Chief Investment Officer
BirdsEye Viewyou eat what you kill
This article was turned down by American Banker for being too blunt. It is indeed an outspoken piece without much sugar coating. I'd greatly appreciate your comments on its accuracy and tenor. To learn more about this and other topics, join us in one of our Forums this Spring. Check out www.anatbird.com for a full schedule of our Forums, agendas, travel tips, recipes, book reviews, my family's pictures and other information.
You Eat What You Kill
Our industry continues to struggle with building a sales culture and transforming bankers from order takers into sales people. Countless words have been written on the subject, some of them mine. Training programs are also abound. Yet, despite the effort, results are less than stellar.
One possible reason is the lack of discipline some banks apply to performance expectations and the lack of differentiation among performer groups. At a recent Forum we had, an attendee offered the following thoughts:
We have lions, horses and dogs. Feed the lions, ride the horses and starve the dogs.
While this seems harsh and un-banklike, it may be just what we need in order to awaken the dormant horses amongst us and ensure that the dogs realize there is a price to pay for lack of performance.
Lions rule the jungle, and they know it. They are internally-driven, strong and dominant. Sales people who are lions need to be monitored, rewarded and managed very differently from the horses and dogs. They need to be left alone to develop their sales process, given lofty performance goals and continuously stroked and encouraged, because they thrive on positive feedback. They also need to meet other lions to realize there are others with similar performance records and then given the opportunity to compete for ruling the herd. Our egalitarian approach often does not accommodate the unique needs to our lions, the best performers. However, in order to maximize their success, we need to give them the care and feeding they require without impeding their style and drive.
Horses, on the other hand, need to be ridden. They are capable but not self-driven enough to achieve lion results. They need management, encouragement and support, including an occasional prod, to achieve their potential. Tighter management oversight and more frequent feedback and coaching are important to horses, because they are needed to help the horse get into the galloping pace they are capable of.
And then there are the dogs. We all have them, we all know who they are, yet many of us are reluctant to shoot the dogs, i.e. let them go, even when all other means have been exhausted. Poor performers deserve every chance to succeed, including special attention, training and coaching. They deserve encouragement and help. But when they choose not to act upon the training they get and continue to underperform, it is not fair to the rest of the team to treat them equally to the horses and lions. For example, poor performers have not earned the right to a sales assistant, yet many have one anyway. In environments where leads are given, they get as many leads as everyone else, and they shouldn't be put in that position. It penalizes the shareholders and the rest of the team, who carries the non-performers on their backs.
Poor performers should not receive the same privileges as better performers, once you have exhausted every opportunity to get them on the right track. At the person who mentioned this said, "If you were a horse you won't get treated like a dog". In that executive's bank, resources are reallocated from dogs to horses to give the motivated performers a better chance to succeed.
It would certainly be better if we all had unicorns, who are even better than lions, because they can fly. I had the privilege of working with some in my career, and they amazed me. Unicorns sold more services to needy customers than anyone else. One, located in Springfield, MO, became consistently a top ten performer for major mutual funds and annuity sales. It certainly wasn't the market that got her there. Another became the seventh largest home equity loan producer in a robust market, not competing against other individual producers but against other institutions (in other words, he was a bigger producer than other whole banks). These unicorns are rare and hard to find, but they inspire us all.
We are an industry in transition, and the way we treat our sales people needs to reflect that: according to their potential and commitment, and not to each the same. Our resources are scarce, and they should be allocated to those who will make the most of them because they are willing to do what it takes to help our banks and customers succeed.