Today’s message is a special shout-out to our friends in the C-Suite. That’s right; we’re talking to you, CEOs, CFOs, CMO’s, COOs, etc.
There’s no doubt you work tirelessly every day for your credit union or you wouldn’t have achieved the title and status you’ve earned. Whether your forte is overall leadership, finances, marketing, operations or any other number of roles, there’s one you must look at as your primary (and most important) job — that of leading your credit union’s brand.
Credit unions with the most successful brands and cultures train and encourage every single employee, regardless of formal title or position, that they are all responsible for leading the brand. Obviously, you and others on the leadership team play a special part in this. Unfortunately, leaders are also susceptible to allowing the blinders of our everyday roles (see above) to cloud our brand vision. So if you find yourself stuck in a C-Suite silo, ponder the following question: what’s the most important thing you’ve done for your brand today?
If answering the question caused you even a moment of pause, it’s probably a good idea to allow the rush of all your other everyday work (calls, meetings, emails, etc.) to still so you can consider your thoughts. Again, your specific/formal title doesn’t matter. The most important role that you as an executive (and everyone else at your credit union) has is that of brand leader. While you’re considering your thoughts in response to the above question, here are a few potential best practice ideas you could put into place.
You must model the brand for all employees. You cannot expect to receive the type of performance or behavior you desire for your brand unless you first model it in front of everyone else. If your brand experience calls for specific things like brand language, following a certain series of steps, or even little things like offering refreshments to every member waiting in the lobby, you must first do these things yourself. If you don’t, staff will model that behavior. If you do, staff will model that behavior (see the pattern?). In essence, you must be the brand which you expect all your staff to live themselves.
You must nurture the brand for all employees. Regardless of where your brand is in its journey, it must be fed regularly in order to grow and thrive. Much like flowers, for example, require regular watering and sunshine, your brand requires regular training and support. When is the last time you had an all staff meeting that focused entirely on the brand? For that matter, when is the last time you had an all staff meeting the spent five minutes talking about brand? Do you personally know if brand is highlighted at branch meetings, departmental meetings and during employee performance reviews? Back it up further – is your brand represented during the hiring process? Without the training and support it requires, your brand, like a neglected flower, will wilt and die.
You must experience the brand for all employees. Again, working in credit unions comes with the inherent danger of allowing a silo mentality to take root. To experience the brand for all employees, sometimes as an executive leader you must remove yourself from your regular role and experience it anew. This could come in the form of unannounced mystery shops of your branches and drive-thrus. It could also occur by asking friends or family that are currently members of your credit union what their brand experiences are like. You can even try tactics like walking through the front door (instead of the employee side entrance), checking out little things like your landscaping and restrooms and even calling your contact center from a different number and posing as a member/potential member with questions about accounts, products and services. The key here is developing a third-party perspective of your credit unions brand and culture to counterbalance your own insider’s view as an executive leader.
What’s the most important thing you’ve done for your brand today? Do you have an answer (or perhaps a different answer) now after reading? If so, terrific. If not, perhaps it’s time to get up out of your C-Suite seat and model/nurture/experience the brand for all employees yourself. Such a perspective is imperative for the success of your brand and for your continued development as a leader of your credit union.