The Advantage Letter by Dave Martin
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Friday, January 01, 2016
Volume 21 | # 495
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The best years of your life are the ones in which you decide your problems are your own...You realize that you control your own destiny. » Albert Ellis

Big Easy Inspiration

I was recently inspired on a day and in a place that I would not have expected. I was on a trip to New Orleans for very somber reasons.  

My day had begun at 4:00 AM and involved Houston and New Orleans traffic and a packed flight.

I arrived earlier than planned to my destination in a part of town I was not familiar with and decided to look for a convenience store for a bottle of water.  Distracted, I was soon walking through a parking lot that I would normally have avoided.

The folks hanging around the parking lot weren’t exactly a welcoming committee.  The inside of the store was a bit menacing, as well.  

It featured a few folks who seemed ready a bit early for Mardi Gras.  There were several conversations going on, not all of which involved more than one person.  

While I kept an eye over my own shoulder, I found myself concerned for the small woman working the register.  She seemed older than a person you’d usually find in that job.  

And her relaxed demeanor seemed out of place.  I wondered what kind of security was in place for that poor lady.

I later waited five-deep in the check-out line.  That chain was obviously pushing cashiers to circle their website address and phone number on receipts and sell customers on taking a survey.

She gave the same speech four times in a row before getting to me, and I was prepared to be annoyed at being forced to hear it again.  But after asking if I had found everything and repeating the spiel, the smile she gave me looked genuine.  
It was the first smile I had seen (or returned) that day.
It would have been understandable if she would have just mumbled through the tired, canned speech.  But, she didn’t.  She did her job and smiled while doing it.  
And I stood there, impressed by that. 
I asked, “Do you get tired of repeating that speech all day?”  She smiled broadly and said (with a New Orleans accent) “Darlin’, if that’s the hardest thing I have to do today, I’m truly blessed, aren’t I?”  
And that brought on my second smile of the day.
As I left, she wished me a wonderful day in a manner that felt like she actually meant it.  And I walked out of that initially menacing place smiling.
One friendly person, engaged in her job, made a positive impression that stayed with me for days.  Campaigns don’t make that kind of impact.  People do.  
How will you inspire others today?

Gap Defense

I’ve worked of late on consulting projects with banks on opposite ends on the size spectrum.  And while the differences in their challenges are clear, some similarities are, as well.  

One certain challenge seems common in organizations of all sizes.

We live in a time in which we have more methods of communicating than any other time in history.  And we are seemingly able to measure our results in the field in real time.  

Yet, it’s so often the case that middle and senior management have inaccurate or incomplete understandings of practices actually being implemented in the field.  

Folks assume that the stated tactics and strategies taught in training and (sometimes) reinforced in internal communications are actually what are executed in branches.

Concurrently, teams in the field overestimate how aware management is of their day-to-day adoption (and adaptations) of those practices.  

Gaps in awareness arise on both ends of the org chart.  

To borrow a phrase, management ends up not knowing what it doesn’t know.  It becomes hard to know if strategy or training or execution needs tweaking…or some of it…or all of it…or none of it.
Obligatory sports reference alert:  Effective coaches don’t simply watch the scoreboard.  They keep a close eye on what is and isn’t working on the field that is generating the results on the scoreboard.
Can your teams explain succinctly the what, why, and how of your preferred service and sales practices?
Likewise, is management clear on how (or if) practices are actually being executed in the field?  If you’re not sure, odds are they aren’t, either.
It’s hard to judge strategy effectiveness if we’re not very confident of how (or if) it is actually being applied.  It also becomes hard to identify and share branch-generated best practices when management isn’t aware of when, how, and why branches find it necessary to modify the playbook.
Business challenges and opportunities don’t remain static.  Decisions to keep, add, remove, or modify strategies and tactics are constantly being made.  
Too many end up making these decisions on incomplete and/or inaccurate information.
Resolve in this New Year to get a few more support folks out - and a few more branch folks in - to compare notes.  
Having a great playbook helps.  
But it helps more when teams are on the same page.

Don't let yesterday use up too much of today. » Will Rogers

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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