As John Maxwell famously stated, “everything rises and falls on leadership.” This absolutely applies to your credit union and, more specifically, to the brand experience you expect your employees to live and deliver.
Your credit union’s brand experience is a promise made to both existing and potential members that essentially says “This is what you can expect when you are a member at our credit union. You will be treated this way, with this language, with this goal in mind.” When staff, at any level, fail to live up to the brand promise, you have a brand gap and ultimately damage the trust and confidence members and the larger community have in your credit union.
Whether or not such a brand gap develops is determined largely by the leadership dynamic at your credit union. Refer again to the Maxwell quote above. Everything, including your brand, will rise and fall on the quality of leadership at your credit union. How can a leadership team best position itself to rise to this call? Consider the three following key leadership quotes and principles to help drive the brand at your credit union.
I must follow the people. Am I not their leader? —Benjamin Disraeli
This quote speaks directly to the principle of servant-leadership; that a leader is best positioned to direct people when he or she demonstrates the ability to first serve thrm. Credit union leadership teams do not exist in a vacuum and cannot set an “ivory tower” example. Your leadership team must be of, by and for the members, leading by living the brand promises with themselves, their fellow employees and their members every day. Great brand leaders are, first, great brand servants.
Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it. —General Dwight Eisenhower
Training staff to your brand is critical. Holding them accountable to brand standards is equally important. However, like many other qualities, your brand is ultimately what people do with it (and say about it) when you are not around to see/hear. It’s one thing for staff to live the brand when you are in the same room, observing them. It’s quite another for them to do it, and do it enthusiastically and genuinely, when you are not around. A good indication of your brand beginning to saturate your credit union’s culture is when staff are living it, every day, whether you (or any other senior leadership team member) are in the same room. Great brand leaders motivate staff to live the brand not because they want them to do it, but because staff eventually comes to want to do it themselves, with self-initiative.
Do what you feel in your heart to be right–for you’ll be criticized anyway. —Eleanor Roosevelt
It doesn’t matter if you have 10 employees or 10,000, there will always be a number (typically a small fraction) that, for whatever reason, simply will not buy into your brand. Maybe they are long-tenured employees and are resistant to change. Perhaps they don’t like elements of your brand such as brand language or the steps you take to take care of members. Regardless of their reasons, once the brand is developed, introduced to staff and initially trained-to, you must stick to your guns. Brand experiences typically don’t die by exploding in a spectacular manner. Rather, brand experiences usually slowly unravel, like a thread on a sweater, when credit union leaders allow small brand discrepancies or exceptions. This cannot be allowed to happen. When you introduce staff to brand, your leadership team is putting its full credibility on the line in front of the entire team. They will expect you to live up to that which you preached. Once you back down on anything, the brand experience can quickly unravel. Yes, there will be voices that criticize your brand experience. Great brand leaders can accept and redirect this criticism while maintaining brand focus and high expectations of staff to deliver the brand exceptional levels.
A credit union with an amazing brand experience is much better position to weather all types of polarizing climates. However, an amazing brand experience requires amazing leadership from your executive team. By modeling brand leadership first from a servant perspective, developing staff that live the brand every day and by adhering to the principles of your brand regardless of criticism, your leadership team will take the brand to great heights, growing your credit union and your bottom line.