Leadership Matters: What CEOs don’t know can hurt their credit unions

Adequate executive oversight, accountability, engagement and development are crucial.

In his well-known book The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber shares this example: Small business owner Sarah is spending too much time working “in” her business, and not enough time “on” it. Her coach directs her to spend more time as the strategist, entrepreneur and systems designer rather than as worker bee.

The aim, of course, is to strike a balance in working in/on your business. In the credit union world, some CEOs constantly work “in” the business with little, if any, strategic inclination. In this article, though, I’ll focus on the pitfalls that may arise for credit unions with chief executives at the other end of the spectrum—those who work “on” or even “above” their business to the point that they miss important components of the operation. Some CEOs either spend significant time away from their credit unions or have created so many organizational layers beneath them that they are unaware of crucial operational details.

In short, what CEOs don’t know can hurt their organizations. Let’s consider four examples of what can go awry when chief executives don’t spend enough time in the business.

The Info Tech Smokescreen

Several years ago, a bank decided to build a data warehouse to make its customer data more accessible and useful for employees. This multi-million-dollar decision originated at the executive committee level. Unfortunately, the project languished for several years and became one of those all-too-common examples of a failed data warehouse initiative. It failed because the CEO did not hold his direct report, the CIO, accountable. Both executives shared the blame for this failure, the CIO for “blowing smoke” about the project and the CEO for not providing adequate executive direction and oversight. Though the initiative was recognized as having enormous strategic potential, it died because the CEO did not demand key metrics, deadlines and accountabilities from the CIO.

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