The only certainty in life, and business, is change. And there is no area that is more subject to change than in financial regulation.
One of the most important attributes of an effective leader is the ability to manage uncertainty. The people who trust in your leadership depend on you to respond, make decisions and navigate through changing conditions and regulations––whether you saw them coming or not.
CU leaders have an interesting relationship with uncertainty, at least as it relates directly to the mechanics of economics and finance:
- To best serve your members and your employees, you do your best to reduce uncertainty.
- You want to provide accurate and trustworthy advice and create products and services that help provide financial security.
- You want to build a strong and stable organization that will serve your community and members long into the future.
All of this is challenging in a rapidly changing, uncertain and sometimes hostile regulatory environment.
So how does a CU leader manage this uncertainty?
My work is focused exclusively on the humanistic aspects of leadership. I’ll leave the specific technical issues to you! Just remember, however, that at every level it is people who are responding to regulatory changes.
You have people on your front lines responding to member concerns. You have people handing compliance and reporting changes. You have people in your executive suite doing their best to anticipate and respond to changes.
How do you keep morale high? How do you keep people focused and moving forward?
Here are a few strategies:
Acknowledge uncertainty! If you don’t know what’s coming despite your best efforts, be open about it. Nobody expects a leader to know everything. In fact, studies show that people place much more trust in a leader who acknowledges uncertainty over those who proclaim they have all the answers.
Expect the unexpected. As you do your best to anticipate regulatory direction, direct some energy to plan B, and plan C and D if necessary. There are no wasted plans, only filed plans. If you don’t need a particular plan today, you may find it useful in the future.
Keep your team informed. Make sure everyone is kept abreast of changing conditions as they develop. You don’t want anyone to be caught completely by surprise when information was readily available. You want people to understand changes and help others navigate these changes, internally and as you serve members.
Do NOT try to do it alone! Leverage the experience, talents, skills and creativity of your entire team. Openly solicit input from all levels and departments. Ask them to prepare responses from their points of view and encourage them to work across divides to facilitate the best response.
Access institutional memory. There is a lot of truth in the old saying that “there is nothing new under the sun”. Unfortunately, as a culture we have a very short memory these days. The new generation may not have experienced a particular change, but experienced leaders and others on the team may have been through something quite similar long ago and far away.
Frame every challenge as an opportunity. This is the most important strategy of all. Stay positive. Express confidence in your team’s ability to respond to any change. Solicit input from all levels to transform any challenge into an opportunity for innovation and growth.
These strategies will help you face any change or uncertainty. It may be regulation, shifting market or economic conditions, technological advances or cultural evolutions.
As a leader, your primary role is to focus on your people.
- Cultivate an environment that puts your people in the best position to perform effectively.
- Encourage and recognize their contributions.
- Focus on the circumstances and conditions that you can control––and you certainly can control how you serve the people who trust in your leadership.
Uncertainty is part of life. Embrace it!
Uncertainty just may provide you with the opportunity to become the type of leader you may never have imagined without it!