Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - August 27, 2014

Do You Have Enough Thoughtless Employees?

Have you called anyone "thoughtless" recently? Were you angry, or at least frustrated, when you did that? Was your remark prompted by something a person did "without thinking" that annoyed you?

We are used to using "thoughtless" as a synonym for "rude and inconsiderate". But more literally, "without thought" is all that word means. Today, the speed of business, the pressures of competition, and the immediate demands of customer service are going to force your employees into situations where they don't have much time to come up with the best response.

After all, how often can you get away with, "Let me research that and get back to you"?

There are actually two kinds of thoughtlessness you want to actively manage at your institution. The first is based on training and accountability. You make sure your staff know the policy and procedures, and you correct their actions when they are not in line with standards and accepted practices.

This produces an employee who doesn't have to do the research into, say, a customer's request, an employee who knows the standard answers well and delivers them consistently. It is rather like being a professional athlete who drills and drills the basics in practice so that the right decisions are automatic when the pressure is on. There is little time in a fast-paced game to "research that and get back to you".

But even the best trained employee will run into gaps in that knowledge. Questions and requests and situations are going to arise that not only demand an immediate response, they demand a response is not well spelled out in the official documents. It requires a quick judgment call, a "gut reaction". There's not much time for thought, so the employee goes with what feels right.

When that happens, do your employees make the right response most of the time? Will different employees have the same "gut reactions"? Or will the customer (or colleague) get a different answer, depending on who gets asked the question?

When those thoughtless, rapid response situations come out right, and come out the same way across your organization, that's culture in action. Your employees have internalized the bank's goals and strategies and standards and values to such a degree that they automatically make "educated guesses" that turn out well.

Thoughtless responses are just part of business life. But if you manage them, first with a commitment to training and accountability, and second, by constant communication to explicitly manage your culture, your bank's thoughtless responses can give you a competitive advantage over your rivals.

And who knows? Maybe one of these days you'll call one of your staff "thoughtless" and everyone will know that's a compliment!