The Great Resignation. Quiet quitting. Volatile markets and interest rate hikes. The list of stressors for credit union leaders could go on and on (and on).
After being in business for myself for more than 20 years now, I’ve experienced a lot. I lost my first business soon after it started and started another business (Your Marketing Co.) in the in the middle of the Great Recession. My personal list of stresses and past obstacles could also go on and on (and on).
I constantly remind myself of this one piece of advice, and I want to share it with you:
During times like this, if you don’t lift your head up and see beyond the now, you will most definitely lose your perspective and make some bad decisions. You’ll make panicked decisions, make policy decisions out of fear, abandon your principles or even quit. Lift your head up and look to a future, better horizon.
It is indeed OK to quit, as long as it is not at the expense of others. (Brief soapbox: Do not merge away a credit union and throw away its legacy and commitment to the community because you want to quit. Find your replacement first, and then peace out). However, if you’re reading this, I would guess you’re no quitter. The title spoke to you, and you’re determined to make it through a difficult season.
Here are two things determined leaders do during times of stress:
- Embrace reality without sugar-coating it. You cannot lie to yourself in any way, shape or form.
- Don’t overreact to the current reality. You are optimistic, not at the expense of reality, but in spite of it.
When you’re optimistic, be ready for people to accuse you of wearing your rose-colored glasses and not seeing reality. Sometimes they might be right, and sometimes you are. It is easier to be skeptical in these situations. You can easily start thinking of the worst-case scenario and dive right into that as reality.
True leadership is about embracing the present while making sound decisions for the future based on your mission, vision and strategic plan. I’ve recently started reading a book, “The Innovators Dilemma,” about how legacy businesses failed despite their years of success. One commonality is either turning a blind eye to the future or making rash decisions without perspective in the face of disruption.
Where is your credit union right now? Are you in one of those dips during these bizarre economic times, or are you on top of the world?
If you find yourself in one of those dips, remember it does not have to be permanent. I’ve seen credit union leaders get unstuck by doing these things:
- Be completely honest about your situation, without overreacting.
- Reflect and figure out how the slump happened. What contributed to this, and what are the opposite things you need to do to get unstuck?
- Make a lot of tough decisions so that the current challenges aren’t fatal.
- Revisit your mission, vision and values that have served you well and re-commit to them. Or if your mission and vision are clear as mud, now is a good time to add that to your strategic planning initiatives.
If you’re on the flip side and enjoying great success right now, here’s some advice:
- Enjoy it and stop wondering when the rug will be pulled out from under you. Don’t rest too long and get comfortable in your success. Your ceiling could be much higher, but without action your floor could be much lower too.
- Do not forget the basics: Lead your people well, manage risk without avoiding it, keep the marketing engine running, and take rest times to perform at your best.
I share these things with you from two perspectives.
- From a fellow leader who has been at this for more than two decades. I’ve also invested greatly in my growth, as well as the growth of my leadership team. We have spent a lot of resources to learn and grow into better people and leaders, and I would be doing an injustice if I kept what I have learned to myself.
- From watching and evaluating hundreds of credit union leaders I have worked with over the last 15 years. I’ve observed both great and horrible leaders, studied their successes and failures, constantly make notes on what works and what doesn’t. I find the trends and share them with other credit union leaders.
As John Legere, former president/CEO of T-Mobile US, said, “The only way you can fail is to do nothing.” Lift your head up and look beyond the now, act swiftly but with perspective and you’ll certainly look back on this time with gratitude for what you have learned and celebrate the success you are responsible for.