Why do we call “shadowing” training? On my second day in the credit union movement, I was allowed to leave the empty desk by the door, come behind teller row and shadow Patty. Which meant, I watched her work all day.
Patty could take in a deposit in her sleep. With cigarette pursed in her lips I watched a flurry of writing, typing, stamping, and then the one thing I already knew how to do – cash handling.

After about an hour of standing there like an idiot, Patty turned around and said “Do you have any questions?” I had plenty. “What fresh hell is this?” was right there on the top of my list. Patty was not a trainer, she was an experienced teller and a prolific smoker. I asked her if she could walk me through a deposit. She couldn’t believe that I hadn’t picked that up in an hour. Her solution was to slow down a tiny bit when the next member came in – NOW did I get it?

I don’t learn by watching, I learn by doing. I also don’t like to be told WHAT to do I like to be told WHY we do things. When someone begins a training instruction with “You have to…” my brain starts frying. WHY do we have to? Needless to say – Patty and I, not a good fit.

At the end of my 90 day probationary period I sat down with Judy the HR lady again and got to sign up for my medical program. I also finally got the “rule” book that included such things as dress code, calling in sick procedures, what to do if it snows, all the really important stuff.

Then she turned to the organizational chart. I wasn’t on it. I know this because I asked. She held up the paper, pointed to the box that Mean Jean occupied and said, “Oh, you’re down here.” as she waved her hand below the page.

I’m a very goal oriented person, so my first GOAL was to get on the bloody org. chart.

So let’s review. I was admonished in my interview for NOT having previous teller experience, but an exception was made because of my almost 4 years of making change at ‘Enry Beazely’s. My first day I spent at an empty desk sorting through signature cards, looking for strays, then on my second day, I endured constant second-hand smoke while I watched Patty work.

So why did I stay? The members. Once I got my own teller window, I got to start building MY brand. I loved the members. I had a following. Members that would wait for me. I saw pictures of their kids, their last vacation, their dogs.

Mean Jean became suspicious.

Why would members wait for ME? She conducted surprise cash counts on my drawer. You see she didn’t value service. To her, being a teller meant taking in money, accurately punching it into the computer, and handing the correct change with the receipt. That’s it. To me it was about building relationships. The only service training we ever got was this statement: “Ladies, when a member comes to your window, you need to put your cigarette DOWN while you help them.” (referring to Patty’s skills of multi-tasking)

Corporations don’t have values, people do. Was I on the wrong bus? Or was Jean? Actually the answer came the day after Halloween. Four months after I started Dick was “let go.” He was the CEO and I never did find out what happened. He was just gone. There were closed door meetings all day and the tellers were left in a pall of cigarette smoke to figure it out and take care of the members.

But a few weeks later we were introduced to Tom Sargent, first time CEO from St. Helens, Oregon. He was young, and fun and decided we were going to take this bus in a new direction. Shortly after he started I was transferred out of teller row (rhymes with death row) to a desk. A newly created position called “Member Service Representative!”

I had a desk with stuff in it, a name plate, business cards and a feeling like I could make a difference. I no longer reported to Mean Jean and I thrived.

SIDEBAR: Mean Jean ended up in accounting – where she also thrived. She was better with ledgers than with humans.

NEXT: The first ripple of the ripple effect……