It’s February, but still early enough in the year for fresh starts and new beginnings. People like me who love a good meal, might make a resolution to slim down in the new year. Those struggling financially may resolve that this is the year they get their finances in order. Sadly, less than 50% of people who make resolutions are ultimately successful. That’s not a very encouraging statistic, but it could be worse.
What’s worse than breaking a resolution? Not making one at all.
The first quarter is the most important time of year for credit unions. If you’re going to have a successful year, what happens in the first quarter sets the tone for the following months. But that doesn’t stop many credit union leaders from drifting through Q1 thinking “Aw, what the hell, there’s plenty of time to get it right.” The result? They end up scrambling in the middle (or worse, at the end) of the year to achieve success.
Is 2018 going to be a rousing success or a dismal failure? Here are 6 resolutions your board and leadership team should make right now to make sure 2018 is successful, instead of a disappointing repeat of years past.
- Define success. It’s hard to be successful if you don’t know what success looks like. Your definition of success should be specific. “We want to grow loans” will only result in more failure because you didn’t define what loan growth looks like. “We want to grow members.” How many members? What are the qualities that distinguish a good credit union member? What initiatives need to be established in order to successfully meet your goal?
- Start fresh. Focusing on last year’s failures isn’t only worth your time if those narratives help shape this year’s strategic plan. Stop replaying the shortcomings of 2017. If the previous year’s failures are threatening to repeat in 2018, define what led to those failures and create a plan to overcome them in Q1 so you can move forward.
- Start with the easy wins. When we’re creating a growth plan for new clients, we always look for the easy wins first—action items that can be completed quickly. This provides an energizing sense of accomplishment while we’re tackling larger initiatives behind the scenes. These quick and easy wins will boost your team’s confidence and provide a foundation the success of future projects.
- Be flexible. When implementing a strategic plan, you will get things wrong. You’ll make a wrong assumption or set a poorly defined goal. There’s no shame in making a mistake, but there’s danger failing to recognize it. Call a spade a spade. Take action. Make the necessary corrections and move forward.
- Kill the pet projects. Running a creative firm, I’m all too familiar with the temptation to fall in love with a project only to have a brave team member tell me it’s just not that great of an idea. While it appeals to me, it has zero relevance to my client’s audience. The same goes for credit unions. You may be in love with your printed quarterly newsletter, but do you know how often it’s getting read?
HINT: You may need an outside perspective to identify the wrong initiatives. Find a member who fits your “ideal member” profile and ask some questions. You can also gain a truly objective opinion by seeking feedback from of an outsider. We provide this perspective for credit unions who get stuck, and looking at their problem from an outsider’s viewpoint routinely helps them identify the areas that are holding them back.
- Weed out cultural cancer. Giving into a gravitational pull of how things have always been done is one thing. Blatantly conflicting with the credit union’s strategic direction is another story. Identify the maverick(s) and call them out. The longer you wait, the more time they have to sow seeds of discontent. When this behavior goes unchecked it makes the problem more difficult to fix.
As you work your plan, resist the temptation to fall back into the nostalgic comfort of what your credit union did back in the good ol’ days. Pursuing success always challenges the status quo. If you don’t feel a little nauseous when you think about your goals and action items, they’re probably not good enough. While your board and leadership team may feel more comfortable falling back on old habits, it’s your job to step in and remind the team of what needs to be accomplished, the goals that were agreed upon, and the long-term benefits for your credit union and your members.