Since joining the Humanidei team in my role as Executive Development Partner just a few months ago, I have had countless conversations with credit union professionals about the future leadership of their credit unions. These conversations happen with smaller asset-sized credit unions, and with large and mid-sized credit unions, too. It is clear the issue I hear about most often has an impact on credit unions of all sizes. Whether this is in reference to someone ready to become the next CEO or it is about an individual wishing to take their first step into the C-suite, the concern over lack of internal talent is strong. Over and over, I hear, “There is no one internally who can fill this role. There is nobody here who is ready for the next step.”
Why is that? Why is an organization in a position where there are no employees who know what it takes to lead the organization? While there are many varying responses, I have arrived at one conclusion: It is not a priority.
Early in my career, I worked for a state credit union trade association. People often say, “well, it was a different world, then.” Maybe. In some ways. But in many ways things remain the same. We continue to be stretched for time and every bit of regulation requires more work. On the other hand, technology has streamlined our communication and operations, increasing our efficiency. Back then, my boss told me he felt a responsibility to ensure I was prepared for my next career step. He owned my future success in the credit union industry. I learned then that I needed to feel similar responsibility to ensure someone could fill my shoes if I “got hit by a bus.” It was never about getting hit by the proverbial bus. It was about my responsibility to develop people to their full potential.
I had the benefit of being mentored by some amazing leaders and knew I had a responsibility to pay it forward. It is never fast, it rarely feels urgent, and you do not always see progress daily, but this long-term investment in others is worth it to your credit union and to your members.
It is pretty rewarding personally, too: One of my highest professional compliments came after I left an EVP position at a large credit union. The CEO was asked, “How on earth did you replace her?” and responded, “We hired a teller!” My departure from a senior leadership role set a development progression in place that resulted in seven promotions. As each direct report stepped one level up, the vacancy that remained was at the teller level. The transition was smooth, the organization did not miss a beat, and to this day I remain proud of the leaders who grew into those new opportunities.
For any organization to succeed it must grow. Growth does not just come in assets, members, loans or branches. It comes in our people, too. When we develop people’s skills and abilities to put them on paths forward to career growth, the organization grows, too. If developing people for success is not a top priority of your leaders, be curious about why. The return is worth it. If developing people is a priority but is not being treated with a sense of urgency, consider seeking outside support to put you on the right path. At Humanidei + O’Rourke we offer a variety of succession planning and development tools that lead to success.