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ICBA Connect- A Celebration of Community Bankers

By March 19, 20215 min read

Attending ICBA Connect this year was a strange feeling.  Not necessarily because it was a virtual conference, but it was exactly one year ago when we were all in Florida at ICBA LIVE shaking hands, connecting in-person, and hearing the news of COVID-19 for the first time. None of us had any understanding of the magnitude of what the next 12-months were going to bring. In conversations with bankers, vendors, and other attendees at this year’s event, it was a stark contrast from a year prior and was incredible to hear about their experiences and stories in navigating the past year.  With these lessons though, came a sense of celebration, optimism – survival – and accomplishment. With that change in perspective came a renewed hope, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The ICBA Connect theme was certainly built around a celebration of community bankers, and the accomplishments achieved this past year. These community bankers were the heroes of their community in 2020 and were absolutely in the spotlight during the virtual conference. In reflection of the conference, there were a few key messages, that struck me.

Fear Less, Do More.

This past year, many of us suffered from fear. Fear from the pandemic, the uncertainty, the economic impact, and for a lot of Americans, the reality of unemployment. Michelle Poler from FearLess taught us a crucial lesson in overcoming fear and being able to step out of your comfort zone to reach your full potential. In this 45-minute lesson, Michelle was incredibly vulnerable, telling her story on how for 100 days, she overcame 100 fears, including public speaking, dancing in public, and even posing nude for an art class (yes, you read that right).

Although we may not commit to that extent, the lesson in itself was one we all could relate to. As leaders, we are continually faced with uncomfortable challenges. Whether that be facing our fears of acquiring new skills, having a challenging conversation, or making a fearful decision around organizational change. The intention with facing our fears head-on and by becoming more intentional, is to shift our perception to begin asking, “what is the BEST thing that can happen?” By changing this internal dialogue, our hope is we can better connect, create, and change as a community of bankers.

Amplify the Best Part of You.

In one of the most practical sessions of the conference, Vinh Giang (Magician and Communication Coach) not only provided a practical lesson on communication, but motivated, inspired, and entertained his online audience in a very captivating and well-executed way. A masterclass we could all learn in communicating and presenting in a virtual setting.

Vinh’s session reinforced the uncomfortable process of acquiring a new skill. It continued the theme of overcoming fears and having a relentless pursuit of perfection through one small step at a time. Vinh, a talented teacher, found ways to dissect the fundamentals of a Vocal Image and relayed the importance of perfecting it as leaders, salespersons, communicators, and storytellers. By adding thought-provoking commentary to step-by-step instructional lessons, like “there’s a world of meaning in the melody of your voice,” when discussing the fundamentals of Pitch and Melody in communication, or how “your face is the remote control that allows you to inject emotion into your voice,” when teaching us about Tonality. His ability to break down the fundamentals of strong communication, combined with these light-bulb moments, made for engaging and inspiring content for the conference’s bank leaders.

Without strong communication, it decreases credibility, authority, and clarity, essential in managing a successful business and team. It’s time for us all to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Face it. Embrace it. Defy it. Conquer it.

Now, if you don’t know Victoria Arlen and haven’t heard her story, Google it. Google it now!

You need to be grabbed, shaken, and woken up! This incredible young woman gave us all that with her incredible storytelling ability, raw, and gut-wrenching experience, and her deep and sincere message around living a life of gratitude and the hope that comes with a change in perspective. In a year that brought so many new challenges and stresses not familiar to most of us, having a message that allowed us to re-evaluate, reposition, and reignite what is important, along with guidance on how we move forward, making it one of the most impactful sessions for me at the conference.

Arlen’s, story for all who attended, I hope it helps lift you out of that rut and allows a shift in perception so we can all achieve what we are capable of as individuals, teams, and communities in 2021. Words that struck us from Victoria: “the more I had things to be grateful for, the more my perspective changed- with that change in perspective brings hope.”

Words we can all live by.

Other quotable moments

Matthew McConaughey – Actor, Activist, Author

“The decisions we make today are compounding assets for our future.” This is why, as community banks, we invest in our children, schools, the vulnerable, and the underserved. These words apply to so many elements of our lives and organization. From one of our favs, Community Spirit Bank, “The trees we plant today are somebody’s shade tomorrow.”

Dan Thurman – Author, Motivational Coach, Public Speaker

“Try Something Harder. Say something kinder. Give something greater.” These three simple lessons for us to improve our lives and the lives of others around us. As we think about how to unite and ignite our teams this coming year and rebuild fractured relationships and communities impacted by the pandemic, these three lessons are practical yet, impactful. In having this mantra, community banks will continue to play a pivotal role in the long-term success of the communities they serve.

Magic Johnson – Basketball great, Activist, Business Owner and Entrepreneur

“The best leaders I know make their employees better.” At a conference built on celebrating community banks, hope, overcoming fears, and being a better leader, Magic Johnson did a tremendous job in reinforcing the characteristics of a strong leader. Whether as a leader, you are investing in “up-skilling or re-skilling” your team this year, supporting them emotionally, or overcoming your fears by being a better communicator. We know that our teams need to be a priority in 2021. If our teams are not happy, engaged, highly-skilled employees, we will not deliver on the customer experience we all desire. Make your team a priority.

We recently caught up with Chris Kelly, EVP at the Barret School of Banking in Memphis, TN, and community bankers from across the country in the first episode of our Community Heroes Vlog series. Watch Now.

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