Have you ever wondered why taxi companies didn’t create the ride scheduling and payment apps that enabled Uber and Lyft to disrupt their industry? The technology existed for years prior to those companies coming into existence.
There are a number of reasons why the taxi industry found itself fighting to retake lost ground, but the biggest reason was reluctance to challenge the status quo.
Which brings us to your role as a credit union leader.
The list of potential challenges facing your board and operation is lengthy. Maintaining the status quo is not one of them.
We want our credit unions to continually be better. If they are going to be better, we must do at least some things different. If things are going to be different, they have to change.
That means that all leadership is, at its core, change leadership.
Change Leadership versus Change Management
Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper is known for this quote: “You manage things. You lead people.”
Many people, unfortunately, omit the remainder of her statement: “We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership.”
That has happened with change, too.
Change management is a crucial skill for every leader. There is an immense amount of data, projects, and things to be coordinated, corralled, and managed as we continue to grow.
Change—especially the transformational growth we need today—is more likely to fail because of faulty leadership rather than faulty management, however.
Leadership is about influence. Nothing more and nothing less. To flourish, your credit union needs leaders who can influence others to disrupt the status quo.
Disrupting the Status Quo
We come by our desire to maintain the status quo honestly. The human brain appears to be hard-wired to value certainty and view uncertainty as a potential threat.
There is also the human application of Newton’s First Law to consider. Remember this from high school physics: Objects that are at rest tend to stay at rest and objects in motion tend to stay in motion until they are acted upon by a greater force in the opposing direction.
That explains the challenge, but it doesn’t help you overcome it. Here are four actions you can take right now.
Create emotional readiness to counteract fear. People, organizations, and industries change for one of two basic reasons: crisis pushes them to change, or opportunity pulls them to do so. You occasionally see a combination of both, but there is usually one primary diver.
Most of us wait on crisis. If you find yourself there, don’t sugar coat or waste it. Just realize that you are likely to be playing from behind in the marketplace.
The best organizations, however, seize opportunities. Netflix jumped from distributing DVDs to delivering its services through a streaming platform even though the company was not in crisis. It wasn’t an easy change, but Reed Hastings created a compelling vision of the future that focused on creating value for the customer rather than playing catch up to survive.
A relentless focus on making yourself indispensable to your members is the only way to maintain momentum and ensure long-term success in today’s marketplace. While many people are hesitant to change, everyone wants to get better. Credit union professionals are known for their dedication to purpose and vision of the movement. Use that focus to create emotional readiness for proactive change.
Provide involvement and support. Sending a positive message about seizing the future is important, but that does not ensure people will embrace or pursue it. You cannot rely solely on a change communication plan if the goal is to inspire people to take new action.
People support what they help create, and no one ever argues with their own ideas. So, get them involved early and often.
You should also plan for extensive training and support. Becoming proficient and comfortable with new ways of thinking and working take time even if there is total support. Knowing that coaching, training, and support are available helps overcome the fear of incompetence.
Tell positive stories early and often. Facts impart knowledge. Stories create connections and feeling, and feelings inspire people to change.
The elements of a great story are the same if you are making a successful movie or leading your organization to change. You need a character with which everyone can identify, a believable plot with a conflict to overcome, struggle and resolution.
Sharing positive stories about real people achieving results helps those who might be struggling or reluctant to keep at it until they master the change. More important, it provides a respected counterbalance to naysayers that might try to sabotage your change efforts.
Go first. Ross Perot, founder of EDS and Perot Systems, once told me that leaders eat last, but they go first.
His meaning was more than a pithy play on words. Your team is watching. It is more difficult for them to get excited about where the organization is going if they sense reticence from you. Your influence is highest when you model the willingness to pursue change that you want from others.
Change and growth are hard. Resistance, risk, and fear are real. The important decisions on which you need to execute can be scary. If your team is not experiencing any of those feelings, chances are you are not being bold enough.
Change no longer influences the environment. It is the environment. Your job is to inspire and influence a culture that continuously challenges the status quo to remain relevant to your members.