Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - December 16, 2015

Why You Are in This Business

It is the holiday season, and on my travels for consulting and training, I often have the hotel TV running in the background as I catch up on work in the evenings. By some kind of osmosis, the common theme of most of the holiday movies running at this time has seeped into my awareness.

The usual pattern is a kind of "before and after" comparison. The "before" picture is a person who has forgotten what is really important. He or she is concerned only with work, or money, or even power. But then through some amazing event, that person learns the important lesson that people are what matter, and that's the "after" picture. ("People" can, of course, include reindeer, elves, and other creatures, at least on TV.)

I might note in passing that now and then the villain of the piece handles credit for a financial services institution. I guess the stereotype of the miser who squeezes every penny out of each borrower is just too hard to resist.

But we don't work on TV, and at the end of the year, when we are so aware of last year's performance in next year's goals, it's a good opportunity to remember why we got into financial services in the first place.

After all, is it your aim to make loans, or to help businesses succeed? Do you take pride in checking off all the compliance and policy boxes, or is it more important that you have protected stakeholders' interests through sound practices? Is analysis just about collecting and crunching numbers, or is it also about the interactions, the question-and-answer sessions with the borrower, that produce that information?

Contrary to the stereotype presented in many a holiday film, I believe we are in a people business. The heart of financial services is relationships with customers. Our success in this business depends on our relationships with our fellow employees. Management effectiveness relies heavily on relationships with the rest the organization.

Unfortunately, the pressures we face in our daily work make it easy to forget how much we enjoy the people side of things. There are always numbers to make, forms to process, entries to log, and problems to solve. It is all too tempting to put one's head down and just complete the prescribed motions.

As you review last year's performance, ask yourself if you have more and better relationships, within and outside the institution, than you did a year ago. Then ask yourself what you're going to do to cultivate more and better relationships in the year to come.

People are the key ingredient to the twin outcomes of business success and job satisfaction. If you want to enjoy your work more, and to do it better, rediscover what you originally enjoyed when you got into this line of work in the first place: the people.