What will your tombstone say?

I don’t mean to be morbid but pretend for just a minute that your credit union closed up business today – it’s the end – tomorrow it ceases to exist.

What would your community say about that? What would your members say? What would your employees say? Would anyone attend your “funeral”? What would your epitaph say in tomorrow’s newspaper? What would be inscribed on your tombstone?

I know this is a pretty depressing way to start an article but it’s an important consideration when assessing the current state of your credit union. Think today about what your community, members, and employees would say tomorrow about your passing … and let that drive your actions today to become the absolute best credit union possible.

As a leader of your organization (regardless of your title!) your goal every day should be to do something bigger, better, or different to become a better version of yourself – both individually and collectively. That requires two vital steps: 1) take an honest look in the mirror and identify your strengths and weaknesses; and 2) be bold and brave and do things in a proactive way to take those strengths and weaknesses to a higher level.

To tackle step #1, you will need a variety of outside perspectives on your strengths and weaknesses. It doesn’t matter what you’ve been told in the past and it certainly doesn’t matter what you think about it; the only thing that matters is what others feel about you right now. Talk to your members every day (not just once a year in a survey), talk to non-members, talk to ex-members, talk to employees, talk to ex-employees, talk to competitors (whenever realistic), talk to other businesses in the community (even if they have no affiliation with you) – get the perspective from as many sources outside your executive offices as possible to get a true and honest read on your current state.

Tackling step #2 is largely dependent on the outcome from step #1 but there are some fundamental aspects you should probably count on addressing, including:

  • Solidify your brand – why are you in business? The textbook answer is to make money or serve members but, in your heart, why are you in business? What’s your just-cause and what’s your passion for being in existence? Simon Sinek instructs us to start with our “why” every day – on a business and personal level. Solidifying your brand means being about defining and clearly articulating “why you do what you do” and answering it from the heart.
  • Be different – what makes you different? There are so many financial institutions in the world, what makes you standout? And be specific in describing your difference – saying you give good service isn’t enough; what is it about your service that no one else can deliver? Everyone else has the same product, generally similar rates, and comparable delivery channels. So what makes you different and why should someone chose you for their financial business?
  • Be visible – as a credit union, be open about your differentiation. Speak proudly and openly about your brand and vision and passion. Invite your members, and future members, to join in. As a leader, share these things with your staff on a consistent basis – don’t leave it in the strategic planning folder, weave it into the fabric of your culture. If you don’t make it visible, no one else will.
  • Everyone plays a part – if you claim your people are your most important “asset”, then why aren’t you including them more in setting the direction of the credit union? They can be an incredibly valuable meter for both the internal process as well as the member journey. Tap into them; leverage that perspective; and, most importantly, make them feel ownership in making the credit union successful. Put them on stage and let them play their part.
  • Say thank you – think about making mom proud – at every turn, challenge yourself to find a way to say “thank you” to someone. Thank your members in your onboarding efforts, on a banner on your home page, and in every direct conversation. Thank you to your employees in every team meeting, in a pop-in visit to someone’s office, and in reviewing their performance appraisal. Say it with sincerity and passion and back it up with action, whenever possible.

In a nutshell, your effort to be the best version of yourself every day is to ask yourself what you need to do each day to create the most outstanding employee culture and most awesome member experiences. In the morning, ask yourself: what will I do today to impact these two areas; and before leaving at night, ask yourself: what did I do today to improve in these two areas. Simple, yes; but only if you make it your highest priority every day.

Now, back to that tombstone thing: it really becomes quite paradoxical that if we focus on what our epitaph might say, we’ll never have to worry about it because our credit union will never die. In fact, focusing on it will lead our credit union to thrive and reach greater levels of life, relevance, and vibrancy than you could ever imagine. Plus it makes for a much greater and more enriching environment to build our business existence around the employees and members instead of that textbook definition. And it’s more fun!

While the solution to this challenge resides at home, with you and your leadership, you will need some outside assistance, to some extent. My firm is here to help … and our passion to do just that. We truly want to help every credit union create the optimal employee and member experience culture. Shoot me an email (probert@fi-strategies.com) or give me a call (636-578-3280) and let’s talk about creating the best version of yourself and composing the most positive epitaph for your tombstone.

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 20 years. Paul is the Chief Consulting Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a private consulting company ... Web: fi-strategies.com Details

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