November 2017

The Most Important Things I've Learned 

By Denise Langlois Murray of Whitney Bank

My daughter recently started her career, and I get "those calls". It occurred to me that most of the issues we face professionally are not unique to any industry, and in that vein, I've framed the most important things I've learned. And...l still learn something new every day.

#1Relationships, relationships, relationships. Take the time to get to know the people you work with, face to face. Go to meetings in person, pick up the phone instead of emailing, go out to lunch. We are losing good working relationships to what is perceived as efficiency.

#2Pay your dues. The last 25 years or so have seen a contraction of the banking industry, so banking in particular is full of seasoned veterans who've earned their stripes. Sometimes a good idea or a valid objection is best put into your manager's ear first. It takes time and a track record to earn respect and trust. Be professional, be reliable and be prepared. Every. Single. Day. Work remotely judiciously. Take your bank's cultural temperature on this issue. Even if your manager approves, other departments may develop a negative perception. There is no substitute for face time.

#3Make your boss look good. I once had a manager who told me he didn't want to be surprised in a meeting or in the hall about anything his department touches. If you are grappling with a problem or a project that might surface somewhere else, make sure your manager knows about it.

#4lf you find a problem, suggest a solution. Our industry runs skinny. If you have an issue to bring to senior management, email and ask for a convenient time. Be prepared; state your issue clearly and concisely, and offer a solution if you can.

#5lf you understand the question, you can find the answer. Banking is an incredibly complex business and a highly collaborative one. There are systems, regulations, transactions and your piece of the business touches many others in ways that you don't understand. Listen, ask questions, listen some more. Get the big picture.

#6Responsibility. If you're the one who messed up, admit it"I am sorry, I must have overlooked that."and do whatever it takes to fix the problem as fast as you can. It's more important to fix a problem than to assign or avoid blame.

#7Don't take it personally. Praise is rare; remember to dole it out when its deserved, but don't expect it. Roll with it. Remember, reasonable people disagree. Sometimes your ideas will be shot downit's ok. Ignore jerks. Stay on point, stay on message, stay professional.

#8Don't play politics. Focus on your responsibilities. Wear a big smile, and walk a wide circle around the water cooler rumor mill.

#9Shine. Don't seek the limelight, but when it lands on you, be prepared.

#10Respect. If you have to put someone off, suggest an alternate meeting time. Return phone calls or emails timely, even if you must say, "I am sorry, I've been swamped but I haven't forgotten you." If you are complimented, acknowledge your team. Never, ever take credit for someone else's work. Never, ever embarrass anyone. Never drop a bomb in a meeting; if you disagree, call the other person beforehand and discuss your issues. In the meeting, you can acknowledge the conflict and report that you're working to resolve it. I can't remember where I heard this, but it's true: People may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.