Jeff Judy

Jeff's Thoughts - June 14, 2017

Birds of a Feather

Imagine that you are at a conference held by, say, your state or national trade association. There are probably plenary sessions to cover timely topics, and there may be breakout sessions for training activities.

It is time for lunch, and as you dig into your tasty conference center chow, you look around the table.

Who is sitting around that table with you? Are they people you know? Are they from your own organization, or from your own geographic area?

What are their job titles? Are their titles pretty similar to your own?

As you probably know, I spend a lot of time at conferences, presenting on a variety of topics and delivering training. And what I see is a lot of birds of a feather flocking together. That is, people naturally tend to congregate with others who are like them, who work at the same institution, or live in the same area, or do the same kinds of jobs. I've also facilitated in-house conferences for institutions with several locations, and even within the same organization, participants tend to spend the majority of their time, if possible, with people they already know.

If that's what you do, you are missing one of the biggest benefits of these gatherings, namely, the opportunity to pick up new ideas and new perspectives on how you do your work.

Spending time with people whose job titles differ from your own can be quite illuminating. Let's say you are a relationship manager, one who has to work effectively with credit analysts to benefit both the customer and the institution. Interacting with credit analysts, not only ones you might know but analysts from elsewhere, can help you find more effective practices that will enhance your teamwork when you get back to your desk. You can get some perspective on how the analysts see their roles in the credit process and compare that vision with your own understanding of their roles. You can collect ideas about better ways to gather, share, and interpret information about credit requests.

You might also look for opportunities to spend time with the next level of management, the people at the same level as your own supervisor, but at different locations or institutions. Find out what they see as the most common issues that arise from relationship managers' handling of the credit request. See if they view the process differently from what you, and your supervisor, embrace.

Naturally, this is just one example, and you can adapt this reasoning to whatever your own job function may be.

And don't just eavesdrop! Ask questions. Investigate how these other participants approach their work. Ask them what makes a good relationship manager different from a poor one, in their eyes. Compare notes on how you do things, looking for ideas to bring back and discuss with your team at your own organization.

It is, to be sure, always more comfortable to sit with people you know or who are very similar to you. But one of the great things about these large gatherings is that they bring together a variety of people who all have different experiences and different understandings of what makes a good credit process.

And by the way, you will also be broadening your network of contacts in the industry. That can be good for you when you are looking to hire, and it can be good for you when you are looking for a change in your own career.

Deliberately step outside your comfort zone and make the effort to spend time interacting with people you don't know, from different locations, in different jobs. It will benefit you and your institution. And, generally speaking, it can make your conference experience more fun and more interesting at the same time.