Good Governance: Not your grandfather’s board of directors

Five suggestions to refine your election process and strengthen your board

Remember 1988? That’s the year General Motors released its slogan, “Not your father’s Oldsmobile”—a campaign meant to refresh the luxury car’s brand and show how fresh it was. The campaign failed and so did Oldsmobile, proving that a new campaign with old thinking doesn’t work. About 10 years later, Apple was struggling; then Steve Jobs returned to the helm, encouraging everyone—from designers to decision makers—to step back and rethink their processes, systems, structure and purpose. Soon after, Apple launched its “Think Different” campaign, with Jobs famously saying, “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world usually do.” Today, Forbes Global 2000 places Apple at the top of its global list of most profitable companies.

Lately, I’ve been wondering…is our process of choosing credit unions’ boards of directors stuck in 1988? Do we need to think differently?

I have the privilege of serving credit unions in both professional and volunteer roles. For the past seven years, I’ve served on the board of $1.1 billion Firefly Credit Union in Minneapolis/St. Paul, currently as board chair. And since 2005, I’ve been a member of the executive team of MEMBERS Development Company, a collaborative research and development credit union service organization owned by many of the nation’s top-tier credit unions.

Serving on Firefly CU’s board has helped me understand the financial, technological and competitive issues with which MDC’s owners struggle and has given me a better understanding of the company’s R&D needs. At MDC, working with credit unions that share many common concerns gives context to the issues my own credit union faces.


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