The other day I was asked my opinion on what separates winners from losers in today’s banking environment. Without hesitation, I responded that the winners are focused on the “main thing.”
That “main thing” is something that was described to me back in 1994 by a manager of mine, and it is a trait that holds true today. “You see, our job as bankers is actually pretty simple,” my old mentor told me. “Our job is to make sure that we keep the ‘main thing’ the main thing.”
What the heck is that main thing? It’s a powerful secret. The main thing is for us to focus our time and effort every day on gaining new customers, while also making sure that we never lose an existing customer.
Although this sounds simple, I will tell you that in my travels and conversations with bankers during the last few years, many have lost their way and have become overwhelmed with day-to-day operations of the business and buried in minutiae: emails, regulations, and other activities that keep them tied to their desks.
The winners, on the other hand, have found ways to rise above those time-absorbing activities to stay focused on the “main thing.” They understand that, in a world where customers no longer need to visit a financial institution, playing offense through aggressive sales activity is vital. And in doing so, they know they are providing proactive customer service.
In our work with financial institutions across the country, we have identified the following five characteristics of organizations that have a track record of “winning” in their markets. Financial institutions that practice these five strategies typically are more profitable, they attract and retain the best talent, and they are the most well-respected in their communities.
1. They have fun. Simply put, winning teams have fun together. Our careers and our lives go by quickly. It’s important that we make the most of the journey, live with passion and a purpose . . . and have fun along the way.
2. They build an organizational structure focused on growth and business development. Unfortunately, experience shows that many financial institutions still employ a relatively outdated approach to business development. Many simply haven’t built a team of professionals who know how to play offense. The highest performing financial institutions, however, entrench their organization’s front room (their sales force) as the primary focus of their organization. The critical backroom functions, on the other hand, provide for the operational efficiencies, credit discipline, and compliance expertise for the organization to run smoothly.
3. They coach their team members to success. The best athletes, the best producers, and the best leaders all thrive on being coached to success. In fact, winners in nearly every profession know that without effective coaching, they won’t perform at their peak. In that regard, winning financial institutions stretch their teams to get better by providing active coaching. In these organizations, managers strive to improve their team’s performance by performing pre-call plans and postcall reviews with their employees. This type of coaching positions their teams to celebrate their successes and to learn from their losses. Weekly sales meetings are robust and results-focused. In addition, incentive compensation and recognition are tied to strategic growth initiatives. Indeed, topperforming organizations reward the employees who produce the results they are looking for.
4. They surround themselves with leaders. We know that teams travel at the speed and direction of their leaders, and the best organizations are built with a mindset that every employee must be a leader. Winning organizations assemble a team with a mix of people who hold themselves to high standards and lead by example. They recruit and retain people who love to cultivate relationships and who have a solid track record of results. Winners make a habit of winning, and happy, energetic people almost always provide an immediate boost to sales efforts and to the team’s overall morale and engagement.
5. They are time wise. It’s easy to get caught up in day-to-day tasks. Great teams find ways to rise above these timeabsorbing tasks to stay focused on the highest impact activities that will help them achieve their goals. We must invest our time wisely. Once a day is gone, we cannot get it back.
The moral of the story: Get your team out of the office! And . . . keep them focused on the “main thing.”