Strategic communication simplified: Include, connect, and explain

“When our entire organization, from the front line to the boardroom, understands our strategy—and their particular roles in seeing strategy succeed—we execute better as a team and accomplish more,” shared a west coast credit union CEO. “In many organizations, strategy communication often fails to convey the necessary framework for employees to grasp the full meaning and rationale behind strategic decisions, and this can create a huge disconnect.”

Strategic communication is important. Leaders frequently articulate strategy statements that make sense to them but leave employees in the dark about underlying reasons and rationale. This gap can hinder the organization’s overall understanding and execution of the strategy. Here’s how credit union executives can ensure that their strategy communication is comprehensive and relatable to their board, executives, and staff.

Include the team

Engaging employees in the strategy development process fosters a deeper understanding and commitment to the strategic direction. This involvement can range from soliciting feedback and ideas to active participation in strategy workshops.

“All of the ideas we need to succeed are in this room,” shared a Wisconsin credit union CEO, as we kicked off a series of strategic thinking, design, and planning meetings. “What we need from you are ideas, opportunities, and even challenges to the potential plans for this credit union.” Staff loved the open and transparent process to be part of a strategic dialogue. This sweeping approach encouraged widespread participation and ensured that more employees understood the context behind strategic decisions.

Connect to the big statements – mission, vision, values, goals

Connecting strategic decisions to the credit union’s core purpose or goals is another effective way to provide perspective. When employees see how each decision aligns with the overarching mission, they can better understand and support the strategy.

“Our core purpose is to ‘Make Life More Affordable,’” relays the Board Chair of a statewide credit union in Texas. “Practically, we deliver on this purpose through fee-free basic banking, competitive interest rates across the board, and deeper lending throughout our membership. Passionately, we share stories of how we ‘Make Life More Affordable’ throughout our membership and market,” explains the CEO. “We help people get to work, own homes, save more toward college, hire employees for business growth, and much more. Our products and pricing create a life result for our members, and we tell those stories – loudly.”

Explain the paths you considered as you share the path you will follow

One effective method to provide context is by discussing not only the chosen strategies but also the alternatives that were considered and ultimately set aside. This approach helps employees understand why certain paths were not taken, thereby clarifying the strategic direction.

As an example, a mid-sized credit union in New England considered strategies around serving a major metropolitan area, rural markets in the state, or both. After exhaustive vetting of three strategic approaches, it decided upon focusing on the rural markets. As executives shared the pros and cons of each opportunity, employees throughout the credit union appreciated the reasons supporting the board-approved option. The CEO explained that “Highlighting ‘all things considered’ made the strategic choices more real and clear.”

For executives, confirming that employees understand and support the strategy involves more than just clear communication. It requires providing the necessary background, which can be achieved by discussing reasons behind strategic direction, connecting decisions to the organization’s intent, and including employees in the strategic activities. By implementing these approaches, credit unions can promote a shared understanding and commitment to strategic choices, enhancing overall execution and alignment across the organization.


© 2024 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel

Jeff Rendel

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and President of Rising Above Enterprises works with credit unions that want elite results in sales, service, and strategy. Each year, he addresses and facilitates ... Web: Details