The great disconnect: How role confusion and poor prioritization wreak havoc on executive teams and efficiencies

When inflation hits, expense reduction is often at the forefront. CEOs and executive teams may consider reducing headcount or choose not to replace open positions. Leaders may focus on process improvement, cut back on professional development, and/or skip extraneous travel. Rarely do executive teams look, though, at the biggest source of waste – time misspent on role confusion and poor prioritization.

Now, top leaders rarely spend time intentionally on the wrong initiatives. In fact, they work long and hard to ensure their teams and credit union are as successful as possible. The Great Disconnect, though, is that too often, role confusion and poor prioritization go unaddressed.

Because of this, millions of dollars of executive salaries wind up being spent in meetings, on initiatives, on emails, in conversations, in conflict, and in circling conversations that are wasteful. Vendor contracts are often signed that are not necessary nor in the best interest of all, and teams wind up working at cross-purposes for weeks, months, and even years. Teams below the executive team also become confused about prioritization, and morale suffers.

A 2020 McKinsey study at the start of the pandemic reported that organizational silos, unclear strategy, and slow decision-making frequently interfere with attempts to boost the rate at which work gets done, and the trend continues.

Even when collaboration is attempted in meetings, CEOs are often surprised when – through new exercises and tools – they learn how their C-Suite executives are spending their time. The Great Disconnect reveals that just because C-Suite executives collaborate on a strategic plan, BHAGs – or some version of goal setting – doesn’t mean they’re spending their days working toward unified outcomes.

Why is this? Somewhere along the line, leaders got comfortable and equated collaborative annual strategic planning, quarterly project prioritization, and meeting updates with clarity. It’s understandable because true role clarity involves more than a job description and committee and/or project governance assignments. New organizational health approaches and tools can simplify this.

In today’s environment, CEOs need to understand where their C-suite executives are spending their time, and C-suite executives need to understand where their SVPs or VPs are allocating their responsibilities, so that they’re not only able to be successful, but they can also create cultures with high morale and low turnover. This isn’t about micromanaging, it’s about guiding – a big difference!

If an executive is not spending a minimum of 30 percent of their time working collaboratively with their executive team (aka First Team), they are not devoting enough time to the top priorities of the credit union. This is true whether they are the Chief Financial Officer, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Chief Administrative Officer, Chief Risk Officer, Chief Experience Officer, and/or Chief Marketing Officer. It doesn’t matter.

A third of an executive team members’ day-to-day responsibilities should be devoted to the executive team’s collaborative work and top priorities. If this is not currently happening at your credit union, you are not alone. Amid the big changes and shifts in today’s environments, executives are being pulled in countless directions; however, this is the very reason why teams need to be collaborating and cohesive. This involves having healthy debate, working side-by-side, determining decision rights, productive meeting structures, and more.

If you need to cut costs and find efficiencies, the biggest one may be one you never considered – time. Perhaps it’s time you found it.

Deborah Mersino

Deborah Mersino

Principal Consultant Deborah Mersino of Mersino Consulting supports leaders of credit unions and other purpose-driven organizations in growing organizational health and achieving ambitious results. She can be reached at Deborah@... Web: Details