March Madness

I’m not really sure where the phrase was coined. The natural response would be because March is when college basketball playoffs and high school tournaments across the nation take place. High rank teams may lose, brackets are busted and therefore, insert ‘madness’. However, here in North Dakota lately, we use that term to describe the crazy weather that not only our state, but the entire Midwest has been hit with.

Growing up on a ranch, where my family raises cattle, March is seen as more of a “Dark Horse” if you will. No one knows really what the weather might bring and we always hope for the best possible conditions for our livestock. Growing up and attending school in a small town, however, March was known as the best month because of state basketball tournaments.

After watching ranchers in the Midwest dig through snowstorms to save their livestock; state troopers help rescue people off the shut down interstate; houses be washed away by mass flooding across the Midwest, the underdog basketball team win and more, there’s no doubt in my mind that credit union leaders can all learn a few lessons from this crazy March madness. Allow me to explain.

Look for Strengths, Not Weaknesses. Ranching has traditionally been a family operation. However, it’s not always easy working with family and often can be challenging, especially when mother nature doesn’t cooperate. Growing up on a ranch, I learned at an early age, you can’t do everything by yourself. Dad would ask me to come help ride horse and chase cows, but he might ask my brother Kasey to help brand the cattle, fix fence or rope the calves, as he was better at that.

Just like in the office, or on a basketball team we each have strengths, and weaknesses, but that’s why it’s important to work together as a team. In the credit union industry, as we adapt to financial disruptors, we continue to need each other. Don’t be afraid to look for the strengths in those individuals you hire on your team.  You might be surprised that they triumph over a weakness you didn’t even know your credit union had. When we work as a team, we can solve problems and accomplish amazing things. It’s important that we remember, together is better.

Integrity is Doing the Right Thing, Even When No One is Watching. I’m not sure when this concept started. Perhaps when I was young and mom would leave chores for us to do in the summer or maybe when my parents would tell me to go outside and practice 4-H in the arena. If I didn’t practice or put the hard work in, it would show up later in my performance when they watched me.

The same can be said on the basketball court or in the board room. If you don’t do the right thing all the time, it eventually will catch up to you. Help lend a hand, take time to teach your coworker the ropes, stay late to help your teammate finish a project they are struggling with. Whatever the case might be, integrity is shown daily. If you have it, don’t lose it. If you don’t, find it.

Passion is Loving What You Do. Just the other day I watched a video on social media of several ranchers digging out their cows from huge snow banks in South Dakota. This tireless work was all done just to save their animals, their livelihood and their passion.

The same goes for us in our careers. Look at those long-term employees who’ve worked for a credit union for years upon years. How many CEOs say they love what they do because they want to make a difference in the lives of their members? These people obviously have a passion for what they do. Look at your long-time members. Perhaps they have been members at your credit union since they were a child. They obviously have passion for that credit union. As a leader of your credit union, it’s important to encourage your employees to find passion in their day to day work and find passion for helping our members. Whatever you do in life, find that passion. It certainly makes the hard times, a little bit easier to bear.

Don’t Say it Can’t be Done. This year, all of North Dakota watched an undefeated boys’ basketball team win the state basketball tournament. This is not only a huge accomplishment to be undefeated, but this same team had several losing records, the years prior. The last time their school won a state title was in 1993, that’s over 25 years! People said they’d never win. People said they couldn’t be the first unbeaten team in class A boys’ basketball since 2002, but they were. They won and didn’t let what others said about them, ruin their determination.

They remained positive and didn’t doubt that their goals could be accomplished. It’s not always easy to be positive. Furthermore, encouraging our staff to believe in themselves, your credit union mission and think positively can be a huge challenge. Finding resources that help staff believe in themselves, your credit union and that anything can be done, can ultimately lead to a more positive and fulfilling life.  

Obstacles Teach Us to Enjoy the View. Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to take your eyes off your computer, stretch and look around. If you look up and take a break now and then, you’ll see a few things you may not have noticed otherwise. You’ll notice there are others around you facing a more difficult task than you. You might also notice how the miserable snowstorm or scary thunderstorm, turned the countryside landscape into a beautiful picturesque view.

Life gets hard and no big job is ever easy, but sometimes a little struggle helps us appreciate the larger world and the beautiful life that we’re struggling for. Whether your goal is to grow your credit union, develop your team, keep your cattle alive or even win a basketball game, it’s important to enjoy the view. Keep your eyes open, your beliefs strong, look around you and take it all in, each and every day, not just after the storm of obstacles you faced. You will pass through incredible heights during your journey. Make them memorable.

By the way March is going, we might all be excited when this madness comes to an end, at least those of us in the Midwest. Regardless, we can all take heart in the lessons that we can learn through the good and the bad. Great leaders look for the lessons and the opportunities through life’s crazy madness.

Katie Nehl

Katie Nehl

A born and raised ranch girl from small town North Dakota, Katie started her credit union journey six years ago, with First Community Credit Union (FCCU). After working three years ... Web: Details