Under Pressure

by Ed_Cooney 25. April 2013 06:28

Whether in sports or business, very few people perform at their highest level under pressure. Professional athletes show this to us every week. How does a professional golfer who makes 99% of putts under 3 feet, miss the same putt on the 18th hole when the tournament is on the line? How does a major league pitcher who can place the ball on a dime under normal conditions, not even come close to the strike zone in the 9th inning when the winning run is on third? How can a basketball player who doesn’t miss a free throw during practice start throwing bricks during a big game? Easy - the pressure overshadows their natural ability. The mind overrides the body and the tension creates bad swings, throws, and shots. The best professional athletes may not always have the best physical skills, but almost all have developed a strong mental framework to stay “in the moment” or “in the zone” rather than thinking about the future.

Then the question is, why do coaches and bosses place pressure on their teams when it is largely counterproductive?? The answer typically resides in the coach or boss’s fragile ego coupled with a lack of insight into the psyche of their players. The coach’s strong desire to meet the expectations of management and fans causes him to pass stress to the entire team. While overall talent may be the most important characteristic of high performance, a ‘bad’ coach or boss is capable of bringing down an entire group of high performers. Great coaches and leaders have the ability to absorb the stress and transmit a positive, yet realistic, message to their team. They have the ability to remain focused in the toughest of circumstances. They maintain perspective at all times.

Next time the game is on the line, rather than demanding the obvious, “We need three runs this inning or we’ll lose,” why not state, “Let’s stay aggressive, play to win, and have some fun.”


It's Personal

by Ed_Cooney 22. March 2013 10:00

It amazes me how people draw such a distinct line between what is acceptable on a business level and what is acceptable on a personal level. It is almost as if they feel exempt from conducting themselves with an element of integrity from 8:30 - 5:00 (during business mode). Schizophrenia has actually become the social norm. This epidemic has become so widespread that employers now have potential hires take a Myers-Briggs test that can assess a person’s natural state and a person’s adaptive state. The problem is the adaptive state that they must apply from 8:30 to 5:00 is not sustainable. We are who we are, and at the end of the day, our true colors will show.

The adaptive state also lacks depth. There is a reason we feel like most people don’t care about us beyond the sale – because they generally don’t.  Their care is conditioned on the sale – which benefits them. Does this make them bad people? Of course not. Does this drive me to want to do further business with them? Absolutely not. In your life, how many one-sided personal relationships have you been in that were long lasting? Approximately zero. Keep it simple – treat people in your business life just as you would in your personal life. For what is business? It is merely the collective efforts of many people. Give the people you work with the opportunity and ability to show their uniqueness rather than forcing them to read a script. And, if you need to have a tough discussion with a client or coworker, don’t hide behind the mask of, “it’s just business.” Because it is not, it is very personal.


Pay Back

by Ed_Cooney 10. February 2013 11:43

Have you ever stopped to wonder how you achieved a lofty goal or position in your life? I know most of us rightfully associate achievements with ambition and hard work. One element that is often overlooked, though, is that somebody gave you the opportunity to succeed. Somebody believed in you when perhaps there was not a lot on the surface to believe in. You didn’t have the necessary experience, heightened pedigree, or look the part. But that somebody saw something within you that no one else could see. Chances are you may have taken such an opportunity for granted or perhaps established a false sense of entitlement (who couldn’t recognize my potential or talent).

If you reflect for just a moment, I hope you will recall those who took personal interest in your success along the way. It may be your parents, a coach, a teacher, a boss, or a friend. Take the time to thank those who believed in you. Also, take the time to ‘pay it forward’ by showing somebody in your life that you believe in them. It is the biggest gift you can give.



by Ed_Cooney 19. December 2012 11:28

Do you want to be considered a high performer?  Doing something great is usually the result of consistent performance.  Focus on being consistent, not great, and you will probably be great.  Think about it –

  • Major League baseball umpire - considered great if consistent, even if he calls balls strikes and strikes balls.
  • Professional golfer - you may not be able to tell the difference between a pro and the weekend scratch golfer over a single round of golf; it becomes quite obvious after watching both for many rounds.
  • Professional bowler - anybody can roll a strike once in a while, a pro does it more frequently.
  • Old Faithful – there are many geysers in Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful is the biggest regular geyser, it's the most famous and attracts thousands of visitors daily.
  • Co-worker - the great ones may not ‘wow’ you by reinventing your business model, but rather will work hard and are reliable every day, not every other day.

Consistent performers realize that life is a marathon, not a sprint.  They think and prepare themselves for the long haul. 


10 Years!!!

by Ed_Cooney 7. November 2012 05:03

In September, the employees of Affinity Bank gathered together to celebrate the bank’s 10th anniversary. We had a fantastic time celebrating this milestone and it truly felt more like a party than a corporate event. The team put together a slide show going back 10 years - wow - how some things have changed! A few hairlines grew higher, a few of the guy’s waist lines grew wider, and some of the outfits seemed to place the pictures in the 1980’s. We didn’t realize how antiquated our main office looked until we revisited the pictures prior to the 2010 renovation. We reminisced about the laughs we have had throughout the years, especially the holiday party on the “Fur Bus,” and the day employees sported mullets.

We counted 26 children and grandchildren born from the current 24 employees during their tenure at Affinity. Maybe something is in the water?  The average employee tenure is 6 years and we have seven employees with over 8 years. Not too shabby considering we only started with 7 employees and added very little staff until our third year. We started the bank prior to the advent of remote deposit technology and today are one of its community bank leaders in the Southeast.  

We have much to celebrate as we will be one of the surviving banks in the worst banking market in the world - nearly 1 out of every 3 banks in Georgia has failed since 2008. We have experienced the ups and downs which come along with a tough economy together. Together, we will continue our journey of building something special for employees and clients alike. Together, we will continue to find ways to make the banking experience easier and more personal for our clients. And, while we have a way to go, together, we remain resolute on our initial vision of “redefining the way banking is conducted in the 21st Century.”


Save a Buck, Lose a Dollar

by Ed_Cooney 3. November 2012 04:32

Money is like blood.  It needs to keep moving to keep the economy going.  When it flows out of the local economy, it leaves a wound.

We all realize we live in a global economy.  No issues there.  The increased competition makes us work smarter and maximizes our potential.  What happens when a disproportionate amount of money leaves your local economy through the purchase of goods and services from other areas?  The dollar you saved by purchasing an item from a ‘big box’ rather than your locally owned store, may very well come back to bite you in the form of higher taxes and depreciated real estate values.  For argument’s sake, say the number of jobs remains the same but are just consolidated from 10 locally owned businesses to one out-of-state big box.  Where do the profits go?  Easy - to the corporate headquarters and distant shareholders who generate WEALTH through higher per capita incomes and substantially higher levels of investment in THEIR community. 

What can you do??  Easy - pay the extra buck to support your friends and neighbors.  This will keep them in business, which will keep the retail space leased and their mortgages paid.  They, in return, will pay a slightly higher price to you at your place of business, resulting in a heightened velocity of money.  The taxes paid by each of you will result in better schools and improved public services. Essentially, your net cash in and out is a wash and your community is more stable. 

Supporting local businesses feels good because it is good. 


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Picking Your Friends

by Ed_Cooney 7. October 2012 04:26

How many times have you met somebody and intuitively known if they were a good or not so good person? On a personal level, most of us have learned to trust our intuition. We choose our friends based on this inner feeling more than the tangible qualities such as looks (my wife can validate this point) and social status. We all would agree this approach is not full proof, but, in our personal lives, we are inherently more focused on who somebody is rather than where they have been or what they have done. Pretty simple philosophy.

This begs the question - why do we place more emphasis on the where and what rather than the who when it comes time to hiring at our business? Why - because it is deeply ingrained in corporate culture and most people get paid to follow directives. Also, it is much easier and less subjective to support your decision. Obviously all businesses need a certain set of experience and technical knowledge to operate effectively. Most of us are not splitting the atom or running NASA, so what about the other portion of your team? Most people, and even some primates, can memorize information and pass a test. How many people, though, can quickly assess the dynamics of a situation and think on their feet? How many people have the confidence and internal fortitude to work through the challenges we face in our businesses on a daily basis? Would you hire a 21 year-old high school grad that dropped out of college after 6 months but seemed to possess tremendous interpersonal skills and ambition (Steve Jobs?) or the 25 year-old MBA with a 4.0 GPA? Next time you are looking to hire, take two minutes to review the resume, file it away to never be seen again, then, spend the time and energy it takes to find out who you are talking with. Remember, anybody can pass a bunch of tests, but very few people possess the amount of passion that will take your company to the next level.


Remember When?

by Ed_Cooney 23. September 2012 06:21

Remember when you had to go to the bank to deposit a check or get cash?

Remember when you had to actually lick a stamp and mail your bills?

Remember when you had 5 days of float when you wrote a check to the opposite coast?

Remember how cool it was to visit something called an ATM and it would magically spit out money?

Remember when you had to wait in line at the grocery for the person in front of you to write a check to pay for their purchase?

Remember when Julius Caesar’s face was on coins?

Remember when you hated to miss work on Friday because you wouldn’t get your paycheck until the next Monday?

Remember all those statements in your mailbox?

The rapid pace of new technology is changing how we live. Banking is changing. The way we use money is changing. Fifty years ago who would have thought about paying with plastic or depositing a check with a phone.

We’re already “texting” people money. Paying with a virtual wallet on a smartphone is around the corner. Fifty years from now? Who knows?

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Cookie, anyone?

by Ed_Cooney 26. August 2012 06:52

Leader = innovates, promotes change, focus on people, eye on the horizon, long term view, challenges the status quo, does the right thing

Manager = administrator, focus on systems, eye on the bottom line, short range view, accepts status quo, does things right

You will have to forgive me for making up games to amuse myself, but I enjoy going into any business and guessing after my experience whether the organization has a “leadership” team or a “management” team.  You should try it - you would be surprised how much you can tell about the leaders in an organization, whom you will never meet, from the experience at their retail stores. 

Case study from Saturday, August 6: After a fun day at the pool with the kids, we decided to go to dinner at the resort restaurant where we were spending the weekend.  After enjoying a lovely dinner, I ordered a single chocolate chip cookie for desert, which I was quickly refused - cookies are only sold in threes.   While they sympathized with my cause, management fully concurred that the cookie policy could not be compromised.  I was in no way angered (heck, they saved me 300 calories) but was quite perplexed and had to find the source of this very unusual single cookie policy, especially as my bill for the weekend was over $700. (I will have to admit my bias as we have a very lax cookie policy at Affinity – we give away chocolate chip cookies every day to clients that come into the bank).  When I got home, I pulled up the website to check out their ‘About Us’ section.  It was very impressive - each team member’s bio focused on how they have mastered the efficiencies of business with degrees from prestigious schools and training in the six-sigma discipline.  While I am sure they possessed some fine leadership qualities, the fulcrum was weighted towards the management side. 

While games such as my cookie experience are obviously trivial and completely unfair in making a broad judgment on any individual or organization, there is a strong correlation between the leadership/management fulcrum and the client experience and, ultimately, the long-term success of any organization.  To survive the 21st Century, I would argue we are going to need a new generation of leaders, not managers.

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What is YOUR brand?

by Ed_Cooney 11. August 2012 11:00

What is your company’s brand promise?  What do your clients think of when they think of your business?  Why should prospects choose you over the hundreds of other businesses that you compete with each day?  Whether you are a dentist, florist, accountant, or dry cleaner, it doesn’t matter- your brand promise is typically centered on you, your team, and your involvement in your community.  People do business with you – yes, because you are good at your craft and offer competitive pricing, but also because they like and trust you.  They come to your place of business and talk to friends, not strangers.  Your clients intuitively feel the genuine care your team has for their well-being.  You are not just making a ‘sale.’ They are not ‘just a number.’   

This brand promise seems too simple in a complex world filled with trillion dollar conglomerates.  But guess what- the leadership teams at these companies spend their waking hours trying to figure out how to break down their operations to produce what you, as a small business owner, have mastered.  They spend endless hours, trying to make themselves more flexible, their clients more loved, and their solutions more customized.  Chances are you spend your day trying to figure out how to compete on price with your larger competitors that have enormous purchasing power and marketing dollars.  Chances are they are not going to be able to compete with your level of client intimacy and that you are you not going to effectively compete just on price. 

So why exhaust all of your energy on playing defense?  Not to minimize the real life challenges of competing against the Walmarts and Home Depots of the world, but never forget your competitive advantage which these goliaths envy.  Step up your offense- allocate MORE time and energy on your team and client experience.  How can you make your office the best place in town to work and how can you connect with your clients at an even deeper level.  Re-focus your energy where it counts and don’t underestimate your  true value.   

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