Every year, we all reflect back on last year’s projects that didn’t get done. And we usually vow to add those unfinished projects to the To Do list for this year. Some lists are long, while others are short. Either way, if you’re a CEO, three tasks are critical to complete this year if you haven’t completed them already. Take a quick look.
1. Finalize a CEO Succession Plan
One of the biggest challenges that many credit unions face is the lack of a CEO Succession Plan. Over the years, the credit union industry has watched many small credit unions fade away and merge due to a lack of succession planning.
This task is one of those projects that always seems to get put on the back burner. It’s discussed at board meetings, but specific action steps are rarely taken, and the topic is tabled. Time passes, and ultimately the CEO is ready to move on to another position or to retirement. When that announcement is made, it’s usually too late to start a Succession Plan. They can begin a search, but it’s not the same. The bottom line is that when no Succession Plan is in place, the Board of Directors has difficult decisions to make.
Those difficult decisions could have been avoided if a CEO Succession Plan had been in place.
I worked with a credit union years ago, and the CEO postponed retirement for nearly three years because the Board didn’t do its job. The search process was delayed, and when the Board finally started the search, the process took much longer than anticipated. They narrowed it down to one candidate and made an offer. The salary wasn’t acceptable, the candidate rejected the offer, and they were back to square one. Another search was conducted, a candidate was identified, an offer was made, and the candidate accepted. The exit strategy was to have the candidate shadow the current CEO for six months, and then the CEO would retire. After three months, the candidate quit. Again, the Board was back to square one. By that time, the CEO gave a hard deadline for retirement, and the Board simply couldn’t find a new CEO. They merged.
Credit unions (actually any company or organization) need to realize the importance of a Succession Plan, whether it’s temporary or permanent. A Succession Plan can be a good tool in the case of an unplanned emergency. What if the CEO needs a medical leave for several months? Is there someone that would be capable to manage the daily operations of the credit union?
Over the years, I’ve had several credit union clients that were forced to merge simply because they couldn’t find a viable candidate to assume the role of CEO. If your credit union doesn’t have a plan, now is the time to start planning. Make 2022 the year that CEO Succession Plan is checked off your TO DO list.
2. Ensure Your Communication Channels are Working and Members Have a Voice
I’m sharing this to encourage you to review the communication channels at your organization. If someone (a member, a prospective member, or someone from the community) has feedback (of any kind) about your business, do you have communication channels that are available, and is the feedback directed to the appropriate person? Is the appropriate person responding?
For most of my adult life, I’ve volunteered. My personal volunteerism includes monetary donations as well as spending my time helping various organizations. I’ve donated regularly to a national organization. This particular organization holds an annual event at various locations nationwide, and I was thrilled to finally be able to volunteer at the event locally. I registered online (on the national website) and I immediately received a confirmation email with all the details about the event in my local area. The confirmation email included the venue, address, time and even a map with directions to ensure I was aware of the location. On the day of the event, I arrived at 11:45am in plenty of time for the noon ceremony. Upon my arrival, I learned that this local event started at 10:00am, not noon like my email confirmation had indicated. Needless to say, I was frustrated, annoyed and disappointed. I spoke with the local event coordinator, who was very apologetic. She shared with me that the information had been wrong on the national level for some time, and they had tried repeatedly, but unsuccessfully, to get it corrected.
I got home that afternoon and immediately wrote a letter explaining the situation as well as my disappointment. I also conveyed my astonishment that the communication on such a nationally publicized event was so flawed on the local level. I sent my letter to the national organization via the CONTACT US page on their website. I then sent that same letter to the organization via private message on their Facebook page. I then sent the same letter via LinkedIn messaging to their Executive Director, who is a direct (1st) connection of mine. I never received a response or reply from any of those three channels. Ever. At all.
My point in sharing this story is to stress the importance of communication from those on the outside of your organization. Make sure that the communication channels are functioning, and that someone is responsible for reviewing and responding to any and all inquiries. Make 2022 the year that a communication channels audit is checked off your TO DO list.
3. Take Time Off and Leave The Job Behind
I’m actually working on this one myself. Too many CEOs never leave the job. Time off is meant to recharge your batteries and relax. Now, more than ever, time away is even more important for mental health and well-being of many professionals. Everyone should temporarily “check out” and not look back for a while. But many cannot do that. It could be by choice or by necessity. Leaving your work brain at the office for an extended period of time is beneficial for you as well as your employees. If you think you can’t leave work behind, then maybe you should evaluate the reasons why. Do you think the work can’t or won’t get done without you? Did you not plan ahead so your absence wouldn’t disrupt any major projects? Does your team lack the skills to handle situations, solve problems, or make decisions? Or do you just not trust the team to perform in your absence? If you cannot totally and completely check out of your business for a period of time, perhaps something is missing. Ask yourself why you’re involved with work tasks when you’re away.
To sum it all up in a nutshell, I’m going to take my own advice and accomplish these three tasks myself by the end of 2022. Personally, I think my biggest challenge will be taking time off and leaving the job behind. I love what I do, and I always want to be involved in work projects. I don’t need to, but I want to. I have a qualified team, but sometimes I’m a poor planner, and on rare occasion, I tend to have some procrastinator tendencies. I always seem to be doing some work tasks during my time off/away from the office.
So, I’m now making this commitment, in writing, in public, on several social media platforms. I promise to make 2022 the year I take time off and leave the job behind. That’s a solemn promise I’m making to myself…as I write this article while on my vacation…..even though I’ve had the deadline for 11 months.