One of the greatest 80s cult movies is The Breakfast Club. In one famous scene, high-strung Baby Boomer teacher Richard Vernon and high school custodian Carl talk about the kids upstairs in weekend detention. The scene goes:
Vernon: “You think about this: when you get old, these kids …I get old – they’re going to be running the country.”
Richard Vernon: “Now this is the thought that wakes me up in the middle of the night. That when I get older, these kids are going to take care of me.”
Carl: “I wouldn’t count on it.”
While you may not have a detention room (even if you want one), for your young employees, there does exist a “breakfast club” of sorts in your credit union. Look at the average age of your credit union employee up-and-comers. Now look at the same factor in your senior management and (gulp!) board of directors. Odds are most credit unions face a substantial age gulf between the two. Will your staff (particularly the younger ones) grow and matriculate up the ranks of your credit union to one day take care of you and your members?
I wouldn’t count on it.
Have you ever stopped to wonder what your employees truly think about you? I’m not talking about the typical hallway courtesies and rear-end smooching from the usual suspects. I’m referring more to their actual feelings about you as a manager and how, once you discover these, you can use them to help become a better leader of people, a better visionary for your credit union and a better resource for your staff.
A survey correlated with National Boss’s Day revealed that while the Great Recession has resulted in a stronger bond between bosses and staff, a lot of communication work remains to help bridge the gap. The survey also indicated that what employees expect out of a boss and what bosses actually deliver are often quite dissimilar.
Other interesting boss/employee stats from this survey include:
- While nearly one-third (29 percent) of bosses think they are great coaches, only a fifth (20 percent) of employees agree.
- Only 15 percent of bosses think their management style is ‘commanding’, but nearly a quarter (23 percent) of employees said their boss exhibited this style most.
- 88 percent of employees agreeing that a good boss is one who is willing to roll up their sleeves and get the job done.
- Nearly three out of four (73 percent) of employees reported they could respect and work with a boss who is under the age of 25.
- Just over half (56 percent) of employees indicated they could work with and respect a boss 20 years younger compared to 68 percent who could feel this way if their boss was 10 years younger and 83 percent if their boss was 5 years younger.
- More than half (55 percent) of employees said no amount of age difference would prevent them from respecting their boss.
As with most stats, some are encouraging while others show us we have work to do to become better managers. How, then, can credit union managers with direct reports better connect in real and meaningful ways to their staff?
Consider the following ideas:
1) Practice active listening. Not just one-ear listening. Active listening, where you face them, make eye contact, offer empathy and really try to connect. Employees will pick up on this and remember you for it. You may not always have the answer they hoped to hear, but they know at least you cared enough to hear them out in a legitimate manner.
2) Challenge your staff. Human nature inspires most individuals to rise up and conquer obstacles placed in their way. That can-do principle can help power-up your people to do great things. Place work-related challenges in their way and see what they can do.
3) Educate your employees. You cannot honestly expect people to competently do their jobs, let alone exceed at them, without the proper education required to do so. It’s like putting a first-year vehicle repair student in front of a completely disassembled truck and expecting him to put it back together. Alone. With a ridiculous deadline. Not going to happen. Rather, give your employees the education and training they need to get the job done. Yes, this may well involve time and expense on your part. In the long-run, it’s worth it. More importantly, don’t your members deserve the best out of the people they trust to take care of their money? I’ll pay more for a well-educated brain surgeon if faced with that type of situation. Your credit union’s commitment to education is similar.
4) Remember they are people with families. Harsh reality: your employees are there to earn money to take care of their families. Mission statements, member service and teamwork are all well and good but at the end of the day, reason number one for them to be there at all is to bring home the bacon. Accept that, acknowledge that and work that to your advantage. While work must get done and members must be satisfied, family comes before business. Great managers know this and encourage their employees to manage their time in a way that best reflects and encourages this.
5) Become a student of leadership. As a manager, strive to learn something new every day about the art of leading people. There are plenty of books and blogs available on the subject. You might also check your local chamber of commerce to see if they offer any leadership class. Endeavor to learn from leaders of the past and present so you can become a better leader of the future.
Behind every employee smile and casual remark lurk the tell-tale signs of how they actually feel about you as a manager. By learning ways to better relate with them as individuals, you can help ensure better team cohesion, spirit and, ultimately, superior member service.
To slightly re-phrase the famous quote from the students at the end of The Breakfast Club and apply it to your hypothetical credit union “breakfast club,” consider the following:
Dear Mr. Credit Union Manager,
We accept the fact that we had to sacrifice a day in remedial training for whatever it was we did wrong. What we did was wrong. But we think you’re crazy to make us fill out self-evaluation forms telling you who we think we are. You see us as you want to see us, in the simplest terms, in the most convenient definitions. But what we found out is that each one of us is a teller, a loan officer, a front-desk greeter, a marketer and a member service representative.
Does that answer your question?
The Credit Union Breakfast Club