Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - October 14 , 2009

Are You Competitive?

As many of you know, I spend most of my summer teaching at various banking schools. And I get excited about the prospect of participants taking a few of the ideas I have taught them back to their communities and using them to make direct contributions to the success of their own institutions. There is nothing more rewarding than showing people how they can do their jobs more effectively, serve their customers better, and help their employers achieve lasting financial success.

But I have learned, over the years, that the new ideas, approaches, and skills that I share in the classroom do not lead to better outcomes with every participant. I know this because the participants themselves tell me they aren't really going to apply what I've taught, when they make comments like the commonly heard, "I'd really like to do this, but we have to match our competition."

If there are two kinds of people in my world, they are the participants who come to learn ways to get ahead of their competition, and the participants who come to my seminars mainly because the competition is sending people to these events.

Now, there are many forms of competition, in business, in the arts, in many arenas in life. But the most common analogy is a sports analogy, and even if you aren't a big sports fan, recasting the situation in a sports setting instantly makes it clear that something's wrong.

Imagine that you are watching an interview, on TV, with the head coach of your favorite professional sports team. How would you react if you heard the coach say:

"Well, we have been watching our rivals closely, and we're pretty confident we can do exactly what they do just as well as they do it. We are determined to be just as good as they are, and we're confident that we can go out there and get a tie with just about any team in our league."

It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? Ridiculous, but not preposterous in the banking world. I encounter various versions of this attitude this time and again.

In a culture of competitiveness, different questions are asked of the participants when they return from training. At most banks, there are a few questions like:

But at the banks that seek to continually build a competitive advantage, the questions these participants get are more like:

In the classroom, it's easy for me to see which participants work for the most competitive banks, the ones that are going to win in their respective marketplaces. While their classmates are thinking about how they will remember what I am saying in the classroom, participants from the most competitive cultures are already thinking about how they will apply what I have shared, after they return to their desks.

Education is only of value after it is put to work in your own institution. And that's a truly competitive idea!