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Better The Ball. Always.

Written by Sarah Szejn, Assistant Vice President - Milwaukee Region

At 6’ 4” my husband competed as a middle hitter in men’s volleyball at the collegiate level. For years he’s played with men and women alike, with some fortunate enough to receive college scholarships in the sport. As a spectator I‘ve always enjoyed watching him play.

Recently, I was invited to participate with him as a permanent member on a co-ed team. This team was stacked again with crafty veterans full of talent, competing at the highest level offered by the league. Admittedly, I was intimidated by the skill level of the others and the last thing I wanted to do was embarrass myself or my husband.  At 5’ 3”, playing previously on a small-town high school team solely as a defensive specialist, I was the weakest link and I almost declined the offer to participate…but I didn’t.

Throughout league play my teammates encouraged me. One woman coached, “You don’t need to be the star athlete, Sarah. When you get the chance to participate in a play – better the ball.”

When you get a chance to participate, better the ball. I like it!

In my role at First Business, I’m part of a business team and a core business process. Quite frankly, I’m right in the middle of it. Gathering information. Organizing data received from multiple sources. Managing expectations and resources. Coordinating timelines that meet the client’s objective for a loan closing which, in turn, ultimately meet our team’s objective to fund loans. An expeditor. Air traffic control as some have said. And from 1,000 feet up, my part of the process is simply transferring information to and from multiple sources.

Hours are spent across multiple business teams in the business process known as loan origination. Data gathered up front is touched, e-mailed, reviewed, printed, scanned, saved, re-saved, questioned, decisioned, reviewed, signed and edited for accuracy by multiple teams and multiple team members throughout the process.

Throughout my nine years with First Business, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in making this process, among others, more efficient. In any job we employees are part of, many business processes are both documented and undocumented. Think about the processes in which you’re invited to participate.

Ask yourself these questions which will capture your level of participation and bettering the ball when given the opportunity

  • Do I choose to actively participate in the process and better the ball when I have the chance?
  • Have I articulated the scope of the task in a detailed organized manner, assigned a deadline, anticipated questions before they’re asked, and communicated the same to the next person in the process?
  • If I’m given a task, do I acknowledge the request, offer an estimated timeframe for completion if no deadline was given, and ultimately close the loop with the original requestor to confirm it as completed?
  • Do I participate in surveys when surveyed?
  • When I participate in meetings do I ask questions, offer suggestions and take tasks away? Or am I there for the free snacks?

Have confidence. Choose to actively participate and better the ball when given the opportunity. You were invited because of your skills and opinion. Choose to participate.

Think about the situations you’ve been invited to participate in – either at home or at work. Maybe you’ve declined invites because you’re intimidated by top performers. Maybe you’re on a team, but you’re unsure about your role or ability to contribute.

Recommit, make the choice to actively participate in your daily job duties and the processes you accept the invitation to bring your unique talents to. And the next time you jam the copier or use the last coffee creamer, clear the jam and fill the creamer.

Teamwork is simple, really.  We’re all here to better the ball. When we focus on that, we can’t go wrong.

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