“People Helping People” and “People Not Profit” have been the credos of credit unions since their founding in the United States. Recently, there’s been a significant push to promote those credos as part of the “I love my credit union” campaign. Focusing on helping people is a great way to differentiate credit unions from the rest of the banking industry, and it’s a beautiful way to meld business with altruism.
Like so many other things, saying you’re focused on people is great but only if you back up the words with action. Today more than ever, acting on the “people” component of the credit union mantra is critical to every credit union’s future viability and ultimate success. All people – members and employees – need to feel your love and experience your care, not just hear about it. In short, to truly live the mantra, your credit union needs to invest in optimizing empathy.
Investing in empathy doesn’t mean a one-time training event, and it’s not just a component of a broader DEI initiative; it’s a core component that should be fundamental to your strategic planning efforts this year. Empathy is a muscle that can be developed and strengthened for your leadership team as well as your staff. It can manifest itself in five impactful ways:
- Empathy with Members
We often hear from leaders and coaches, “Show empathy with the member.” But there’s a right way and wrong way to do it. And demonstrating it the right way requires ongoing training, practice, coaching, and reinforcement. It is a learned skill.
- Empathy with Co-Workers
Like our daily interactions with members, empathy is vital to forging positive, effective partnerships with peers at your credit union. Recent experience has shown that disfunction and poor support from one department to another is largely the result of a lack of shared empathy.
- Empathy with Direct Reports
Leaders need to personalize their coaching and make sure they focus on what their employee needs to maximize their efforts. While we’ve talked for years about personalized coaching, injecting empathy takes coaching and leadership to a deeper level where it truly drives performance and motivates employees.
- Empathy as a Culture
The credit unions who have thrived during the past 18 months have done so largely because of their strong bond with employees and members, along with a concentrated focus on total wellbeing – at work and home. Those efforts need to continue in the “next normal” to leverage that goodwill and solidify those relationships. That means weaving empathy into the fabric of your experience culture as much as possible, today and into the future.
- Empathy as a Differentiator
In the spirit of demonstrating empathy instead of just talking about it, be prepared to share specific anecdotes of how you’ve helped members and employees, especially during these challenging times. Don’t be shy about it – it you don’t promote it, no one else will. It can be the best way to differentiate in your marketplaces. Word-of-mouth advertising is still the best advertising but only if you make sure the word does, indeed, get advertised.
Many credit unions have already reached out in recent months about various ways to infuse empathy throughout their culture. If you want to make empathy your secret sauce and create a thoroughly empathetic culture at your credit union, let’s talk. www.fi-strategies.com/contact-us.