What Leaders and Speakers Have in Common – The Power of Influence!

What do leaders and speakers have in common? As a leader and speaker myself, I was pondering on this concept and quickly realized that it is the power of influencingothers. Leadership, at the core, is about influencing others. Speaking is also fundamentally about influencing others with our words. Most leaders often have to speak in public and thus are public speakers although they may not pursue speaking as a career. The same way, speakers lead others because people may follow their advice, their expertise, and may be influenced by their speech. For example, whether a speaker teaches on a business subject or shares his or her inspirational story, the audience listens, and most of the times, follows. Many speakers also become entrepreneurs and lead their own companies.

With the power of influence comes great opportunities and also enormous responsibilities. Some of those opportunities that also carry a lot of responsibilities are:

Set trends. Leaders and speakers can set a trend. Sometimes those trends can be small things like encouraging people to help their neighbors—whether their neighbor is in the next cubicle or in their neighborhood. Other times trends can be world changing like Steve Jobs when he introduced the new iPhone technology.

Set the example of commitment. Both leaders and speakers have to show up and do their jobs regardless of what’s going on in their personal lives. Speakers make commitments to deliver a keynote or teach a seminar months and sometimes a year in advance. People show up to hear and learn from them. I remember last year I had to teach an all-day seminar on Cash Management and 40 bankers had signed up to spend the day with me to learn. During those days, my father-in-law was not doing well and that very morning at 3 a.m. he passed away in Missouri and I not only couldn’t go and be with my husband but I had to show up and teach the entire day. That was one of my biggest tests as a speaker. I delivered the presentation and no one knew what happened in my private life. I understand that sometimes if it’s your own parent, spouse, sibling, or child, you do need to cancel your commitments. But for the most part, your audience doesn’t care what happened in your personal life and speakers are expected to fulfill their commitments. There was another occasion when one of my co-workers passed away and the president of the bank was out so I, as a member of the executive team, had to announce it to the staff. I was devastated and did cry during the announcement but I got through it. I had to lead in that sad moment.

Be consistent. Leaders as well as speakers need to be consistent on how they deliver their message to their audience—whether the audience is the company’s staff or the attendees at a conference or event. Consistency for a speaker means they always prepare by doing their research and by practicing. Then they have to show up on time, consistently. Leaders do their part of the job as a team member. Being consistent also means that both leaders and speakers behave the same when they are at home as well as on the stage or in the office.

Be authentic and genuine. When leaders and speakers are consistent and behave the same way everywhere, that’s being authentic and genuine. Each leader must be him or herself in order to be the best and most effective leader he or she can be. The same way, each speaker has a unique message and delivery method that belongs to him or her. It’s their unique brand.

Bring value. Speakers and leaders who are authentic, genuine, and consistently act the same wherever they go, bring value to their audience. Each speaker and leader has its own value. It’s their unique value proposition. Again, their brand brings value to those who follow them.

Make others feel valued. At the same time that authentic and genuine leaders and speakers bring their own value wherever they go, they make others feel valued. Authentic leaders and speakers genuinely care about others so they spend time with people and take time to nurture their relationships. They listen to others and also share their experiences to help people be the best they can be.

If you are a leader, you most likely are already a public speaker even if you’re not a professional speaker, meaning you don’t speak for a career. The same way, if you are a professional speaker, you most likely also lead in some way even if you’re not leading a company, because you have followers. So take advantage of the great opportunity to influence others and, at the same time, take the responsibility that comes from influencing others, seriously.

  Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker. You can contact Marci for speaking engagements through her website atwww.marciamalzahn.com or email her at marcia@marciamalzahn.com. You can purchase Marci’s books atwww.Amazon.com.

Talent Management and ERM – What it Takes to Lead ERM!

Talent – The people side of the story. I refer to talent in two ways. First, the employees in your company are referred to as “the talent.” Second, each employee has “talents.” The questions are, do you have the right talent in your organization in order to succeed? And also, do they have the right talents to take your company to the next level?

Enterprise Risk Management is a unique niche. It’s scary and intimidating for many. It’s easy and makes complete sense for some—like those of us who have experienced it first hand and who also appreciate what it does to a company and for a company. I first took an interest in ERM because of all the natural disasters I have lived through in my life. Those experiences made me be “risk aware” and also taught me to always have a backup plan for everything I did. That behavior became part of who I am, which made me an excellent candidate to become the first Chief Risk Officer of the bank I helped start back in 2005 when the bank was only $250 million in assets.

Banks, and any organization for that matter, need to choose the right person—the right talent, to lead the ERM Program efforts successfully. In addition, this person needs to have the right talents to succeed at this role. Some of the talents that this person needs are:

Leadership: Undertaking the effort to create and maintain an ERM Program takes, most of all, leadership skills in order to succeed. ERM leaders will need to “gather the troops,” sell the idea that, together—as a whole—is the only way the company will maximize their efforts to protect their company. Good leaders create successful teams.

Communication: ERM leaders need to be the “central station” for this program to work. They need to communicate at all levels and with all constituencies so everyone feels included and “in the loop.”

Empathy: ERM leaders need to understand that when they start asking questions, the other division leaders may feel challenged, questioned, and inadequate to respond to their requests.

Patience: ERM leaders need to be very patient for the entire organization to follow and become risk aware. They will need to educate, educate, educate—everyone. It starts with the Board of Directors by introducing them to the concept, obtaining their approval to start the process, and to make them aware of their liabilities in regards to ERM. Then they need to initiate the training program with the leadership team and then the entire staff. They don’t have to do the training, just coordinate it and bring the experts in.

In addition, ERM leaders need to have experience and skills developed during their careers. For example:

Project Management: They will need to lead a broad, company-wide project. Having experience in leading previous large projects will help tremendously.

Communication skills: I referred above to Communication as a talent, meaning the risk leader needs to include everyone and make employees feel part of the bigger team. Now I’m referring to the skill of communicating well, presenting well, writing professionally (good grammar and spelling), and representing the bank with regulators and all constituencies.

Organizational skills: In order to establish a complete and comprehensive ERM Program, the leader has to be very organized. The ERM Program is multi-dimensional and thus it’s built with certain foundational components, in various layers, and in a specific order. Otherwise, you will end up with silos—just as you started. For example, Risk Assessments need to be created with the same assessment criteria so the entire company understands what the levels of risks mean.

Board Governance Experience: It is important for the ERM leader to know how the Board works so they can present and educate the Directors on what they need to learn—what their liabilities are, what they need to approve, accept, adopt, or vote on—during the process. ERM leaders will need to work with the Board of Directors on an ongoing basis as they present updates on the program, incorporate training in their meeting agendas, and introduce the various components of ERM.

Finance Experience: It is useful and helpful for the ERM leader to understand the finances of their organization. Knowing financials will help them identify Key Risk Indicators (KRI’s), Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that can also be used as KRI’s, work with the CFO and CIO on ERM related cost projections. For example, if the bank (or any organization) needs to invest in technology to either upgrade their systems or to improve the safety of customer data (or to provide new products), the Chief Risk Officer (or ERM leader) works with the CIO on the technology aspect, and also with the CFO on the financial aspect. In addition, the Chief Risk Officer works with the President and/or CEO on the strategic aspect. The point is that they would work together as a team.

My favorite and most rewarding aspect of creating the ERM Program for the bank I helped start was the people side. Using the talent I had (the people) and maximizing their talents (their gifts). In the end, the ERM team members learned so much from each other. They learned to appreciate each other more, learned about other unrelated areas to their daily jobs, learned how important it is to be aware of all risks at all times, and most importantly, they learned to work together for the good of the entire company—as one team.

If you are a bank president or Director on a board, I encourage you to seek for the right person (talent) as your ERM leader. Choosing the right person is key to the success of your bank or organization’s ERM Program. If you are the ERM leader, I encourage you to grow in these areas and seek outside expertise to help you create or strengthen your current ERM Program. Take pride in your position at your institution. You are valuable and a key member of the team!

If your Board has identified the need to start or complete your ERM program, I can help you get it done!

You can also see a related article I wrote on the natural disasters I have survived:

Disaster Recovery Planning – Time Well Invested! I have survived two natural disasters and a war…

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker. You can contact Marci for speaking engagements through her website at www.marciamalzahn.com or email at marcia@marciamalzahn.com.You can purchase Marci’s books at www.Amazon.com.

Your Home...Your Work - Embracing ERM Is Crucial to Protect Both

Picture your house right now in your mind. Think of all the doors and windows you have in your home. Are they all secure –at all times? (Not just when you go on vacation for a few days or simply away for the day but also when you are in the house.) Who is watching over each window and door in your house? Who ensures there are no threats to fires or floods on a daily basis? What measures have you taken to ensure your house is safe for your family to live in? Is everyone in your household aware of the potential threats and events that could occur in your house? That’s what Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) is all about.

Just as you always try to protect your assets at home, and your personal identity, you need to protect your business assets with the same level of awareness and care. Enterprise Risk Management, at its simplest form, is “an ongoing process to protect all business assets while achieving the organization’s vision and mission.” That’s my simple, personal definition. I thought of making the analogy of your home because you live in one. You are aware of the ever present threats that surround you. For example, the threat of a house fire if you’re not careful in the kitchen, with the grill, smoking in the house, or an electrical fire due to malfunctioning appliance or electronic, is a real, daily threat. Then there is the threat of a flood due to an issue with an appliance or a plugged toilet or sewer. There is also the threat of theft—an intruder coming into your home and stealing physical things—the old fashion way of stealing. And, of course, there is nowadays the constant threat of identity theft and hacking into your personal accounts. Everything that can happen to your personal life can also happen to your business.

My point is that when you treat your business with the same care and have the same awareness as you have with your personal assets, your perspective changes with ERM at work. Even when you are not the owner of the company, you can learn to treat it as if it is. The moment you do that, you start asking yourself several questions such as, “Who is actually looking out for this department or that area of the company?” or you start realizing that “My area can be affected by that other area if something happens to them.” Other thoughts could be, “Wow! I didn’t know how important that department is to the survival of the entire company.”

In your home, you establish precautions, train the kids who to call and what to do in case of an emergency, create some routines such as going around the house at night locking all the windows and doors. Similarly, in your business, you establish “mitigating factors” to mitigate and hopefully eliminate some risks and you establish policies and procedures to protect your company assets from risks.

There are many articles and information floating around about Enterprise Risk Management these days. Instead of looking the other way or saying you’re tired of hearing about it, or thinking that it doesn’t apply to your area of business, I encourage you to embrace the concept. Embrace ERM. It’s not going away and it applies to your company, not just banks—for profit and nonprofits alike.

A way of embracing ERM is to learn about it and not be intimidated by the term. I know that bankers around the world are probably the ones who hear the most about the subject, but ERM applies to every entity regardless of what it does or what they offer. Every company has risks. Becoming educated and then ensuring everyone in the organization is “risk aware” will ensure your company’s success in years to come. If your organization does not currently have an ERM Program, I encourage you to seek outside expertise.

I work mostly with community banks and what I have found is that all of them have pieces of the program. They just need to complete certain pieces they’re missing and guidance to put it all together into one comprehensive, organized program that everyone buys into. That’s where I come in and help them complete their programs.

I wrote a related article called “Ten Benefits Your Bank Can Enjoy from Having a Complete ERM Program.” Here is the link on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/ten-benefits-your-bank-can-enjoy-from-having-complete-malzahn.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker. You can contact Marci for speaking engagements through her website at www.marciamalzahn.com or email at marcia@marciamalzahn.com. You can purchase Marci’s books at www.Amazon.com.

Inspire and Educate – That’s Why I Speak!

A couple of years ago when I attended the Speakers Academy (which is part of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Speakers Association) they asked us these key questions: “Why do you want to speak?” and “What is your message as a speaker?” I thought about these questions seriously and I finally came to my own answers: Why do I speak? Because I want to inspire and educate people. What is my own message? I bring a message of encouragement and I also teach my audience something new they can use either in their workplace or in their personal lives. These two answers are based on my life’s mission: To help working people be successful in every area of their lives.

It seems these days everyone wants to, and needs to, be inspired and encouraged because there is so much negativity going on in the world. At the same time, people are looking to learn something new and not just get “inspired” as that seems a little bit “fluffy” and not as “meaty.” In addition, companies pay for their employees to learn something they can immediately apply to their jobs and increase the bottom line. So, realizing this, I decided to make it my goal to both inspire and educate every time I speak to an audience—whether the topic is a technical banking one or a “soft skill” topic such as life/work balance or negotiation skills in the workplace.

The other thing I realized as I was thinking about why I speak is that I am using four key talents together: the gift of public speaking, the gift of teaching, the gift of encouragement, and the gift of writing. The combination of these four talents used together is what I’m striving to do. And it’s what makes it easy for me to be both a speaker and a writer. The process of finding and discovering my gifts and talents was a long one. Being in the workplace helped me discover many of those talents and that’s why I wrote my second book, The Fire Within – Connect Your Gifts with Your Calling. In this book, I encourage my readers to discover their gifts, polish them and use those gifts to help others. As I personally did that, I discovered my personal calling—my purpose in life, which I mentioned above.

So the questions I have for you today are:

  1. Do you know what your gifts/talents are?
  2. Are you using those gifts to help others?
  3. If yes, in what ways are you helping others?
  4. If not, how can you start using your talents today to help other people—both in the workplace as well as in your community?

I am thankful for the many talents I’ve been given and I’m purposed to use them all every day to help other people around me. That is part of the legacy I’m leaving behind. I encourage you to do the same.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker. You can contact Marci for speaking engagements through her website at www.marciamalzahn.com or email her at marcia@marciamalzahn.com. You can purchase Marci’s books at www.Amazon.com.

Time Management – A Crucial Skill to Survive Today’s Working Environment

We hear over and over that we all have the same amount of hours in a day. We hear we cannot stretch time. Time is set and that is a truth we cannot change. Therefore, we must learn to manage it or we will live in a constant state of panic. If we don’t learn to manage our time well, our lives become chaotic and we feel like we always have “unfinished business.” We become unfulfilled individuals. Here are some tips that I have discovered throughout my working life that I think may help you as well:

Know yourself. First things first. Let’s start with you getting to know yourself well as a person and as a worker. What type of environment do you work best in? Are you having a challenge managing your time? Are you naturally an organized person? Do you struggle prioritizing your responsibilities in the various areas of your life? Once you know the answers to these questions, you can create a plan to improve in this area of your life.

Know your job. It is extremely important to know what the expectations of your job are. You need to know what the deadlines are. Is your job project driven? If yes, then you need to plan way ahead in order to meet your deadlines. Do you have daily deadlines you need to meet? For example, in one of my previous banking jobs, I had to review business customers’ accounts, pay down on their loans, or invest excess funds by 11 a.m. each day. If I missed that deadline then there would be consequences such as the client didn’t earn interest on their accounts or paid too much interest on their loans. Do you have regular meetings you need to attend? If yes, are they in your calendar for the entire year? Doing this in advance will avoid you double booking yourself in the future.

Organizational skills. I believe having time management skills is closely related to having good organizational skills. Organization starts in your mind. Some people are definitely better than others. But it is a skill that we can all improve on with practice. Try organizing small projects first, like organizing a one of the utensil drawers in your kitchen or your tool box in the garage. Then you can move on to organizing your desk. It is essential to have an organized work area. I cannot believe the amount of time people spend looking for things on their desks. The same concept applies to your electronic work area. If you don’t organize your electronic folders in a way that makes sense to you, you will never find documents when you need them.

Set your priorities in life. Life is busy enough just because it is. When you have a family and then add work and community involvement, your commitments could overtake you. Therefore, it is very important to have your priorities well defined in your life. Only then will you be able to say “no” to activities and commitments that don’t fall under one of your priorities.

Equipment. Do you have the appropriate tools to do your job well? This includes the appropriate computer systems, calendars, and mobile devices that can assist you in managing your time. Sometimes using the alarm on your phone for example, can help you stay on task or not forget to make an important phone call at the right time. Even though some people may think that printing your calendar in addition to having it on your phone and your computer may be a waste of paper, for me it’s an additional tool to help me stay organized and thus to help me management my time. I also color code my calendar based on the type of activity. For example, business meetings are blue, Board meetings are red, phone calls are yellow, and personal activities are green. So at a glance I can see if my calendar is filled with business, personal, or community commitments. This helps me ensure I’m staying true to my priorities.

Schedule everything—even free time. I learned through the years that I have to schedule even the time I need to keep free. This includes time to work on a specific client project, time to develop a new presentation, and what I call “inspirational time” to write my books. If you don’t protect your time by putting it in your calendar, you will fill it up with other activities. Of course, I have also learned to be very flexible with my schedule but you can start by attempting to do certain activities at specific times on a regular basis until they become a habit.

Invest your time in Social Media wisely. Even though social media has become part of our culture and daily workload, we need to manage our time spent in LinkedIn, Facebook, and other media wisely. I try to connect with other professionals and read business articles through LinkedIn during business hours and leave Facebook for the evenings during my personal time. Social media is important to the success of our businesses but we need to be careful to not spend unnecessary time looking at things that only reduce our productivity.

Focus on one task at a time. It is now known and proven by various studies that our minds cannot multitask. So why do we insist in making our brains work so hard when we are not designed to do that? I now simply focus on one activity at a time. This means I only answer emails during a specific time of the day but I’m flexible as to what time of the day that is based on what I have going on each day. I also only make phone calls during a specific time. I also write only one day a week instead of trying to sneak in an article here and there or trying to write one chapter on my book today and another at other times. It takes me at least twice the effort when I write that way versus when I’m in the “mode of writing.”

I hope these tips help you manage your time better and become a more productive and efficient worker. Even though we cannot add hours to our days, we can definitely produce more during the same amount of time if we improve our time management skills. Try it!

 Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker. You can contact Marci for speaking engagements through her website at www.marciamalzahn.com or email her at marcia@marciamalzahn.com. You can purchase Marci’s books atwww.Amazon.com.

Speaking and Presentation Tips for Non-Speakers in the Workplace

The other day I ran into a lady who was a little nervous about a presentation she had to give to a group of colleagues. She shared she doesn’t do public speaking or gives presentations often so I offered some tips that have helped me through the years as a professional speaker. I continue to learn every day and I thought these tips would help anyone who needs to present in the workplace.

Don’t procrastinate. Prepare your presentation in advance so you don’t have to scramble at the last minute. I know many people thrive in doing things last minute but in the end, your preparation or lack of it does show. People appreciate you taking time to prepare your material. Also, it is almost a given that when you don’t have enough time, technology will break somewhere, somehow. You can count on that!

Learn PowerPoint. This software was created to help everyone give professional presentations regardless of audience, topic, or industry. There are basic tools you can use in PowerPoint such as:

  • Knowing which type of slide to use: Title slide, Title and Content, Comparison, Title Only, etc.
  • Choosing a good slide design: Don’t use one that is too busy or too dark. The simpler the better.
  • Use the largest font you can: It is annoying to your audience to not be able to read the slides. Using a large font size will really help people read your slides—especially from the back of the room.
  • Don’t overuse slide transitions: I stopped using transitions a while ago because they were too distracting and I had to keep clicking away until all my points were on the screen.
  • Don’t fill up the slide with words: The basic rule is not more than three to five bullet points in one slide. However, I have heard contradicting requests. Some clients ask me to fill the slides with as much content as I can so the attendees can follow steps later or share the information with others in their workplace—especially for webinars. Other times, I hear the less the better, fill up your slides with pictures only. You don’t want to distract your audience with having them read the slides while you present. On the receiving end, however, I don’t like receiving handouts or electronic copy of the presentation and all I get is pictures that don’t make any sense without the speaker’s content—especially when I paid for educational presentations. You will need to decide how much content you provide your audience based on the type of presentation.
  • Do not read the slides. This is the worst you can do to your audience. They WILL stop listening to you immediately and will tune you out the rest of your presentation. You can hardly ever recover from this once you start reading.
  • Using PowerPoint is not a requirement. Some speakers like to use PowerPoint and others don’t use it at all. I think it depends on the topic. When sharing your life story in an inspirational talk, you probably don’t need slides and if you do, pictures may be a great tool to use to tell your story. On the other hand, if you’re presenting an educational subject, then using PowerPoint may be the best tool to use so your attendees walk away with written ideas, tools, recommendations, etc. for them to implement in their companies right away.

Know your subject. No matter what topic you’re speaking on, your audience expectsyou to know what you’re talking about. This is another kind of preparation beyond putting together your PowerPoint presentation. This is practicing your presentation over and over until you feel comfortable that you know it well. You can have the most beautiful PowerPoint presentation done and if you don’t know your subject well, your audience will be disappointed. The more you know your subject the more you can focus on your audience and truly enjoy them Tell real life stories—your stories. People will feel you’re human and will enjoy listening to your stories.

Be careful with jokes. I don’t tell jokes because they’re unpredictable on how people will react. I tell funny stories that people can relate to. That always works.

Don’t fear technology. Yes, that’s been one of my biggest fears too. There is the fear that the computer won’t start, or the file is lost, or the clicker won’t “click,” or the projector won’t project, or the microphone doesn’t work because it ran out of batteries. The number of technological issues that can happen when you speak are countless. And I have experienced them all—especially when I went to my first trip to Rwanda where all of the above happened! However, my fear of technology is gone. Here are some things I’ve done to help me with that fear:

  1. Always bring a backup laptop.
  2. Save your presentation file on your laptop’s desktop.
  3. Bring a copy of your file in a flash drive.
  4. Bring a copy of your entire presentation on the old fashion paper!
  5. Bring your own clicker.
  6. Test the microphone in advance.
  7. Trust your A/V people. They’re professionals and know what they’re doing. If things don’t work, it’s their responsibility to make them work, not yours. You’re there to speak.

Lastly and most importantly, speak from your heart. Regardless of the type of presentation you’re giving, if you speak from your heart, people will be engaged and will continue to listen to you. If you’re teaching on a specific topic, be passionate about it. Show that you care about that subject. If you’re sharing about your life story, tell it with passion too. Tell it from your heart. That’s how you will inspire others. You can be talking about the most boring topic and it’s up to you, the speaker, to ensure your audience doesn’t fall asleep. It’s up to you to inspire them to learn and be interested about your subject. And it’s up to you for your audience to walk away satisfied, knowing their time investment in your presentation helped them grow and was worth it. I hope these few tips help you grow as a presenter regardless of who your audience is and how large of a group you’re presenting to. These tips apply to all situations. Good luck and enjoy speaking!

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker. You can contact Marci through her website at www.marciamalzahn.com, and for speaking engagements please contact Preferred Speakers at www.preferredspeakers.com.

Speakers’ Nightmares and “Daymares”

Last year I became a member of the National Speakers Association (NSA) and also the MN Chapter so I attended my first MN Chapter annual gala. The night was wonderful and I enjoyed getting to know other fellow speakers. One of the things I learned that night was that all speakers have “speakers’ nightmares.” I thought it was funny and, up to that point, I had not experienced any nightmares yet. Until the very next month, June, 2016. I had eleven speaking engagements within four weeks and I also had to deal with a death in the family. Of those eleven presentations, eight were on different topics and four of those were brand new topics I was just creating. One of the new topics was an all-day banking seminar that I was presenting for the first time at a banking association. These engagements included local travel in MN within three hours from home, two out of state conferences, one very early breakfast keynote meeting, one book club, and one new webinar.

My first nightmare was when I dreamt that my new Square Chip Reader got lost and I didn’t have it to sell my books at an event. In my dream, I had left it on the book table at a previous event. When I woke up, I immediately got up and looked for it. I found my little “Square thing” (as I call it) and was relieved to know it was only a dream.

The next night I was up late working on the one-day seminar so I fell asleep thinking about it. That night I woke up at 3:45 a.m. with a great idea on how to start the seminar with a special networking exercise using the attendee roster. I should have written the idea down right there at night. Instead, I kept thinking about it for a whole hour before I finally fell asleep again.

The worst nightmare I had that week though was that I had started the one-day seminar and I decided to run an errand during our first break. In my dream, my kids were all of the sudden little kids again and we were in an office building where I kept getting lost. My kids kept getting lost too so I spent hours, in my dream, looking for them, then looking for my car in the parking lot. When I was finally in my car, my GPS could not find the place to get me back to teach the seminar. I couldn’t get a hold of anyone at the event place until 5 p.m. and by then they had let everyone go because I didn’t show up to continue the class. I woke up almost in tears and with such anxiety! But I was, once again, relieved knowing it was only a dream—a speakers’ nightmare!

The first four events during these marathon of events went excellent, the book sales went great and my little “square chip reader” worked like a charm. Then the day of the seminar came on Tuesday, June 7. But the entire weekend before, my father-in-law, who had been ill for quite some time, suddenly became worse. His condition was deteriorating by the day and then by the hour. That Saturday afternoon on June 4, he was given two days left to live. So my husband and his sister decided to fly early on Sunday to be with their dad in Springfield, Missouri. That Saturday night, I called my father-in-law to say my goodbyes just in case I didn’t get to see him on Wednesday when we planned for me to fly out to MO.

I had to stay behind because of my commitment that coming Tuesday. That night I barely slept thinking I needed to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to take my husband to the airport. I was also agonizing over the fact that I was not going to be with him during this time in his life. My husband left on Sunday and I was not able to focus on my seminar presentation for the rest of that day nor Monday. I decided at that point, I knew my material and it was in God’s hands as to how it would go.

Monday night my husband informed me that his dad may not make it for me to see him on Wed. The hospice care had told them it would be a matter of hours. And it was… My husband texted at 3 a.m. telling me his dad had passed away at 2:53 a.m. the morning of June 7. I had not only gone to bed late and couldn’t get to sleep but I couldn’t fall asleep for another hour after hearing the news. I only slept 3 or 4 hours when Tuesday morning came, the day of the whole-day seminar. I was exhausted!

As I left home on my way to the event, my road was completely at a stop so I decided to take another route. After about a mile on the new road, I came up to a sign “Road Closed.” So I decided to turn left and take yet a new route, when I encountered another sign, “Road Closed.” My GPS at this point was going crazy “recalculating” and “rerouting” me back to where I started. I couldn’t believe I was lost in my own neighborhood! So I decided, almost in tears, thinking that I was going to be late to my event, to zig-zag my way to the freeway. I figured I should end up there eventually. And I did. I got on the freeway finally. But when I got there, it was at a complete stop. My GPS now said I was to arrive at 8:47 a.m. and my event was to start right at 9 a.m.

I finally got there and went straight to connect my laptop. Of course, as it is expected on a day like that one, my laptop couldn’t recognize the projector so we turned it off. And of course, we couldn’t turn the projector back on for a few minutes until it finally turned on and my laptop recognized it. I said, in front of the class, “Yes! Success! I was nervous about the technology not working right not about speaking to you all.” And they all laughed. And remember the introduction exercise I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about? When I first got there, the seminar organizer informed me that she had not printed the rosters so I tried not to panic and asked politely to please make copies quick, which she did. We then distributed the rosters to the attendees right before the seminar started.

The event planner introduced me and we began the class. Everything turned out excellent. Because of this short networking exercise we did at the start, everyone felt free and comfortable to continue sharing and participating during the rest of the class. Everyone had a great time and learned a lot.

This day was not a nightmare… it was a “daymare” as one of my little nephews once told me. He said he had “nightmares and daymares.” After I laughed, I asked him, “Why do you call them “daymares”? He explained, “Because I have bad dreams sometimes when I take naps during the day.” Brilliant! I thought that was a great analogy of how we can, too—even as we’re awake—experience daymares.

I hope that by reading my stories of both nightmares and daymares you were inspired to remember that no matter what goes on, we, as professional speakers must go on and do a good job for our audience. That day, no one knew that my father-in-law had just passed away early in the morning. But also, remember that regardless of how wrong some things may go sometimes, everything turns out okay in the end.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker on banking topics as well as leadership topics.

Inspiration – A Rare Treasure

Have you ever felt inspired? How often do you feel the inspiration within you? Some days I feel inspired to write, and write, and write… I have so many ideas in my head coming from my heart that I feel I’m going to burst if I don’t get them out. So to start this article, I decided to look up the word “inspire” and it means several things: “to fill with an animating, quickening, or exalting influence; to produce or arouse (a feeling, thought, etc.); to fill or affect with a specified feeling, thought, etc.; to influence or impel; to animate, as an influence, feeling, thought, or the like, does; to communicate or suggest by a divine or supernatural influence; to guide or control by divine influence” (Dictionary.com). There are some key words here: “to fill,” “animating,” “feeling,” and “influence.” I picked those words because when I feel inspired, is because I was influenced by something I did or read, or by someone I heard that triggered feelings and thoughts that animated me. Words were sown into my heart that produced a fire within me that I could not contain.

Today I simply want to inspire you and motivate you to get inspired! I find there are certain circumstances, some activities that produce strong moments that trigger inspiration in my life. I think a lot before I start a new project, have a new idea, or respond to a complex problem to solve. During that brainstorming time, I create different scenarios in my mind that could be possible solutions to the problem at hand. Or I brainstorm about brand new ideas. For example, ideas for a new book include questions such as: Why do I want to write this book? Who will it help? Who would my audience be? Can I speak about that subject to encourage people to read the book? If I have answers to all these questions, I write down the idea/concept for the new book and put it aside until I get to do it.

Maybe my early training on computer programming helped me to think a lot first, then organize my thoughts in a logical way, and ask a million questions before starting something. That process causes me to create an organized, well thought out product (or project) in the end. But overall, I find I need time to think, and from thinking comes the inspiration. Therefore, I need to ensure I have the time allocated to think.

Our lives these days are filled with business instead of inspiration. No time to think. That’s why I believe inspiration has become a rare treasure that can rekindle our lives when we find it.

So if you want to get inspired in your life, here are a few things that work for me that may help you too:

  • Find those circumstances – a place, certain music, specific scenery – that takes you to a place of inspiration.
  • Make the time to simply think. Examples of how you can make that time could be going for a walk, while you drive instead of being on the phone, or allocating time once a week just to think.
  • Write your thoughts immediately when you feel inspired. Otherwise, you will lose the thoughts and ideas if you wait until later. Keep a pad of paper and pen in your car, next to your bed, in the bathroom, etc. that is accessible on a moment’s notice. Keep a recorder in the car or record your thoughts in your smartphone as they come.
  • Volunteer to do a project you’ve never done at work. This will get your juices of inspiration going when thinking about how to do something new. The project could be something as simple as volunteering to create the PowerPoint file for a group presentation. If you don’t know how to use this software, it will be a great opportunity to learn. Be careful to not overcommit though and be strategic about the type of projects you choose to do.
  • Take a class at the community center on something you’ve always wanted to do (i.e. dancing, swimming, computers, writing, pottery, carpentry, etc.).
  • Redecorate your house or a room in your house. Doing so will make you think of new ways to arrange the furniture, paint the walls in a new color, and find ways to be creative to do it inexpensively.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercising clears your mind, gets rid of stress hormones, helps you sleep better, and all of those things in turn help you become inspired easier.
  • Attend conferences in your industry so you can listen to inspirational and motivational speakers. Their job is to inspire you, precisely! As an inspirational speaker myself, that is my number one priority when I’m hired to speak at conferences. Also attending conferences makes you feel you are part of something bigger than yourself and helps you to not feel alone.
  • Lastly, network and get to know other professionals in your community and in your industry. There are plenty of professionals, business leaders, and entrepreneurs who want to make a difference. Listening to their stories will inspire you to also work with passion and make a significant impact in your community. Doing so will be part of our legacy as business professionals in America.

I hope my article inspired you to find your inspirational sources so you can possess this rare treasure – inspiration – and live a fulfilling life.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker. You can contact Marci for speaking engagements through her website at www.marciamalzahn.com. You can purchase Marci’s books at www.Amazon.com.

From Balancing to Juggling to Integrating… Which One Is It?

I recently attended a program where the speaker said, “There is no such thing as ‘work-life balance,’ there is only life.” That statement caused me to pause and ponder on the concept of work-life balance. Almost everyone I know is searching for the perfect balance in their lives—even women who stay home to raise their children seem to be overwhelmed. Imagine the women who, in addition to running the household, also have to work outside the home to contribute to the family’s income.

Years ago, most of the publications I read or speakers I heard on the subject of work-life balance, referred to “balance.” Some commentaries said, “It’s impossible to work 50% of the time and spend the other exact 50% of your time living your life.” And it’s true. Mathematically, that equation doesn’t work. Opinions varied supporting the concept or not at all. Then I started hearing and reading about the concept of “juggling,” described as, mostly women, juggling all the balls in the air trying desperately to not drop one. But what they never said is that in order for jugglers to “juggle and not drop the balls,” they have to be 100% in balance. Otherwise, they will drop at least one ball, if not all of them. So that concept didn’t make sense to me either.

Then the new concept of “integrating” your work into your home life, and vice versa, came about and that seemed to make a little more sense since it allowed you the idea of having time to do everything whenever you could throughout the week. However, as you can predict, work became the main thing that occupied your entire week. Work literally “integrated” itself into your personal life—all the time, every moment of your waking life, you were doing emails, answering phone calls, and putting out fires. What people forgot when this concept was introduced is that work never ends and it has the ability to infiltrate your entire life. This concept offered no boundaries. You fooled yourself thinking that because you could take an afternoon off to take your child to the doctor, you could then (or should, out of guilt) work the entire evening, missing out on the family time.

So when I heard this last comment, that there is no such thing as work-life balance, there is only life, I asked myself, “from balancing, to juggling, to integrating… which one is it?” I concluded that life is all of the above. Sometimes you juggle everything you have going on and are able to keep all the balls in the air. You feel balanced and accomplished. Even though this rarely happens, it can and it does happen. Other times, you need to integrate your work into your daily life way more than during other times, depending on the workload and also on how many activities you have going on at the time.

The key is to know that balance is achievable but it takes a lot of discipline, daily sacrifices, and daily choices. You also need to be clear as to what balance means to you. You need to take into consideration everything in your current life including your own capacity to handle various situations and workload—both at home and at work. Below are ten tips that I’ve done in my life to strive to achieve balance:

  1. Balance is a long-term choice
  2. Balance is a daily decision
  3. You will need to make sacrifices in order to obtain balance
  4. Communication is key in maintaining a balanced life
  5. Surround yourself with people you love and that love you
  6. Know your limits
  7. Establish boundaries
  8. Avoid comparing yourself to others
  9. Balance your entire being – physical, emotional, and spiritual
  10. Set your priorities straight in your life

As working women, we need to set an example to the next generation that it is possible to achieve some kind of balance in our lives while also taking care of ourselves. I encourage you to look at your life and see what things you can stop doing, what activities you should start doing, and really examine your daily, short-term and long-term choices. Only you can be the judge of your own “work-life balance” situation.

I just spoke at the Wayzata Chamber of Commerce - Women in Business group where I shared about "A Passion for Women in Leadership." One of the traits of successful leaders is that they strive to have balance in their lives. I love to expand on all the tips mentioned above so if you’re interested in having me speak at your company, contact me at the information below.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker.

It’s Time to Give of Our Time

Originally Published on December 19, 2016 on LinkedIn

With the holidays upon us, I was pondering on the concepts of time and giving. As we all know, we only have a certain amount of time each day. No matter what we do, there is no way to stretch the time and obtain more hours. It is simply not possible. As the holidays approach us, time becomes even scarcer and we run out of it. We rush to buy gifts for all our loved ones and we forget that most often, what people want of us most is the gift of our time, our undivided attention, our presence.

But the people around us don’t necessarily want our time only during the holidays. They want more of our time always. So what are we to do with all the other responsibilities we carry on our daily lives? How are we going to carve out time, out of our overwhelmingly busy schedules, to spend it with our loved ones? How can we dedicate more quality time to our employees when the business calls for our attention with never ending urgent matters? Here are some tips I would like to share with you that will help you manage your time so you can invest it more wisely and where it matters most—in people. I have done these things during the course of my life and they have helped me be more successful in my distribution of time.

Change your perspective on how you view time. Instead of thinking you are using your time for activities, people, business, work, volunteering, etc., think of the concept of investing your time. I learned this concept in The Master’s Program for Women that I teach (visit www.themastersprogramforwomen.org to learn more about TMPW). The analogy is to think of time as money and your investment portfolio. Just as you invest your money in various types of investments, you can invest your time in various types of activities. You need to diversify your money portfolio and you also need to diversify your time portfolio. The same way you need to choose the best investment vehicles for your money to grow and not waste it, you need to also choose the best ways to spend, or invest, your time in so you produce the most you can and don’t waste any of it.

Therefore, choose the right investment vehicles for your time. Always start with people. Invest your time in relationships and prioritize your days based on the circumstances and what you have going on at the time (with your boss, your coworkers, vendors, customers, and all stakeholders). Next, choose the activities that will produce most fruit in your life. Most of us who work (weather in a company or on our own business), need to invest our time in our work but that needs to be done wisely. Then, choose the volunteer activities where you are most fulfilled and, again, where your time investment will produce the most return.

Be present at home. When you set aside time to be with your children, be present. Give them your quality time, your undivided attention, and you will see how they will be satisfied and will go on to do other activities once their time with you is done. I did this when my children were growing up (pre-teen years). I gave them an hour each afternoon to do whatever they wanted to do with me. Somedays they chose to play a game, other days they wanted to play outside or go to the park, and yet other times, they decided to watch a movie or read books. I started noticing that after the one hour quality/dedicated time I gave them, they actually left me. They went off to do their homework, or play on their own. You see, many times, we are “with them physically” but not present at all. And kids know it. They sense when your mind is somewhere else and when you’re not interested in the game or whatever activity you’re doing with them. In the summers, for many years while my kids were growing up, I took an entire week to do whatever they wanted to do (usually, we visited swimming pools around the city). Those are the memories they still have of “kids and mama.” My husband, unfortunately during those years, had less vacation than me so this was my luxury time with the kids. As a full-time working mom, this decision to spend that dedicated time with my children helped me deal with the guilt of working outside of the home and being away from them. For those of you who are married, do the same with your spouse. Your spouse also needs dedicated time when he is the center of your universe at that moment. Choose to do activities that you both enjoy and be present for him.

Be present at work. When you schedule time to be with your employees, if you’re in management, be present. Make sure they know this is their special time with you. This can be weekly or bi-weekly meetings where they have your undivided attention. I used to prepare an agenda and also asked my employees to do the same. We were both to write down all the things we needed to talk about that were not urgent. We also met more often if we were working on special projects with upcoming due dates. What I discovered was that since my employees knew that that one hour a week was only theirs and that I protected that time to be with them, they rarely interrupted me during the week for small things. Of course, I was always available for the important, urgent, or unexpected issues that came up that were not part of our meetings. But as time went by, those urgent matters didn’t come up as often at all because we planned everything together during our meetings. Consistency is key to having successful relationships with your employees. You can apply this same concept when you are meeting with your boss, clients, directors, or vendors.

Enhance your time management skills. Be strategic on how you respond to emails. Don’t let them invade and take over your day. If you respond to each email as it comes in, you’ll never get anything else done. Instead, set aside time once a day to only respond to emails. Be strategic on how you plan group meetings. Invite the right people, use and follow an agenda, start and end on time—consistently. Plan projects ahead of time to avoid last minute crisis. Do not procrastinate as this will only create chaos and your employees will lose respect for you. Nobody likes to put out fires all the time. Let the fires be the real, unexpected situations. Let them be the exception. Be strategic on how you handle phone calls. Put your phone on busy when you need to work on a project and cannot have interruptions. Put the phone on available when you can be interrupted while you do small tasks. Plan a time each day to only answer phone calls. I have noticed that I need to be “in the mood” for phone calls—both initiating a call as well as calling people back.

I hope I encouraged you to view the concept of time differently so you can start implementing these tips. My goal is to help you maximize your time and invest it wisely where your investment will product the maximum return. You will then feel satisfied and accomplished.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker.

Why I Write with Purpose. Why Do You Write?

I recently attended a broadcast of Live2Lead conference by John Maxwell, one of my favorite speakers and authors in the topic of leadership. He shared two things that resonated with me as an author and writer. The first one was when John asked his mentor (also an author) the question, “Why do you write?” His mentor responded, “Because I want to influence people I will never meet.” John Maxwell said, “Then, I will write.” And that’s what it took for him to start writing and he now has published more than 75 books. He is influencing the world in the subject of leadership.

When I ask myself this question, my answer is similar, “I write to inspire, educate, and influence people I will never meet.” I may never influence the world but I’m purposed to influence my world.

I started my own publishing company, Malzahn Publishing, in 2015 to make it easier for me to publish all my books. Now, as a publisher, I ask authors two key questions before starting the process of writing and publishing their books: 1) Do you have a book in you? They usually have to stop and think about it but most of them have responded, “Yes.” Then I ask the next question. 2) Who do you want to help by writing this book? I believe each book has to have a purpose and the main one should be to help others.

The second thing John Maxwell said that resonated with me was the question he asked himself every time he wrote a book: “Will my reader turn the page?” He always wants to ensure he keeps his readers engaged. That is the biggest challenge for authors and writers. So I will always ask myself that question too going forward.

I started writing twelve years ago and I will never stop. I wrote my first book, Devotions for Working Women – A Daily Inspiration to Live a Successful and Balanced Life, to help working women strive to have a successful, yet balanced live. As a full-time working mother my whole life, I was able to achieve success and some balance in my life. I want to share my experiences and tips that helped me throughout my journey with other working women.

It took me the next ten years to finish writing and to publish my second book, The Fire Within – Connect Your Gifts with Your Calling. I wrote this book to help you discover your unique gifts and talents, and to encourage you to develop and polish those gifts so you can use them to help others. As you do that, you will discover your mission, purpose, and calling—whatever term you prefer to use to answer the question, “Why am I here?”

Because I like to maximize others’ gifts and because I treasure friendships, I wrote my third book in collaboration with one of my sisters who is an artist. The Friendship Book – Because You Matter to Me features 50 photos of her original paintings and 50 friendship poems I wrote to honor all my friends around the world.

As I’m writing this article, I’m also writing three new books. They’re all different and have unique purposes to help others. I will be sharing the topics with you in the coming months as I plan to publish my fourth book by the fall of 2017.

If you write for any reason, whether it’s for work, as a hobby, or as an author, remember to ask yourself these questions: “Why do I write? Who am I helping? And, Will my reader turn the page?” Always make sure your purpose includes to help others grow in some way and to help them become a better person.

Below are links where you can purchase my books. I hope they will inspire you and help you grow!

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker.

Are You a Leader in the Making?

A young professional once told me, “I want to be a leader like you are.” After thanking her for the compliment, I responded, “Why do you want to be a leader? And do you think you have the gift of leadership?” Many people think being a leader is an easy task and it’s not. They only focus on the outside perceived benefits of leaders such as the big titles, having people reporting to them, making the big decisions for the companies they lead, and usually having a high salary.

Being a leader is a serious responsibility. And it is different than being a manager. Great leaders know they are responsible for their employees’ actions and the company’s outcome. They answer to the Board of Directors and to the shareholders of the company. The leaders of individual divisions or departments within large organizations answer to the CEO and are responsible for their contribution to the overall performance of the company. Everything every employee does at a company has an impact and the leaders of those employees are responsible for the positive or negative outcome.

Some people are excellent managers, yet terrible leaders because they lack the vision and fire that it takes to lead people. Others are excellent leaders. They have the power to influence others and encourage them to follow their vision—together. Yet these leaders may be poor managers because they lack the dedication it takes to execute the vision of the company down to the details. It is rare to find people who possess both the gift of leadership and the management skills.

Often, however, leaders need to be managers and managers need to lead. So, how can you do both successfully? I believe there are certain skills you can hone and talents you can develop in order to become a great leader and an effective manager.

Professionalism. Regardless of your position in a company, but especially leaders and managers, you must act professionally. Professionalism is reflected in everything you do—from your written emails, how you leave a voice mail, how you treat others (peers, vendors, shareholders, employees, customers, etc.), how you dress, to how you do presentations and conduct meetings. The way you present yourself to others matters at every level in the organization and to the public.

Assertiveness. You become assertive with experience as you learn your trade more and as you acquire working-life experience in general. Knowledge is powerful. Having a life-long learning attitude will ensure you will always be learning something new. The more you know about your specific job, industry, and company, the more assertive you become. The same way you can learn to be a better manager and leader. Don’t confuse, however, assertiveness with arrogance. No one likes arrogant people. You need to stay humble as you acquire knowledge.

Decisiveness. Leaders and managers who are able to make decisions assertively and professionally are the most respected ones. Making decisions is not an easy task and your employees expect you to make decisions with the information you have at the time—in a timely manner. Great leaders and managers own their decisions and take the responsibility for the results. It is a risk well worth taking.

Mentoring. Leaders and managers mentor others. They also have a mentor. Mentoring relationships are extremely important to succeed in business. At some point in your life, you may need a mentor to teach you from their life experiences. You will also want to mentor others as a way to give back and pass down your knowledge to the next generation. As a manager, you have a unique opportunity to mentor your employees in many ways. You can mentor them on how to succeed in their specific jobs, how to continue to grow in their careers, and how to navigate the political environment in the company (most companies have some politics whether we like it or not). As a leader, you have the unique opportunity to mentor the other leaders and managers under you—your executive team. You can mentor them to become better managers and in some cases, help them decide if they should stay as managers or move back to performing a non-management job.

Entrepreneurship. Regardless of the industry you work in, you will always need to develop some entrepreneurial skills in order to stay flexible, creative, and innovative. As your company grows, you need to be nimble and adjust to the new ways of doing things, accommodate to the ongoing growth, and move around within the company to fill in the gaps as needed.

Sociability. Some people hate networking. But it is a necessary skill to develop in order to stay connected to your industry, learn from your peers, find new opportunities in your career, and grow as a leader. Using humor the appropriate way is also a great tool to win others over. Humor that is simple, clean, and not degrading to others is safe to use at any occasion. People appreciate genuine friendliness too. People can tell when you sincerely care about them and when you’re only using them as a connection or to get ahead. Therefore, hone your networking skills and be genuine.

Community. Being involved in your local community is key to succeeding in your business. You should also explore involving yourself with industry associations and representing your industry in the political arena if that is something that interests you. When you apply all the ideas above, you can truly influence your community to improve the lives of others and those in your industry.

Leading and managing people is a serious responsibility. If you are a leader in the making, ask yourself the questions, “Why do I want to be a leader?” and also “Do I have the gift of leadership?” If you truly want to be a great leader, invest time and effort in developing these traits. You will then experience the wonderful feeling of leading others and helping them succeed as well. Take the opportunity and responsibility to lead seriously and go for it!

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker.

What about Us – Gen X? We Are the Bridge between the Baby Boomers and the Millennials!

There is not one day that goes by that I don’t see at least one article talking about how to handle the Millennial generation, what they want, how to attract them and retain their talent, and other topics. Let’s stop talking about all the challenges the Millennials bring to the workforce. I LOVE Millennials!

I am a Gen X professional full-time working woman and mother of two Millennials who are now twenty-seven and twenty-five years old. I have taught them a lot on how to be professionals, work ethic, getting their formal education, working hard, and being patient to obtain the higher paying jobs. I have mentored over fifteen Millennials over the years. I have also learned a lot from them, how they think, their views regarding career, work and life balance, their values, and beliefs.

When I was working at the bank, I managed employees from ages 23 to 67—all in the same team! I treated them all fairly yet differently. But not because of their ages. I treated them differently because each person is unique, as an individual. I got to know them personally and molded my leadership and management styles to each of them. I learned their personalities and identified their gifts and talents. Doing this really helped me to understand their ways to be recognized, rewarded, challenged, and to what drove them to stay committed.

My conclusion: Millennials are awesome people. They are educated, excited about getting their first “real” job, look forward to contribute to society, and they want to create “significance” now—not later when they’re in their 60’s. They want what we all want regardless of age: to be valued and recognized for their individual contributions to the organization. The only difference is that they are voicing those desires instead of staying silence and going with the flow. They have seen the previous generation work very hard too and sometimes lose everything due to the market, or not be able to retire because of financial burdens. They want to enjoy life NOW while they still work and as they contribute to society. Why wait? They want to see the world and travel and not wait until they’re old and tired. They do want to have children but want to enjoy them and watch them grow up—both mothers and fathers. They’re very smart and, because of their knowledge of technology, much more efficient than the previous generations. Therefore, they can afford to do their jobs quicker. What took previous workers 60-70 hours a week to accomplish, it may take them just the 40-45 hours a week. And what is wrong with all of these desires? Why should we blame them? It’s what we all have wanted and couldn’t get.

At the same time, I LOVE Baby Boomers. They are my mentors. I respect their knowledge and their experience. I have learned a ton from them too. Most of them are willing to pass on their knowledge. Based on my own observation and my relationships with many Baby Boomers, the majority do want to retire at some point but many haven’t been able to due to financial burdens and many of them truly enjoy working. The challenge comes when the older workers want to stay in the workforce but refuse to learn the technology to do their jobs. This situation creates frustration for the rest of the staff, and especially for the Millennials.

But the Gen X has the advantage to also have grown up with most of the technology we have available and they have been able to use it throughout their careers. The Gen X group are in a unique situation. They are carrying the burden of the extra workload the Baby Boomers are leaving behind when they retire. At the same time, they are training the next generation as they enter the workforce.

After pondering on all these generations, I would like to share some thoughts to help all the generations work together better:

To Millennials:

  • Help, train, and teach the older generations on technology and new ways of doing things.
  • Respect their knowledge and expertise.
  • Be open to learn from them.
  • Be patient—both with the older generations as they learn the new technology and also patient as you wait to earn the privileges in the workplace that only come with years of work life experience.

To Baby Boomers:

  • Learn technology. Embrace it and use it to help you be more efficient in your job.
  • Respect the young workers as they also know a lot—just different things than you know.
  • Teach the young workers what you know about work life experience.
  • Be open to learn from the younger workers—both Gen X and Millennials.

To Gen X:

  • Become the connector of both generations. Be the bridge!
  • Learn from both generations and enjoy “being in the middle.”
  • Take advantage of the situation and make the most connections you can so you’re able to mentor the younger workers and also be mentored by the older workers.

We are all different and unique yet we all want these main things:

  • To feel valued
  • To be significant
  • To be recognized for our work
  • To contribute to society

I wrote this article to encourage working people from all generations to work together as one team. Age should not matter. What matters is that we work together to accomplish the vision of the companies we work for, which for the most part, is to help others with their products and services while making a profit.

Do You Get It? Do You Want It? Do You Have the Capacity to Do It?

These are three key questions that author Gino Wickman asks business owners in his book Traction to ensure the right people occupy the right positions in your company. I am fascinated with figuring out people’s talents and helping them achieve personal success in life based on discovering their unique talents so this concept intrigued me. The key concept in this book is the EOS, which stands for Entrepreneurial Operating System. The EOS identifies Six Key Components of any organization. The entire book is very insightful and today I want to share the “People Component” with you.

In his book, Traction, Gino Wickman created a practical tool that you can use in your business to ensure you have the “right people in the right seats”—another great concept introduced by Jim Collins in his book, Good to Great. This tool is called the “People Analyzer.” First, you need to know if you have the right people, then you need to put them in the right seats.

According to Wickman, “The right people are the ones who share your company’s core values. They fit and thrive in your culture. They are people you enjoy being around and who make your organization a better place to be.” His formula is: Core Values + People Analyzer = Right People.

In addition to the company’s core values, Wickman introduced another set of parameters to see if your employees are the right people for your company. These “assets” (as he calls them) are:

Get it: Do your employees really get the concept of the specific job and role they’re in? Do they understand the culture, the systems, the company’s pace, and “how the job comes together”? In other words, do your employees “get it”?

Want it: Do your employees truly want the job they’re in? Do they want the new opportunity or promotion you’re offering to them? Are they willing to work the extra hours, for example, to be successful in the position?

Capacity to Do it: Do your employees have the “mental, physical, and emotional capacity to do a job well”? Are they smart enough to do the job (intellectually)? Do they have the time to work more hours (even if they want to, can they?)?

The People Analyzer consists of two areas then: 1) List the company’s core values (up to the top five) and rate each employee with a “+” if they exhibit that core value 100% of the time, “+/-“ if they exhibit that core value some of the time, or a “-“ if they don’t exhibit that core value most of the time. 2) Add the three key assets of Get it, Want it, and Capacity to do it (GWC) to the chart as the last three columns. Write the names of each employee in each row and rate them under each core value and asset. The results should be measured against a bar you establish with the minimum number of core values and assets you’re willing to accept as positive (i.e. employees have to match four out of five core values and have a positive score on the three assets of GWC). Employees who match your criteria are considered “the right people” for your company.

The tough decision comes when you, as the business owner, end up with one or more team members who need to go because, for one reason or another, they no longer fit in your company. Wickman’s experience shows that most companies experience significant growth after the wrong people are let go of the company. The other team members are grateful and the ones who left ultimately find a better place where they fit and where they can use their talents best.

I encourage you to explore these tools and to, at least, explore asking the questions: Do I have the right people in the right seats in my company? Do my employees Get it? Do they Want it? and Do they have the capacity to do the job? You will get very interesting results. You may also, as an employee, want to ask yourself these questions and see how you respond. You can find the People Analyzer tool for free at www.eosworldwide.com/people and you can purchase the book Traction on Amazon.

This article was published on the LatinoAmericanToday newspaper at www.latinoamericantoday.com, September, 2016 edition.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management.

Ten Benefits Your Bank Can Enjoy from Having a Complete ERM Program

“I can’t give you any feedback on your ERM Program. You’re the only small community bank that at $250MM in assets, has a complete ERM Program. Keep doing what you’re doing.” Those were the words of my FDIC examiner when I presented to them my first complete ERM program for the bank I helped start. At that point back in 2012, the bank had just reached the $250MM asset size and was about seven years old. During another conversation, my FDIC examiners told me that the bank “had a strong foundation and a solid infrastructure.”

As the CFO & COO of the bank and later as the CRO, those words made me feel good and I can tell you I slept well the almost ten years I spent with the bank from inception until I left to start Malzahn Strategic. However, those words also left me with the feeling that I was on my own, with very little guidance to continue developing the ERM Program. The lack of guidance is precisely one of the main reasons small community banks are not ready, nor able in many cases, to create a complete ERM Program. The other reason is because creating an ERM Program is not, at least not yet for small community banks under a certain asset size, a regulatory requirement.

I would never want more regulatory requirements for banks. Instead, I strongly recommend that community banks under $500MM in assets establish a complete, yet simple, ERM Program. There are several ERM software packages available. However, they are too expensive and too cumbersome for small banks to use. They simply don’t have the time, resources, internal expertise, or the energy to devote to such programs. But small community banks don’t have to use those sophisticated and intimidating software packages. What the regulators want is for banks to know all their risks, put mitigating factors in place, and be aware of the residual risks they have in every area of the bank. Regulators want to know that you know your story from the risk perspective.

Even though credit risk is one of the biggest risks for banks, they now also have to focus on other important risks such as technology and operational risk. Unfortunately all the risks are interrelated. If one high risk area is affected, the ripple effects flow to the other risk areas such as capital, earnings, legal, or reputational, for example.

There is the perception that creating a complete ERM program is monumental and banks then tend to focus on certain pieces such as Cybersecurity, or Compliance, or the Disaster Recovery Plan, and they are not looking at the “enterprise-wide” approach. They are missing opportunities to make their bank the best it can be. They are missing all the benefits of having a complete ERM Program. So today I would like to share some of those benefits:

  1. Establish best practices enterprise-wide. When you create an ERM Program, it forces you to look at your entire organization and many of the practices that get implemented are best practices that will help the bank overall, not just to mitigate a specific risk.
  2. Increase efficiencies. The same way, as you establish new best practices, you find other ways of doing things and, as a byproduct, your bank becomes more efficient. Efficiency ratio is a key measurement of profitability and most banks are looking for ways to become more efficient.
  3. Establish an ERM process. One of the best practices that you should establish is an “ERM process,” which means now you have a process to run new ideas through. For example, if you are thinking of adding a new division or a new product, you answer a series of questions such as “What are the new risks the bank will have by adding this new division or product?” and “How are we going to mitigate those new risks?” “Is the reward worth the new risks?” Going through this process will eliminate not only new unnecessary risks, but will also save your staff valuable time wasted on new products or divisions that may not be profitable for your bank.
  4. Build the team. One of the best results of creating an ERM Program is creating an ERM team. When I created the ERM Committee, I carefully selected one person from each area of the bank to represent that area and to bring their opinion and expertise to the table. This practice not only helped create a complete program but it also built the team like nothing had before. Now each team member learned about other areas of the bank and learned the importance of each of those areas. They also saw how the entire bank worked as a whole, as one company. That was the most rewarding experience I had during this process.
  5. Create awareness, enterprise-wide. When you establish an ERM program across the organization, employees learn about other areas of the bank and become aware of potential risks the company may encounter in the future. The program, as a byproduct, creates a “risk aware” culture. Everyone is looking out for the good of the company.
  6. Opportunity to assess risk, enterprise-wide. The process of conducting a risk assessment organization-wide, uncovers risks that most owners/leaders had not thought about in the past. As you put in place mitigating factors, and educate the staff, you improve processes across the board and are able to eliminate some of the risks.
  7. Prepare for the future. There is nothing like knowing your current risks and potential new risks to help you prepare for the future. The process of testing your processes, current systems, disaster recovery plan, or business continuity plan, opens your eyes to be prepared for the future.
  8. Create accountability. The ERM committee meets with regularity through the year (even as little as quarterly) and committee members have an on-going list of monitoring and reporting tasks. Results of testing, running new products through the ERM process, and the reporting to the Board of Directors, creates continued accountability within the organization.
  9. Educate and involve the Board of Directors. Very few banks have completed a Board Risk Appetite and Tolerance Statement. But this is a very important step to complete. This is the summary of all your bank policies along with the level of tolerance/risk you’re willing to take in the various risk categories. From here, you can sound the alarm when your bank is approaching the high level of tolerance in the various risk categories.
  10. Create a sound infrastructure and a solid foundation. Putting in place a complete, yet simple, ERM program, in the end creates a sound infrastructure and a solid foundation upon which your bank will grow into the future.

Okay, there were eleven benefits but the “Ten Benefits” sounded better for the title!

Tell your story from the risk perspective. Once your ERM program is complete you will feel equipped to tell your bank’s story from the risk perspective—not just the credit risk perspective but from all potential risks your bank could possibly be faced with now and in the future.

These are some of the great benefits that your bank can enjoy from implementing a complete, yet simple, ERM program. At Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com) we work with banks that want to increase their profitability by improving their operational efficiencies. We focus on Strategic Planning, Enterprise Risk Management and Talent Management.

Know Your Value

Early this year, I spoke at Encourage Her Network, a women’s networking group that focuses on promoting and connecting women in business. The topic was “Know Your Value.” When Shannon Johnson, founder of Encourage Her Network, gave me the title for their Signature Event, I was immediately inspired because it meant two things to me. First, the title implies that each person is valuable and second, that each person needs to know their value.

As the keynote speaker, I felt the responsibility to remind the women of how valuable they are and also to tell them why. So I decided to focus on four key areas:

Know Your Value as an employee, as an employer, as a leader, and as a person.

But before I get into each of those areas, let me describe the word “value” and “valuable.” The Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “value” as s a noun to mean “relative worth, merit or importance; monetary or material worth.” As a verb, value means “to calculate the monetary value of something, to consider with respect to worth, excellence, usefulness, or importance, to regard or esteem highly.” So what determines if something is valuable? In regards to material things, it’s what people are willing to pay for the specific item, product, or service. In regards to people—every human life is valuable.

Each person has gifts and talents—a special natural ability or aptitude, what comes easy for a person to do. It’s important for a person to discover his or her gifts and recognize that every gift is valuable. It is also important to recognize the gifts and talents that others have. Then people can be ready to share their gifts with others and also learn to humbly ask for help when they need talents they don’t have. Why is it important to know your gifts and talents? Because each gift is valuable!

Know your value as an employee: Following the concept that each person has unique gifts and talents, it is easy to see that you, as an employee, bring your unique talents to the organization you work for. You bring your contribution to the team and also your individual potential to grow with the company.

Know your value as an employer: Many of us have the opportunity to be in management and leadership roles as well as owning your own business where you hire people. As an employer, you have a great opportunity to discover the gifts in the potential employees of your company and put them to use to fulfill the vision of your organization. Hiring people is a great privilege and you should not take it lightly. Also, as an employer, you bring value to your community by offering your products and services and thus you are contributing to society.

Know your value as a leader: Not everyone is a leader. Leadership is a gift and it should be taken seriously. If you are in a position of leadership, are you using your gifts to further the vision of your company? Are you leading others by helping them discover their own gifts? These are good questions to ask yourself that will help you recognize how valuable you are.

Know your value as a person: Why is it that we need to be reminded that we are valuable? We forget because we don’t hear it enough from others, not even from those who love us. So today, I want to remind you that you are unique. You are valuable! Knowing that you have value and that you, as an individual, are valuable is not just positive self-talk. It is a fact that you need to embrace. Once you know that you are valuable, your self-confidence will increase and you will be able to help others find their value too. You will become a stronger person and will inspire others to succeed in life.

I’m going to add one more area:

Know your value as a Latina leader: As Latinas, we have a special gift of a second language and also our heritage from a Latin American country. We bring our culture and flavor wherever we go and we must take advantage of that by creating awareness and sharing it with others. When I first came to the United States, I wanted to “melt in the melting pot.” That is fine but there was a point that I was forgetting my Spanish. Then I realized that speaking Spanish is a gift and that I must not lose it. Now I value it and appreciate it.

So today I want to encourage you to Know Your Value as an employee, as an employer, as a leader, and as a person—and as a Latina woman. You are unique. You are valuable!

This article was published on the LatinoAmericanToday newspaper at www.latinoamericantoday.com, March, 2016 edition.

The photo is a painting done by my sister and artist, Isa Tyler, called "Happy Flowers" and it's included in my book The Friendship Book.

Kigali, Rwanda, Africa! Volunteering – A Waste of Time or an Amazing Opportunity?

Originally Published on August 23, 2016 on LinkedIn

Wow… I never thought I would go to Rwanda as a volunteer or for any other reason. But I just returned from Kigali and experienced my first mission trip in Africa. I spent eleven days there as a volunteer and my “mission” was to teach on leadership and discipleship topics at a pastors conference and then at a women’s conference. I also shared my personal testimony with the people in Rwanda. What an amazing opportunity this was and an unforgettable experience. If you want to read more about that specific experience, I invite you to visit my personal blog at www.marciamalzahn.wordpress.com. For now, I simply want to encourage you to volunteer somewhere. Help someone. Use your talents to help others. You will be blessed in more ways than you know. Trust me. It won’t be a waste of time. It will be an amazing opportunity!

Here is the article that was just published in the www.LatinoAmericanToday.com newspaper that I would like to share with you through LinkedIn as well:

Do you want to join our Board? That’s a question you don’t hear every day but it happens often when people see you have a heart to help others—especially in the nonprofit world. Twenty three years ago I joined the first nonprofit Board as a volunteer. My first position was Education & Training Chair for Financial Women International (FWI), a nonprofit association with the mission to empower women in the financial services industry. A few months later, the Treasurer resigned due to family health issues and I was asked to step up into that role even though I had just joined the Board. I gladly accepted because I love working with numbers and I saw it as a great opportunity to get to know the organization better. I served in FWI at one position or another for the next sixteen years. I was elected President of the local chapter twice and served even at the National Board level as a Director.

During my time volunteering with FWI, I made lifelong friends and business connections that are still alive today. I also received formal training on the Roberts Rules of Order, how to conduct effective Board meetings, and how to lead a nonprofit association made out of only volunteers. I learned to work in teams, hired speakers for our programs, and wrote monthly newsletter articles. In short, I learned the “soft skills” leaders need in order to be successful. Unfortunately, FWI is no longer in existence because organizations stopped supporting their members across the country starting in the ‘80’s through early 2000’s until we had to close it down in 2009, after existing and serving members for 88 years.

While I was the President of the Downtown Exchange Group leading 133 members, I completed the Management Certification Program they offered by reading several books and attending programs on the topics of management, leadership, negotiation skills, mentoring relationships, and many other important subjects. At the end of my term, my manager at the bank (where I was working at the time) came to my office and said, “Marci, let’s talk management.” She said that because of my willingness to volunteer to lead the association and because I had obtained the Management Certification through FWI’s Program, she felt I was ready to lead the bank’s branch, downtown Minneapolis. I was surprised to be asked since I had never supervised anyone up to that point (and I still didn’t have my college degree) but was very grateful for the new opportunity.

During my time at that bank I also volunteered to participate in the annual Juvenile Diabetes Foundation fund raising effort. My strategy was to ask all the senior executives and owners to support me so I could raise the most amount of money and win the contest. I won. The reward was dinner with the owners of the bank. Because of my willingness to volunteer, I was now being recognized and became more visible in the organization.

Since I started volunteering on Boards I have made my individual contribution of “the four T’s”: time, talent, treasure and touch (connections). Each nonprofit organization I’ve worked with has made a contribution back into my life. We always think that we’re the ones helping them but we receive so much more in return.

There are many ways you can volunteer if you don’t like to serve on a Board. You can volunteer to work directly with the organization’s clients or work behind the scenes to help with the administration or in the warehouse/back room organizing donated items. There are countless ways you can get involved just as there are countless nonprofit organizations that can use your help and talents. The best way to decide where to help is by asking yourself the question: Who do I want to help? Then look for an organization that helps those people and get involved if their beliefs align with yours. Here are some examples of organizations that you could get involved that I’ve had great experience working with:

  • Big Brothers Big Sisters: Become a Big and mentor a child. Participate in their programs so Bigs and Littles can have fun together. www.bigstwincities.org
  • Way to Grow: Volunteer to work with a minority, low income family so their children are ready for Kindergarten. www.waytogrow.org
  • Jeremiah Program: Go with your friends or co-workers and cook a meal for the single mothers and their children. www.jeremiahprogram.org
  • Matter: Volunteer to work in the warehouse categorizing donated items. www.mattermore.org
  • Minnesota Center for Book Arts: Volunteer at one of their events. www.mnbookarts.org
  • Feed My Starving Children: Go with friends or co-workers and volunteer to pack meals. www.fmsc.org
  • Opportunity International: Donate so they can continue to provide micro loans to the poor around the world. www.opportunity.org
  • Shine Ministries: Donate or volunteer so they can bring hope to the world. www.shineintheworld.org
  • Pulse Movement: Donate or volunteer so they can bring hope to the youth. www.pulsemovement.org

By serving on nonprofit Boards I learned how to serve on for-profit organizations’ Board of Directors too. The rewards I have received by serving are many and each has significantly enriched my life. I have never considered it a waste of time. To the contrary, I consider my time invested an amazing opportunity to grow, to learn, and to meet beautiful people across the country (and the world). I now serve on four boards, three of which are nonprofits. I invite you to check out my business website and visit the Community Involvement page so you can get ideas of various nonprofits we support, learn about their individual missions, and start using your talents to serve others. The time to volunteer is NOW. People need your help!

The Power of Connections

Do You Know the Right People? And Do the Right People Know You?

Connections are powerful. From the moment we start relating to people in Kindergarten we start making connections. Some last a lifetime. Others, we only have for a season in our lives. Nevertheless, each person we meet, each connection we make, can help us in the future and we can be of help to them as well. I love to hear the stories of business partners who start by saying, “we were buddies in high school” or “we’ve known each other since we were in elementary school” or “we were roommates in college.”

Every relationship we make throughout our lives is significant. Unfortunately, some relationships leave a negative mark in our lives. But most of them are usually positive. We hope to influence others in a positive way and to help people along the way throughout our life’s journey.

As you grow in your career, you will want to start building a network of other professionals and colleagues whom you trust. You can have different networks of people. There are people you want to have in your network because they could potentially employ you in the future or vice versa, you could hire them to work for you. You may have a separate group of people you network with to brainstorm ideas about your company or the industry you’re in. You will need to be strategic about who you know and also to ensure the right people within your organization and in your industry know you.

People want to do business with people they trust. The best way to get new clients is by word of mouth and a personal referral. Regardless of the situation you’re currently in, I encourage you to grow your network and nurture your existing relationships. Nurtured relationships become more than a connection. Those people can become lifelong friendships, trusted advisers, and future business partners.

Here are some tips to maximize and nurture your network:

  • Find ways to connect with the people you already have in your network. Truly get to know them and take an interest in their personal life. Learn about them.
  • Listen to people’s stories if they’re open to share and respect them when they don’t want to share.
  • Always be willing to share your story. You never know when your story will change someone’s life.
  • Connect people from your network to others. Connections you make will bear fruit. People appreciate being connected and will keep you at the top of their list when they have an opportunity to connect you to others.
  • Schedule time to nurture your relationships. Yes, it takes time to build connections but it’s worth it. You are investing in people’s lives.
  • Be strategic. Plan ahead and find the right people to connect in an organization—whether you are connecting to make a sale or to be hired.
  • Connect people in your network with others. Be willing to share your connections.
  • Invest in creating a professional profile in your LinkedIn account. This is part of your personal brand.
  • Take advantage of networking opportunities in your company, industry events, and conferences.
  • Be genuine. People know when you’re not interested in them.

There are many things you can do to improve and nurture your network of people. It takes time and effort but you will always reap the rewards. Also, the satisfaction of connecting two people who end up working together, starting a new business venture, or simply forming a new friendship is very fulfilling. In business, always remember to make the right connections and ask yourself the question, “Do I know the right people? And do the right people know me?” The answer is within your reach.

NASCAR Racing and Strategic Planning—What it Takes to Win the Race!

Originally Published on June 15, 2016 on LinkedIn

I recently went with my husband and son to Kansas City, MO to watch my very first NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing) race. The experience was amazing and one I will never forget.

In the middle of the race (when cars were going around and around and there were no cautions for about one hundred laps) I got inspired to write this article as I saw a clear analogy between NASCAR racing and strategic planning. Since I had no paper or pen, I typed myself an email on my phone using my middle right finger! Needless to say, it took me a while to type this entire article with one finger yet I thought it was worth it to share with you my observations as a result of this wonderful experience:

  • I pondered on the importance of each race team having a strategic plan that everyone knows and understands. If only the driver knows the plan and the vision then the crew cannot support him (or her). The same way, you can't lead and run a company on your own. You need your crew and they need to know the specific strategies to win the race. Every person in the team has a job to do in order to win. If one lug nut is not tight correctly on the wheel, the car can lose that wheel and will be out of the race. At the minimum, will lose valuable time that can cost the team the victory.
  • The driver is key but is not the most important person in the team. He drives the car but if his car is no good, he, nor the team, are going nowhere...The crew that prepares the car and supports the driver is hugely important as well to win the race. For example, if their driver is in first place and goes to the pit for gas or to change tires and the crew is not fast and accurate, the driver can lose the first place easily—in a matter of milliseconds.
  • I also noticed there is constant communication on the ground amongst the team and between the “spotter” and the driver. The same should happen in a company. The leader needs to communicate with the leadership team and they, in turn, should communicate with the rest of the staff continually in order to keep the momentum going.
  • The NASCAR teams are very organized and do things orderly. They follow rules. Every game, every sport, every team, every industry has rules. The best players follow the rules. They take them seriously because there are consequences and penalties if they violate the rules. In NASCAR’s case, someone can die if they don't follow rules. Even though in corporate America daily decisions may not be life or death, the decisions leaders make do affect the lives of the employees.
  • There are things ahead that only the driver can see or feel. He needs to communicate and alert the crew immediately to come up with a plan of action. For example, the driver may be the only one to notice that something is wrong with the car. At the same time, there are things ahead that only the spotter can see and need to tell the driver to watch for it. For example, if the spotter sees a wreckage and there is a fire, he needs to tell the driver if he can get through the smoke or not. If the driver makes a bad move, he can wreck and completely lose his car and in some instances his own life. The entire team loses—no car, no team. They have to trust each other. The driver's life may depend on it. Again, the same happens in a company. Sometimes the leader sees things ahead and other times the staff sees things that are coming up that could affect the company's performance.
  • You could say the race is not fair. One driver could have the lead for most of the race (even one hundred laps!) and lose at the very last minute because of a wreck caused by one bad move or by another driver that cut him off or hit his car at the wrong angle and sent him spinning off the track. The same happens in life. Your company can be doing excellent for many years and all of a sudden the unexpected happens. One of your key employees leaves, or the market crashes, or a new competitor comes to town. It can be anything and you need to keep in mind that in those moments is when you have opportunities to start over or fix things that have been broken or on hold for a while in your company.
  • I also noticed that if there were no cautions and the cars just went around and around it becomes boring. There is no action or adventure. That's when companies get in a routine and start doing the same thing over and over. The employees become unchallenged, the customers get bored, and the leadership becomes stale. It's time for a change and move things around. Time to introduce new ideas and do things differently.
  • Finishing the race is what matters in the end. There was one car who went to the garage four times and every time he started a lap he had to go back and get something else fixed but he finished the race. In fact, drivers are rewarded with points for every race they finish regardless of how many laps they were behind. What goes on their record is that they finished. The same happens in business. Every time a company tries something new and it doesn't work, the team needs to figure out new strategies to continue the race but they must never give up. They must finish the race.

Even though all the teams want to win and they all have strategies, there is only one winner. Only one driver and one team gets the trophy. Only one driver gets to do the “burnout” after crossing the checkered flag! Sometimes, however, even when you have the best team and the best strategy, life may throw a dart at you and your company and you don't win. In those moments, you need to remember past successes, gather your team, pick up the pieces and with your head up, start over. The most important thing is to never give up and finish your race!

Disaster Recovery Planning – Time Well Invested! I have survived two natural disasters and a war...

An earthquake, a war, a hurricane… I survived those three life events by the age of thirteen. Even though each one of those experiences left a mark in my life, they taught me many lessons and created an awareness that not many people possess. I became very appreciative of everything I have and of every person in my life. At the same time, it created a sense of “being ready” at any time for “what could happen” and what I would need to do to bring things back to normal again.

When I hear a train go by, my memories bring me back to the noise of an earthquake back when I was six years old in Nicaragua. A deep sound from beneath the earth, a sound of destruction. Your home, your office, and everything around you becomes distorted and destroyed right in front of your eyes. Your own life could be gone if you’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. I learned that all your possessions and what you worked so hard to attain can be “torn to pieces” in a matter of seconds.

When I hear the noise of a helicopter, it reminds me of the sound of machine guns in the background when I was twelve years old and lived through the war in Nicaragua. I remember going to bed with the raddling noise of the windows with each bomb that was dropped. They were close to my house and some days it felt as if they were fighting right in my own backyard. The terror you feel when you are helpless, only a victim of someone else’s war, is indescribable. You learn to appreciate life in a new way.

When I hear the sirens announcing the possible tornado coming to your city, it reminds me of the hurricane David I lived through in the Dominican Republic when I was thirteen years old. I observed from a fourth floor apartment about three miles away the waves from the ocean that destroyed the island and the noise of the wind getting through the windows in our apartment. I learned that everything you own can literally “blow away” in a matter of seconds too.

But I choose to look at life from the positive perspective and I’m grateful to God that I’m still here so I can help others in many ways. That’s one of the reasons I founded Malzahn Strategic. The three key things I focus on—strategic planning, enterprise risk management (ERM), and talent management—all have to do with disaster recovery planning. From the strategic planning perspective, you have to put strategies in place to protect your business from ANY disaster and to keep the company safe. From the enterprise risk management perspective, you need to have strategies to mitigate ALL risks that can potentially affect your company. And from the talent management perspective, you need a plan to protect your company from losing your KEY talent, protect it from internal fraud, and also to plan ahead for future talent to bring your company to the next level.

Disaster Recovery Planning falls under your IT Security Program most of the time, which in turn is part of your ERM program. Below is a simple way to start with a Disaster Recovery Risk Assessment:

Conduct a risk assessment based on your business location and probability of any type of incident happening:

  • Threat/Vulnerability (include fire, flood, earthquakes, riots, tornadoes, etc.)
  • Probability of incident (how probable is for this natural disaster to occur in your area)
  • Severability (how severe would it be if it were to ever occur – low, medium or high)
  • Criticality (how critical would this incident be to your business – low medium or high)
  • Confidentiality (this refers to data breach due to a disaster)

Conduct the following risk assessment based on the type of asset and then risk rate each asset:

    • Asset Type: Application/Software, Process, System
    • Asset Medium: Paper or Electronic
    • Vendor Name
    • Controls/Procedures in Place
    • Description of Risks Associated with Asset
    • Risk Mitigation: Description for Mitigation of Risks
    • Risk Rating: Low, Medium, High
    • Criticality to Bank or organization: levels 1 to 5 with 5 being the most critical
    • Residual Risk: Low, Medium, High
    • Information Classification: Public, Non-Public, Confidential
    • Threats/Vulnerabilities: Level of Damage, Type of Vulnerability
    • Threat/Vulnerability Likelihood: Low, Medium, High
    • Vital Resources: Description of Vital Resources to the Bank Operations
    • Recovery Point Objective (RPO): Description of How the Information or Asset Will be Recovered
    • Recovery Time Objective (RTO): Approximate Time of Recovery

Something else to consider is that there are other types of disasters that are not “natural disasters” and they relate to your key talent in your company. I call that “Disaster Recovery for People.” I wrote another article called “Succession Planning – Is It Only for the CEO?” where I urge readers to consider the other key positions in the bank (or company) to have a backup for and be ready in case you lose those employees unexpectedly. Part of the DRP is also to include a Pandemic Disaster Plan. Bank regulators were very focused on that topic several years ago and it should still be part of your plan even if the likelihood of happening in the United States is low. The same way, having a data breach could be disastrous for your company as we all learned from recent incidents at large corporations that suffered a cyberattack. The biggest disaster is your damaged reputation and the financial damage that derives from that as a consequence.

I want to conclude by encouraging you to appreciate everything you have and the people in your life. I also want to encourage you to create a Disaster Recovery Plan for your business and update it and test it annually. We don’t want to live in fear but we live in a world where life happens to all of us and we must be prepared at all times.

Marci Malzahn is a banking executive and founder of Malzahn Strategic (www.malzahnstrategic.com), a community bank consultancy focused on strategic planning, enterprise risk management and talent management. Marci is also an author and motivational/ inspirational speaker. For consulting or speaking engagements you can contact Marci at mmalzahn@malzahnstrategic.com