The hardest thing about sharing is letting go. It’s natural for us to want to “protect our turf.” We want to preserve what we’ve worked so hard to build. We’re often hesitant to let go of familiar patterns, traditions and habits. But letting go is a crucial part of creating a stronger organization.
How do you keep the best of each credit union and leave the unproductive parts behind?
Whenever I’m asked to summarize leadership in just one thought, I respond with this…
Leadership is sharing. A leader shares.
Now before you toss this idea in the “soft skills” bucket, think about it. Mergers can be difficult. There are many competing interests and leaders understandably want to protect their own. Ignoring human nature, failing to consider everyone’s concerns and worst of all, refusing to share the best of what you bring to the merger are sure ways to make this process painful.
In our workshops we focus on exactly what we’re willing to share and how we’re going to do it. When you’re bringing together two (or more!) distinct organizations, this exercise is vital.
Here’s a short list to consider:
I’m not starting here because I think it’s the most important. I want to get it out of the way because most of the CU leaders I’ve known dealing with mergers have spent a lot of time and energy on this.
- Will you share one of the existing organization names?
- Will you start from scratch?
- Are you willing to let go of your brand to make this merger work?
Decide this quickly and get it out of the way. It’s a shame when you resolve other major issues only to get hung up on the new name.
- Who will stay and who will go?
- What titles and roles will carry over from each organization?
- Which will be eliminated?
This process needs to be addressed early in the process. Sharing input early and often can minimize inevitable conflict. Decisions will need to be made, but by sharing concerns and interests you may be able to incorporate more talented people, even if it means shifting roles or creating new opportunities.
Culture and Values…
This is a big one. Take a look at this even before you start a discussion on the leadership of the new organization.
- Which strengths can be borrowed and shared from each of the existing organizations?
- Which areas are best left to history and not carried over?
- Which leaders exemplify the culture you want to create in the new union?
We could also say information and experience.
A merger is no time to be proprietary about ideas. No matter what you retain from the existing entities, you’re now creating something new. Sharing ideas is the only way to bring out the best and ensure that you’re creating an organization stronger than the sum of its original parts.
- What else are you willing to share?
- What are you willing to let go of to make this new partnership work?
- Who are you willing to share this process with?
Solicit input from ALL levels. You know your front line people are the face of your credit union for your existing members – and the first impression for new ones. They’re the ones who directly build relationships with the people and the community you serve. They may have thoughts and ideas you haven’t even considered. Ask yourself…
- Do all the stakeholders feel valued?
- Is leadership really listening to their concerns?
- What can be done to prevent cliques and silos?
- How can the combined cultures learn to work together?
- How can you create the best experience for your team and for your members?
A merger provides a perfect opportunity to open or expand lines of communication from all levels. To start the new organization with the best ideas from all areas of operation. And to grow as a leader in ways you might not have imagined.