Three ways to keep your leadership brand current

When I think of companies that have established an excellent leadership brand, I think of Ukrops, a grocery chain where my family had great shopping experiences, and my mother had an exceptional customer service experience.

One particular day, Mom got her grocery order all checked out and then realized she didn’t have her wallet. The checker calmly and kindly told her to go home, put her groceries away in the refrigerator, and then come back to pay.

This is a fine example of leadership brand, which the Harvard Business Review defines as a “reputation for developing managers and staff people with a distinct set of talents that are uniquely geared to fulfill customers’ and investors’ expectations.” That checker knew the right thing to do to take care of my mom that day. And she did it without hesitation.

I think about this idea of “leadership brand” all the time. Through its 50-year history, CUES has built a solid leadership brand. As an organization, we are known for top-notch offerings supported by people throughout the organization who are empowered to serve our members on the spot.

Credit unions have a reputation for leadership brand, too. In fact, outstanding service to members is credit unions’ brand personified. And the service component of what your CU does is the difference between “customer” and “member.”

But credit unions can’t rest easy with their current leadership brands. If you leave your leadership brand alone for long, you won’t stay on top. Other organizations will figure out your brand and pass right on by. In the credit union world, that translates to the fact that more and more community banks have improved their service levels and are challenging CUs’.

CUES can’t sit on its leadership brand laurels, either.

At CUES, we’re small enough that we can involve everyone in our strategic planning and organization-wide thinking. This is a benefit to us, as we want every conversation that staff members have with CUES members and non-members to be rooted in our organizational vision and brand.

CUES is also developing new offerings designed to help credit unions stay nimble and continue to be known for their leadership brand. For example, the inaugural Strategic Innovation Institute, to be hosted at MIT this September, will help CUs differentiate themselves by virtue of stronger innovative thinking. Superior service is absolutely a component of innovation and differentiation.

Additionally, CUES now has a vice president in charge of future development. He’s tasked with asking every day, “What are we looking at down the road?” We don’t want to just be the same old CUES, keeping the same repeating curriculum. So we have this executive in place to evaluate new areas and different ways of delivering what we offer.

Based on CUES’ experience, what can CUs do to keep evolving their leadership brand?

1)     Include your staff in planning whenever possible, and empower them to serve members on the spot.

2)     Help your team develop innovative thinking skills through such learning opportunities as CUES’ Strategic Innovation Institute.

3)     Task a key staffer to regularly ask the question, “What are we looking at down the road in terms of delivering on our service promise to members?”

I look forward to seeing your CUs and the movement as a whole continue to deliver on its much-deserved leadership brand. If you have a particular story to tell, please email me.

Charles Fagan

Charles Fagan

Charles E. “Chuck” Fagan, III is President and CEO of PSCU, a credit union service organization that leverages the cooperative model to better serve credit unions and their members through ... Web: Details