Credit unions and companies across the country are intently focused on creating cultures that attract and retain employees; however, many are still missing one of the biggest causes of internal politics, confusion, inefficiencies, low morale, and turnover. Despite intelligent, well-considered, detailed strategic plans, prioritization – or lack thereof – remains one of the biggest harbingers of cultural malaise today. With a focus on five influencers, though, leaders can make big improvements as they secure prioritization as a strength to improve organizational health.
Five primary contributors and indicators can support organizations in making prioritization a greater asset:
- Team Cohesion
- Meetings Approach
- Pace of Change, and
Let’s take a brief look at each.
- Team Cohesion – For prioritization to be successful, a team must be cohesive. An executive team needs to be grounded in trust, so that healthy conflict (pursuit of what’s best for the organization) can take place. Only then can agreements and decisions be made, accountability take place, and results achieved.
Silos exist when trust is absent. Trust (i.e., I can be 100% myself when I walk into a room without fear of retribution) is critical and when it’s gone, conflict winds up being about politics as opposed to the pursuit of truth, and decisions aren’t in the best interest organizations; but rather, they are in the best interests of individuals and their teams. Without collective buy-in to agreements, accountability and results suffer. If companies have any hope of nailing down prioritization, they first need to build healthy team cohesion.
- Clarity – As part of my support, I often have executive teams take a Team Assessment from The Table Group. From these reports, I regularly see companies with 6 out of 8 or 5 out of 6 members of the executive team stating a need for more clarity on priorities. When asking the prioritization question to team members, “What’s most important now?” I am fascinated by how disparate answers can be. Getting alignment isn’t simple, but it is necessary and doable. Because if everything is most important, then nothing really is. One of the jobs of leadership is making tough calls. When Executive Teams can’t say what is first, second, third, and fourth, they leave it to the teams beneath to fight it out.
- Meetings Approach – One of the easiest ways to know if your prioritization is off is to check your meeting satisfaction. Do you have what Patrick Lencioni of The Table Group calls “Meeting Stew?” Do you bounce around and talk about everything from high-level strategies to tactical efforts to expense reports and then the employee engagement survey and what project should go first? You’re suffering from “Meeting Stew,” which only makes prioritization more complex and dangerous. It’s nearly impossible to know who is doing what without a meeting model that helps define time to discuss priorities, tactics, strategies, and the big picture. Moreover, if your project management and executive team (i.e., strategic plan) aren’t intimately intertwined and communicating and reporting regularly, then it’s easy to fall prey to prioritization problems. I’ve even witnessed complete separation of project prioritization and executive priorities, which in the end – relative to resources – causes further stress and politics. There’s a better way.
- Pace of Change – Right now, staff all over have change fatigue, and there’s no end in sight. Organizations have gone through significant change in the past three years due to internal and external factors, and the change and innovation needed to succeed hasn’t eased. Leadership would be wise to pay attention to change management strategies as it manages its prioritization. Different individuals handle pacing differently. Some individuals are natural change agents and innovate, galvanize, and get results, and are happy to go 100 mph; while others, who contribute differently, yet critically, prefer to go 75 mph. These executives often see the big picture, offer valuable discernment, and support projects and initiatives with aplomb. Neither is better than the other; their pacing is simply different. Both need the other. Education, understanding, and leveraging each other’s geniuses, while adopting change management skills benefits the prioritization process for both.
- Leadership – Leaders are under pressure; however, they may be vacillating between feeling motivated and feeling stressed. Clarity can be an elixir for stress – in that it provides a framework for teams to rally around. It also allows leadership to make decisions based upon resourcing, which isn’t always something that gets vetted amid current pacing. Without clear prioritization discussions, resourcing debates and decisions may not be taking place. Executives in the top echelon know that these are the types of discussions that ultimately alleviate pressure because it’s where the truth comes out. If we do A and then B, X resources are needed. If we do A, then we can’t do E and F without X resources. Before credit unions can grow in their ability to understand true resourcing constraints and needs, they first need to know what’s first, second, and third relative to prioritization. It doesn’t matter whether project management is waterfall or sophisticated agile with a backlog and/or if an executive team doesn’t know what those are. Discussions can start from wherever executive teams and project management teams stand today.
By focusing on these five influencers, credit union presidents and CEOs, along with their executive teams, can make powerful headway with prioritization in the remainder of 2022 and certainly in 2023. Not only will they have greater clarity, but they will also elevate their cultures in the process, making them attractive and engaging to both current and future employees.