A Note From the Chairman
October 7, 2020
More than one sports psychologist has prescribed that to improve performance we must not only remain focused on the target but we need to also operate in a state of mind of not being over focused. For example, throwing darts, free throws in basketball, kicking a field goal, golf, hitting a baseball, etc. all involve a need to focus but when we are obsessed with the outcome, we often tighten up the wrong muscles and appear to choke. We miss not because we don’t care but because we care too much. Extraordinary athletic performance requires that we, in effect, “let it happen”, without thinking. A lot more can be said on the topic and from first-hand experience, I agree it is not easy.
A similar principle applies more broadly in both our work and personal lives. There are certain activities for which we need to be focused and alert but to perform them as exceptionally well as may be required, our “alertness” needs to become natural, so deeply ingrained that we perform at a high level almost without thinking. Here are a couple of totally unrelated examples.
October is the 17th annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. The theme this year is “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.” Cybersecurity threats and our collective need for vigilance are obvious. Cyber thieves and hackers are increasingly on the prowl. With an ever increasing number of smart devices being deployed in our homes and businesses and given more digital transactions than ever, the number of possible entry points for these crooks are expanding. Yet, the most common source of malware is from “old fashioned” emails when the victim opens links or attachments unaware of the hacker’s ill intent. And phishing and social engineering wherein cyber criminals pose as a “friendly” sender are getting more sophisticated.
So being aware of these threats is more important than ever. Our defenses include software programs that monitor for and screen out the bad stuff. But automated protections aren’t enough. Criminals are constantly attempting to sneak through these code checkers with new tricks. The best defense is for all of us to be on the alert all of the time. The big idea is that “being careful, or smart” needs to become automatic, something we all do without thinking.
Still every day, thousands of people fall for fraudulent emails, texts, and calls from scammers pretending to be a bank. To help customers be more aware of a fraudster’s red flags, the American Bankers Association has kicked off its #BanksNeverAskThat campaign to protect banking clients from fraud. Go to www.BanksNeverAskThat.com for a comprehensive list of pro-tips that should all become automatic.
My other example of doing without thinking is more esoteric. Through our personal set of values we all have a notion about the impact or influence we wish to impart on our world. Sometimes this comes naturally and sometimes it is learned.
We learned a lesson in self-less generosity from the example of another community bank from Connecticut that, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, decided to send assistance to Allegiance Bank employees. They did so by raising funds for disaster relief which their CEO then personally delivered in an envelope of donor checks payable to the Allegiance Bank employee relief fund. In addition to what we had raised, these funds really did help the affected families at a time when it was most needed. Their gift came as a total surprise as we had no prior relationship with that bank, at all. Well, their generosity had an even deeper impact.
Last month Allegiance Bank “paid it forward.” We were on the lookout to do so. When we heard of the incredible wind damage caused by CAT4 Hurricane Laura in southern Louisiana, we sprang into action. Our employees and Directors who were able rallied to the call. Within a week, I had the privilege of hand delivering an envelope of personal donor checks to a Louisiana community bank headquartered right in the epicenter of the impacted area. They were deeply moved by our act of kindness. Guess what? You got it, without being asked they immediately committed to be on the alert for their opportunity to “pay it forward”. To say that we community banks stand together is an understatement and who knows how far this chain and its impact will go!
The lesson for me in all of this is to keep practicing through action the behaviors we seek to make our automatic responses, thereby seeing both risks and opportunities in real time and acting on them without thinking. Then we can really just “let it happen”.
Oh well, I did it again, rambling on as if I knew what I was talking about. I will say with conviction, however, that it feels good when I can thwart a cyber-thief or provide a helping hand when needed. I wonder what else can be accomplished if I/we can elevate good intentions into actions and routinely hit the target without thinking.