The best succession planning comes from within

An email from Scott* when he was notified he would not be considered as my client’s next President/CEO:


I’ll be interested to see the candidate you select as my experience in retail banking is extensive.

My background is diverse in retail sales, customer experience, strategy, finance, and risk. I am currently responsible for over $2 Billion in portfolio assets, not to mention lending investments with assets under management exceeding $100 Million.

So… Will be interesting to see the candidate that’s placed having a broader range of expertise than I do.

This email would’ve made more sense if I actually interviewed for the position but that’s the problem with recruiters so thanks so much you have yourself a great day.


You know what? I don’t think Scott was sincere in thanking me. I’m not convinced Scott really did want me to “have myself a great day.” I do, however, believe Scott was authentic—and accurate—in one thing: There is a problem with recruiters.

Credit unions would be much better off if you never had to use them.

Wait. What? Isn’t a large part of Humanidei’s business executive recruiting? It is. The reason I believe credit unions would be better off without recruiters is not because we do not know what we are doing or that we fail to recognize the superior talent of a for-profit banking executive who has never sat in a board room making strategic decisions. It is because our industry would have a brighter future if we were growing from the inside, cultivating and developing the passionate individuals who believe in this industry, who advocate for members, who volunteer personal time to give back to the community, and who crave– more than anything else– the chance to grow at the credit union they already love.

When we look at our teams, we brag about the diversity: Of the gender balance, the represented races, the languages in which we can serve members. We appreciate their community engagement, the lived experiences, the knowledge they have of our members’ needs. We celebrate how much our members love them.

But we keep them too busy. We treat them and their development a bit like the wicked stepmother treated Cinderella. She was welcome to go to the ball if she could finish all her chores and figure out her own logistics.

Our developing employees have the same opportunity. They can go to the conference or workshop if they finish all their chores and figure out their own logistics: It can’t conflict with another employee’s time off. A scholarship or grant must pay for it. Sometimes, they even need to take PTO if they want to go. The obstacles are significant, yet some make it happen.

They go to a Crash program like Nanci Wilson did. They attend a League YP event. They come back energized! They want to talk to their leaders about what they’ve learned, and they’re told to reign it in. To know their role. To get back to the work at hand.

Then. When it is time to add to our leadership—to build our executive team—to hire a new President/CEO, we look within for a minute and realize that our people aren’t ready. They don’t have broad enough knowledge, deep enough training, or enough understanding of how the business really works.

So. They call a recruiter. The recruiter finds candidates who match their ideal profile, who know their stuff and bring energy and leadership. They look for someone who can coach a team to higher levels. After all, it was disappointing there wasn’t an internal candidate this time around.

Sometimes, credit unions are satisfied with the results, but sometimes they are a little uninspired. These people don’t have passion for your members. They don’t love your community. They don’t know your team or its culture.

Statistically, internally promoted candidates have higher success rates than external hires. They catch on more quickly, integrate into the culture more easily, and tend to navigate obstacles with greater commitment to the organization.

If you recognize your credit union in this scenario and are facing an executive retirement without a clear succession plan, you may wonder what you can do to get it right the next time around. Here’s how: Introduce a Career Path Planning Program in your credit union within the next quarter.

Give every employee who works for you a path forward to their next step, then the step after that, and the one after that. Plan for them, commit to it, and fulfill that commitment. Hold your managers accountable to regular conversations about your employees’ desires, gaps in their competencies and skills, and opportunities to fill those gaps. Use this credit union village we love—the trade associations, the African American Credit Union Coalition and the National Association for Latino Credit Union Professionals, networking groups, Humanidei’s Humanedge program or our Leadership Circles, mentors from other credit unions—to support each and every one of your team members in their growth.

Yes. I know you are a small credit union. That you only have 100 employees. Or 34. Or 6. That you think you can’t do this; that this article isn’t for you. But it is. And you can.

You probably won’t. I guess that gives me job security. But you should. And if you do. If you get serious about Career Path Planning in your credit union … Scott still won’t get the job, but you may solve his problem with recruiters: You will seriously reduce the need for our business.

More importantly, you will build a stronger credit union—and stronger credit union industry—in the process.

If you are ready to move forward with a formal and easy-to-implement Career Path Planning Program at your credit union, contact Humanidei. We will guide you through this process, resulting in strong succession planning and a more engaged workforce.

*Maybe I changed his name. Maybe.


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Jill Nowacki

Jill Nowacki

Jill Nowacki started her career with credit unions in 2001. She has taken on leadership roles at credit unions and state and national trade associations. Now, she uses her experience ... Web: Details