In the world of architecture, there is an interesting principle known as the keystone. The dictionary definition of keystone is “a central stone at the summit of an arch, locking the whole together.”
Doubtless many of you have heard of this before and also recognize the use of the word keystone outside of the architectural realm. It has many societal implications. But have you ever paused to think about how critical the idea of the keystone is to your credit union and its culture/brand?
Regardless of your location, size and field of membership, your credit union and its culture rely on this idea of a keystone to “lock the whole together.” While there are many such keystones to consider, perhaps the three most critical cultural/brand keystones for your credit union include:
- Keeping to your word. Your staff are keen listeners to what the credit union executive leadership team says and does. For example, if you launch a major new brand and culture initiative, with all the pomp and circumstance involved, you must live up to what you say you expect. If you tell staff, using this example, that your new brand and culture is a vitally important thing and that they all serve as brand ambassadors in this venture, you cannot let things slide after the initial announcement. This also strongly applies to your middle management team. Staff will look to senior leaders and their middle-management as the barometers of just how serious any initiative is. If they see things start to slide not long after the announcement, they have little reason to take it seriously. This also includes setting specific metrics for the success of whatever endeavor you launch. You cannot measure that which you do not define. Your very credibility is at stake. Keep to your word.
- Keeping your progress visible. This ties into the mention of metrics above. Cultural/brand metrics are best when they are shared with your entire staff. If you have prioritized a particular cultural/brand initiative and told staff they are accountable to it, it makes sense to share regular updates of those metrics. Credit unions that actively build on their strong culture are also those that openly share both the success and the challenges they face as a team. You cannot simply sing the praises of successes while simultaneously sweeping the dust bunnies of where you came up short under the rug. At the same time, if you pound people over the head with the shortcomings and neglect to spend any time at all on the positives, you’ll quickly run them right into the ground and destroy initiative, imagination and ingenuity; all important positive aspects of your culture and brand. Transparency is the key here. Keep your progress visible.
- Keeping HR involved at all points. Your credit union obviously wants to hire the most talented people that are also most likely to serve as a great fit for your brand and culture. This doesn’t start with later brand training or annual reviews. It must start at the very earliest stages of your cultural intake, the hiring process. Therefore, your HR department must be completely onboard with your brand and culture, what it is and what is not, and actively working to recruit and retain top talent that will add to your culture in their own unique ways. The gatekeepers of your brand and culture matter. Keep HR involved.
The culture and brand of your credit union are not separate entities. They are completely intertwined; a symbiotic relationship between two entities. To use the original architectural reference, they are the keystone that lock the whole together. While these three key critical cultural/brand keystones are a great place to start, there are many others. In what other ways can you challenge the brand and culture of your credit union to be an even better environment for your team?