in-store bankers tell me of their “mature stores” where they “know everyone.”  Except for the rarest of cases, that simply isn’t so.  Sure, it can feel that way.  

But the opportunity for new acquaintances, friends, and customers is more often than not right in front of us.

Seriously, they’re right in front of us.  They’re just a different turn, or new approach, or alternating routine away.  

The same is true for neighborhoods and entire markets.  We need to be conscious that our routines don’t turn into ruts – unwittingly keeping us strangers in our own backyards.
Yes, there is a big world of opportunities out there.  And it may just be far closer than you think.

Culture Clubs

Back in 2008, I began preaching that branch bankers were going to become “the human interface of online operations.”  With the acceptance of internet banking and the explosion of smartphone technology at the time, you didn’t exactly have to be Nostradamus to make that statement.

Seven years later, I believe that the “human interface” role is more accurate than ever.  In a commoditized industry, our people are our last true differentiators.  

Technology gets better, faster, and cheaper.  But everyone (or most everyone) offers every bell and whistle that everyone else does.

A recent column by the prolific Geoff Colvin of Fortune Magazine entitled, “Humans are Underrated” put a smile on my face.  The column was adapted from his new book of the same title and argues (paraphrasing) that future success in jobs will not be found by humans becoming more “machine-like”.

Instead, Colvin suggests that humans will succeed by being more…human.  Processes and tasks, and even vast areas of decision making, will increasingly be handled by technology.  And while that is initially disruptive (and scary), it will also be freeing.  

People will be more able to concentrate on the actual relationships of “customer relationships.”

Colvin uses examples from Southwest Airlines as well as The Cleveland Clinic to demonstrate companies that have long grasped these facts.  Their cultures drive their companies, and employees drive their cultures.  

In short, strong interpersonal skills, a customer focus, and being a good teammate are not simply nice qualities to have.  They are core attributes to staying employed by these companies.  Examples are given from both companies of how hires (of all seniority levels) who look good on paper, but prove to be disengaged or difficult to work with, are quickly “off-boarded”.  

Company culture is bigger than any one person. 

Yes, much of the discussion in our industry around new-technologies focuses on how it is disrupting (reducing) branch traffic.  And that is an existential challenge that organizations of all sizes are dealing with.  

But a reduced dependence on a branch does not reduce customers’ desires for humans who make them feel valued and respected.

Our daily operations, functions, and staffing models may change.  But the cultures our teams develop and promote are more important than ever.


The people who influence you are the people who believe in you. » Henry Drummond

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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