Soft Power


SoftSkills FutureA millennial guy who works at the corporate headquarters of a very large bank, a branded national presence and all, shared his tale with me.

Everyone from his bosses–two levels above the 20 something year old—all the way down to his underlings, associates and part-time staff, said that what he wanted the bank to do,  “Couldn’t be done.

Here it was 4 p.m. and an employee screw-up had placed a wealthy client at odds with bank processes. For some peculiar reason, Mr. Wealth’s contact information was not in the system, not in the “right” data system anyway.

Translation: Wealth was out of luck. His money would stay stuck in the bank. Unlike other fine financial institutions that wired him his funds immediately, this place would not.

The bosses and associates, and the guy, began plotting options in a stand-up meeting he had called, holding the meeting on the fly.

Jackie, his admin, was the first to chime in, “Getting any customer in the system this week, let alone today, just can’t be done.”

It can’t be done,”  echoed the two-levels up boss who had parroted Jackie’s response.  But the boss, being the boss, added a bit more oomph to the rationale.

Everything is automated. There is no way to get this client’s information into the computer system the same day.”

We don’t work that way,” she added. Subject closed.

Yet, no one in the meeting looked too eager to explain the line of manufactured reasoning to Mr. Wealth, who in his spare time, rumor had it, doubled as a golfing buddy to the bank’s CEO.  So the befuddled group — bosses and workhorses alike — just stood around, looking uneasy, shifting their feet, wondering if the meeting would end as suddenly as it began.

One by one, a chorus of voices arose, sounding the same note as Jackie and the big boss.

Nothing we can do,” everyone said.

Then the bosses, being bosses and all, had a collective epiphany, and came to a speedy consensus. That is it, that’s the ticket. A good ole’ fashioned paper check, paid to Mr. Wealth, and sent the next day through snail mail, or some other traditional mail system on steroids would suffice.

Except the younger guy thought differently about things. He declared his contrarian goal clearly, and loudly, for all in the land, or at the bank stand-up meeting, to hear.

Glancing over to his associate, “Wealth’s account will be set up today. He is going to get his funds before we leave for the night.

Everyone glanced at him, uneasily.  Had the work pressure been too much for the Millennial to take?

But the guy had reasoned that since a real live human being processes data requests, that very same human being could be approached with a different request. Nothing is carved in stone in the world of intangible finances. 

As luck would have it, the guy had previously met the middle aged lady who did the processing and worked in information systems. She was 5 levels below his pay grade, but it was this woman toiling away in the big bank’s basement, who held the cards.

She had the power to do what was required for Wealth to get his dough, pronto, or to parrot the, corporate line:

It can’t be done.

Good thing the guy had taken the time to chat with her way back when he had accidentally bumped into her at one of the vending machines on the 6th floor.

Debbie, he even remembered her name.

The guy returned to his cubicle, found Debbie’s extension, and picked up the phone to call her.

When her telephone actually rang, Debbie must have been startled. Guy reported that she had answered his call on the first ring. What with emails and instant messages crowding her day, the telephone seldom rang, she had told him.

Hey Debbie, this is the Guy over in the service department.

She probably remembered Guy because few of his station, looked at her, much less actually talked with her about general stuff, like her cats. Truth be told, Guy didn’t care about the difference in their pay grade, or levels, or her status, or lack thereof, or who she knew, or did not know, or whether she was at corporate, or in retail, or out in the boonies where no one knows your name.

He laid out his plight and asked Debbie if she, “Could please, please make an exception and put Mr. Wealth’s information into the data system?”

Debbie, um, I need his data to be entered, like now.  Out of order, yes, that is true. But now.”

And Debbie did just that. She entered Wealth’s data while she chatted it up with the guy on the phone. The two of them resumed their conversation, started months ago now, about her cats. One of them, Twinkly, had passed.

And then, magically, Mr. Wealth’s funds were electronically transferred. The wall clock registered  4:24.

Everyone pondered how it happened.

But there is more to the story.

The young guy sent an email message of thanks and appreciation to Debbie and to her boss and to her co-workers—who also spent their days in the computerized belly of the bank beast.

The morale of the story in case you glossed over it?

The millennial guy didn’t know he had it.

The bank bosses, in this instance, didn’t seem to have it.

Most of us don’t have a name for it.

But our millennial guy took the time to cultivate an ability to get things done, lead, influence and persuade others.

That guy has Soft Power.

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