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BirdsEye View

what we all need is a sheep dog

Jim Mauney, SVP at First Charter, wrote to me after my last article: " As a retired Marine, I loved this article. You have done an excellent job of capturing the esprit de corps that makes the Marines Corps the highly effective force that the Corps is, and that bears out the saying "Once a Marine, always a Marine". Sempre Fi". I am greatly honored by his comments, as well as others that echo his sentiment.

Sharron Aldrich, AVP of Sterling Bank wrote that she has tried both the Minestrone and the chili and they are now staples in her kitchen. I hope many of you will do the same and get that great smell that flows throughout the house when either dish is cooking on the stove... I have also posted several quail and pheasant recipes from hunter friends, now that we have a bunch of birds from our hunting trips ready to be cooked.

Check out my outlook on 2Q-3Q 2007 on the front page of the website, www.anatbird.com, and let me know whether I'm on the mark.

Enjoy the first harbinger of spring; it's coming...

What We All Need Is A Sheep Dog

We need sheep dogs.

I can relate this strange-surrounding idea to banking and, particularly, to our more crucial sales processes. But first consider how sheep dogs behave.

They are brought up with the sheep, but they know they are a breed apart. Being raised with the sheep neutralizes dogs' natural instinct to attack, and they learn the sheep’s behavior as well as their own.

These dogs have to know how to communicate with the ewes, the old sheep that control the herds. Sheep dogs may be tempted to bite, but they learn how to show the ewes the road to success without killing them, perhaps by gnawing at their ankles.

Sheep sit down when they are frustrated. This is why shepherds have staffs, and sheepdogs, both of which are critical in keeping the sheep moving.

Sheep dogs will only listen to their shepherd, following orders from one clear source and not getting confused by the herd. These dogs will never kill the sheep, and the latter know it. The dog is there to build a lasting relationship of trust and leadership.

The dog's presence itself tells the sheep where to go as he learns direction from the shepherd, with whom the dog also builds a special relationship. The sheep dogs are responsive and execute the shepherd’s directions quickly and efficiently, without questioning. They have great concentration and intelligence, and move rapidly. They can react to situations automatically with known patterns, which enable them to multitask. They save the errant sheep and listen to the “baa”s of the old ewes and they complain about the pace or direction of movement. They understand, but do not yield. They are trainable, consistent, full of stamina, and in control of their aggressiveness. They are intensely loyal to their shepherd and desire to please him or her protecting and herding the sheep.

What does all this have to do with banking?

We all have branch managers and staff members who have ewe-like qualities. They sit down when frustrated, gripe when they are urged to move and don’t like speed. We need sheep dogs that know how to gnaw into their ankle without biting or hurting the sheep, folks that can share with them management’s clear directions and keep them on track through both encouragement and persistence. We need people who know how to talk with these employees with credibility and from experience, yet don’t confuse the grousing with raising issues.

An effective sheep dog is a tremendous asset to any banking organization in carrying the shepherd’s vision through the ranks and becoming a communicator between the executive ranks and the line. Further, the sheep dog can also read between the lines as result are measured and separate the “foo-foo” from true performance, calling some sheep on their results and holding them accountable for solid performance. A strong person who has been there and done that can understand the real - world conditions within the employees function, and bring their understanding to bear in coaching the troops, recognizing them and culling the non-performers and cheaters from the rest of the herd. A sheep dog can also glean insights from raw numbers, see if anyone is foo-fooing the system, and recommend sales process adjustments as results stream in.

Every bank can benefit from good sheep dog that grew up with the troops and has earned their trust and credibility. Make sure the dog grew with the ewes, knows how to talk to them and their secret handshake, and listens to the shepherd.

To learn more about other skills required and mastered by sheep dogs, see the movie “Babe”. It shows how a pig learns to be a sheep dog; we can learn too!