As the holidays approach and we’re all processing those Holiday Skip-a-Pays, closing last minute Holiday Loans and wrapping up year-end, we can take a lesson or two from the big guy in the red suit about leadership. With a diversified team of workers from elves to reindeer, he always seems to get everything done correctly and on time. How does he do it? What can we learn? How do we translate his leadership skills to a credit union? Here are a few quick lessons that might be helpful to any credit union professional.
- Make sure your team knows the goal and the deadline.
Throughout the year, the elves, the reindeer and Mrs. Claus all know that the toys need to be produced, quality-checked, wrapped and loaded on the sleigh for delivery by December 24th. They clearly understand this. Does everyone at your credit union know the goal and the deadline? And I mean everyone. I’ve worked with many credit unions over the years. Some leadership teams do an outstanding job of keeping everyone informed, from policy and procedural updates to compliance changes. The entire staff knows everything from loan growth goals to milestone statistics to what day the pot luck lunch will be in July. And at other credit unions, the front line staff doesn’t see the newsletter until a member brings it in with a question. Communication to everyone is the key to success.
- Have a good delivery channel.
Santa gets the toys delivered because he has a great delivery system – a team of reindeer. We’re not even sure if they’re entirely highly skilled reindeer, except for Rudolph and his blinking red schnozz. You don’t need to have all superstars on your team. But you do need to have a team that is trained properly, understands the job expectations and can get the job done. If you don’t have a staff to deliver, cross-sell, and educate your members, it doesn’t matter how great your products and services are – your membership will never know about them.
- Understand your audience.
Santa stays on top of the toy trends. He knows what the kids like from year to year. I’m sure the toys he’s handing out this year are very different than the toys of 2004. He’s not giving out annual subscriptions to the Wall Street Journal, because for most kids, that’s probably not an appealing gift. He knows what they like and what’s popular. Does your credit union offer the same products and services that it offered in 2004? Do you know what your members like and what’s popular? Have you adjusted to your audience so they love you year after year because you’re always delivering cool stuff?
- Know your purpose.
Santa knows his job inside and out. All the little boys and girls get a toy for Christmas. Simple. That’s his job. In credit union land, it’s always important to remember why we do what we do. Our primary purpose is not the almighty dollar, but to help people. People helping people. We are here to make our members’ financial lives better. Every single person at the credit union should understand this foundational philosophy, and it should start at the top. When the CEO and the management team clearly demonstrate exceptional member service, it permeates throughout the organization. When the management team or a key leader perceives members as a bother or an interruption, that permeates the organization, too.
Any leader knows it’s challenging to be a leader. Decisions, responsibilities, coaching, mentoring, supervising, overseeing, balancing, and the list goes on. Sometimes as leaders we get caught up in the day to day operations of our business, and we forget how important it is for a leader to practice leadership skills at every opportunity. Hopefully, at this time of year, we can all take a lesson from that jolly guy as he wraps up another successful holiday season, and we wrap another year of providing financial solutions to our members.