Many of us have seen this from afar; some of us from close at hand. The CEO is getting close to retirement and has set a course for the organization of just “drifting off into the sunset.” This syndrome happens when the strategic leader and driver of the credit union has decided to retire but takes the course avoiding anything that would be seen as risky or difficult for the CEO. The consequences of this leadership void are the flattening of progress for the organization, and this result is unacceptable in today’s disruptive business climate.

What are the consequences?

The CEO models acceptable behaviors and work ethic. Once the leader becomes a risk or extreme effort adverse, the entire organization follows.

  • Attitudes shift from job excitement to cruise control effort; doing what needs to get done but not seeking improvements, efficiencies, or better methods.
  • Productivity begins to deteriorate.
  • Highly motivated and high performing employees seek a new work environment creating a brain drain.
  • Job satisfaction disappears.
  • The ability of the organization to effectively compete erodes.
  • The organizational culture becomes one of showing up versus contributing.

How is this syndrome prevented?

It starts with the Board. As the one employee the board oversees, it is important that this syndrome is recognized. If the directors feel like the CEO is started to coast, they have a couple of courses of action to take:

  1. Establish performance measures with the CEO to ensure the effort equals the compensation.
  2. Promote an organizational driver to the role of President, The CEO now only a CEO and the President “runs the company.”
  3. Restructure the organization’s strategic planning process that creates a vision for the future credit union, and defines specific strategies that run the credit union and specific strategies to change the credit union. Blue Ocean thinking is essential in this process.
  4. Give the current CEO a severance package and help her/him move on with their retirement.

The second is, as the existing CEO, recognizing you are at this drifting stage of your career. To test this, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is your planning and goal setting for the organization driven by your planned retirement date?
  • Do you find yourself increasing more change resistant?
  • Do you avoid making plans that are going to demand a greater effort and commitment from you or your staff?
  • Do you invest more time in thinking about your retired future than your credit union’s future?
  • Do you dismiss or resist dreaming big for the future of your credit union?
  • Are you afraid or hesitant to take on a BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal?)
  • Do you notice a lack of excitement during staff or all-staff meetings?
  • Do you see fewer ideas being percolated up for decisions?
  • Do you feel stressed when a report indicates a concern about your credit union’s ability to compete or keep up with the competition.

A necessary skill for any leader, especially the CEO, is to recognize when to step away from the helm and let others take the organization to a new level. It should be every leader’s job to not just leave the organization at a better place than when they stepped in, but to set the stage for the next leader to move it beyond your wildest dreams.

Where are you in the leadership continuum – inspiring or drifting?

 

There are several triggers why you may want to transition to a new leadership style. One trigger might be the organizational needs have evolved, and a new leadership style is required to move the organization or team to the next level. Maybe you have learned some skills to become a better leader but need to cast aside some of your old leadership habits. Evolving to a new leadership style doesn’t happen overnight. When moving to a new leadership style, knowing how to make a leadership transition is needed.

The first step is to understand what you are changing in how you direct and influence your team. This introspection is necessary before you move to the next phase of the process. Catalog what you will continue to do and what you will do differently in situations that require your to direct or influence your team.

The next step is to be transparent with your intentions. Your team has learned to expect certain actions and behaviors from you in different situations. To abruptly change how your respond or connect with them instantly can create concern or confusion. To avoid this disruption, tell them what you are doing and why. Help them to understand what is changing and why but more importantly be very clear as to what their role and responsibilities will be as your learn to deliver on your new leadership style. Also, be very clear what you see as the benefits of this change for the team, the organization and you.

Next, consistently ask for feedback from your staff to understand better how they are being affected by this shifting leadership culture. Leadership is about the team and not the leader, so it is an imperative that their leadership needs be realized.

Don’t seek perfection but ask for forgiveness. Just like your team, you have learned behaviors and responses over many diverse experiences, and some of these behaviors and habits are slow to change. When you revert to an old habit or response, admit to your error and ask for forgiveness. Changing your leadership style will require you to relearn a lot of habits; give yourself time to make these changes.

Trust your team to give you the forgiveness and confidence you need to make this significant transition.

Change Leadership in 8 Steps

All teams have three participants: change agents, change neutrals, and change resistors. The key to leading change is empowering the change agents, influencing the change equivocators and helping t…

Source: Change Leadership in 8 Steps

  1. Leadership is not for sissies.
  2. Leadership is not about you.
  3. Leadership has a price.

Let’s diagnose each of these requirements.

Leadership is not for sissies – To be an authentic leader takes courage. This courage is realized in many ways. Sometimes it is the courage to do what you don’t want to do, to do the hardest task first. Sometimes it is to make the hard decision, the one no one else wants to make. Sometimes it is to take the heat when things go wrong. Sometimes it is to confront a mistake or bad situation in real time. Sometimes you have to admit to your mistake and provide a sincere mea culpa.

 All of these actions take courage.

 Leadership is not about you – Sure you can order people, you can use command and control, but the most effective leadership is when you create a climate that others want to be part of, to take action. Leadership is often more about influence than power. Leadership is not a selfish endeavor but an effort to serve those who report to you. You meet their needs, wants and desires and they will attain your goals.

 Leadership is about serving others.

 Leadership has a price – The phrase, “it is lonely at the top” is true. Sure there are well-meaning people to consult with and obstacles to overcome, but the real price is found when you set you ego aside and do what is in the best interest of the many. As a Marine in the field leadership always eats last in case the food supply runs short. As a leader, you must step into the void and make decisions that present significant personal and professional risk.

 These are the price of leadership.

 As an aspiring or seasoned leader, these three points your mantra and loyalty, commitment and respect will follow.

 

Wouldn’t it be nice if our lives were compartmentalized into neat little boxes? This box is for work, this box is for play, this box is for friends, this box is for family – you get the point. But life doesn’t work this way. Life is a giant mash-up of all of these parts, and they intersect with each other and often these intersections are collisions. That is why our search for a work-life nirvana is an impossible goal.

The effort of seeking that impossible work-life balance becomes even more complicated when we become a manager. We need to understand not just the necessity of our job attendance, timeliness, performance, and presenteeism, and we also are expected to oversee and manage these obligations in others as they seek to realize some level of work-life balance.

There is a better way to manage our lives than seeking balance. Think of your life and the daily responsibilities that go with living our lives as integration versus a balance. We have one life and at times, one aspect of our life may necessarily take on a higher priority than another aspect. If a spouse gets laid off, this uncertainty and anxiety will distract even the most loyal employee. If the company is seeking a new round of funding and to get there requires an “all hands on deck” effort, this will distract us from our family obligations. Neither of these examples makes us bad employees or bad spouses, we are just trying to cope with what life has thrown at us.

Here are the steps to attaining an integrated life:

  • Acknowledge to yourself that you have one life, not several lives that can be compartmentalized.
  • Acknowledge that events and circumstances will drive our engagement and attention level. If there is a family crisis, more of our time, attention and energy will be directed to the family problem. If we are in a crunch mode at work, more our time, attention and focus will be directed at work. Our time and attention, focus and execution will ebb and flow based upon life events and circumstances.
  • Once we have come to this personal awareness of how to better manage all aspects of our life, we can now become better servant leaders at work. We know there are times we need to ask more of our staff to help our company or department attain crucial goals, to go that extra mile to drive execution. But also, we are in a better position to understand what stresses an employee is trying to manage outside of the office that may prevent them from having the same focus or attention to their job.
  • As a manager, we need to use this awareness to bring a higher level of trust and transparency to your job and your management of others. This conversation starts with one-to-one conversations. If you observe a performance, focus, timeliness, presenteeism or absenteeism concern, take the time to learn what is causing this behavioral change. It never ceases to surprise me at how much hurt and pain the average employee carries with them to work every day and how hard they work to try to manage their performance around these crisis points. As leaders, we need to bring empathy to the workplace.
  • Give the employee the flexibility they require to handle the crisis. This step is necessary. Until they can get through this crisis their performance, presenteeism and focus will suffer. You can force them to be on-time, but you have not control over how present or capable they are in their job until the crisis has passed.
  • This honesty and transparency work both ways. You, the manager, may have a crisis in your life that is impacting your attention, presenteeism or focus. If we are expecting our employees to be open with their life issues, we also need to show our humanness. This leading by example will solidify the expectation of transparency in the workplace.
  • There are times when we need our staff to give that extra effort. When these moments happen, we must realize that we are asking them to shift their focus and attention more to work at the expense of family. This request is nothing a leader should ever take for lightly and comes with responsibilities. If we are asking them to go the extra for the company or project at the expense of family we must tell them:
    • How long
    • Why
    • How will they benefit

Life is made up of many experiences, events, people and places. It is not something that can be parsed out in equal amounts because these demands present themselves to us often and in ways we didn’t expect. It is these experiences, events, people and places that make our lives exciting and challenging. Once we understand that our work, relationships, and activities are affected both good and bad by life, we can be more successful in putting our attention, thought and effort to those events based upon their priority. Trying to seek balance when our experiences and activities are in constant motion with adjusting priorities is an exercise destined to fail. It is when we make an informed decision on what demands our attention in the now that we can be honest with our family, our staff, our employer and ourselves…

If you were to describe your leadership style, what would you say? If you were to define the leadership style of your credit union what adjectives would you use? Like it or not, we all have a leadership style and if your credit union has not defined their preferred leadership style you have many varieties and some styles likely conflict with others styles.

Why is leadership style important?

One of the main reasons for failures in succession plans results from significant leadership style differences. Recently a $B credit union went through a painful succession plan fail when the “heir apparent” to a retiring CEO brought an entirely different leadership style. It was so far from the prior leadership style that the credit union suffered from a significant brain drain, the exit of several key employees because of this leadership climate change. The board was required to retract on the succession plan and start new CEO search.

In new hires, promotions or even lateral transfers of management staff, a clearly defined leadership style can set this new, promoted or transferred employee up for success or failure. If a leader that believes in “consensus” leadership takes over for a “command-control” leader, the employees will be confused about their authority and the job expectations. When this happens undue job stress is created and productivity suffers.

What are the leadership styles?

Command-control = this style of leader takes on all of the decisions for the business unit. This style can be a continuum but is always very hierarchal and can often be seen as a “my way or the highway” style. Teams that report to the command-control leader often abdicate all decisions to the leader and expect to be told what to do and what their work priorities are. The climate created is often fear centric and often passion and innovation is lacking.

Consensus = this style is often seen as “leadership by committee”. When this style is not partnered with a culture of execution, decisions are often delayed or end up in the never-ending cycle of analysis. Seldom does this style result in a flexible, fast moving or innovative company.

Servant Leader = this style stems from the philosophy of “if you take care of the employee and empower them to own their jobs they will take care of the manager and the company”. This style is often very interactive and requires management to listen carefully to the voices of the staff to insure the manager and the organization are meeting the employee’s needs.

Leadership from your Chair = this style of leadership acknowledges that each employee in the organization is an expert at their job and as a result they need to have a voice on any decisions that impact their job. This style requires all employees, not just management, to see themselves as leaders and ready, willing and able to lead up, horizontally and down.

Choosing the accepted leadership style for an organization is not just simply picking one of the above styles. It requires steps:

  1. Understand the different styles that exist today – this is a dedicated project, usually by a leadership coach, that defines the executive style and the style by business unit, by department and team. It is typically done with a survey of management and their direct reports. This effort identifies the leadership inconsistencies that exist across the organization.
  2. Identify the preferred leadership style the credit union wants to make as the standard. This is usually a facilitated session with the executive team with the goal of establishing an agreed upon style the organization wants to adopt in the future.
  3. Using the research from the initial leadership survey identify the gaps between what the organization wants and what they have now. This goal of this gap analysis is to understand whom the organization needs to “re-train” and a training process, system, style and how the leadership performance will be measured.
  4. Set a hiring and promotion process in place that has a screening function for leadership fit. Ideally this is a pre-screen that is done by HR prior to the hiring manager interview. If the candidate fails this leadership fit interview the candidate is removed from the hiring process. This step is essential because a hiring manager will naturally focus on the skills and execution potential of the new hire or promotion candidate and those criteria may often trump the leadership inconsistencies.
  5. Make leadership style a measurable for performance management and even incentives/bonuses. All management staff need to be trained on how to coach to leadership strengths and weaknesses and how to observe and measure how well the manager or aspiring manager is leading.

In any organization, leadership style takes ongoing effort and focus. Often we will find that the leadership style of an organization will often be a hybrid of the styles noted above. A Servant Leader can also be a consensus leader and also foster a style of Leading from your Chair. Also there may be times when execution becomes a dominant organizational need that requires management to become more of a command control type leader. Having leaders that understand the different styles and the strengths and weakness of each style is essential so they can adapt the style that is driven by circumstance but with an inherent tendency and preference to the identified organizational style. This management flexibility is important to allow leaders to adapt and adjust to manage business needs and performance needs effectively.

We enter the business world with the expectation that we are starting up a trajectory that will always climb to the next promotion, a continual progression in responsibility and authority. This is a myth. Rarely is a career path a continual climb up the ladder. A career path is a “hero’s journey”, one beset with all kinds of threats, setbacks and obstacles before we attain a logical pinnacle to our career.

With every “hero’s journey” there are things we need to learn and do to be successful in our career:

  1. Accept that we will learn a lot of important lessons while on this journey – think of every setback, every obstacle, every layoff, every coaching session as a learning opportunity.
  2. Accept criticism with dignity – not every job we do will we be successful at. Our failures or setbacks will result from our own bad judgment, poor leadership, bad directions or mistakes. The sooner we learn how to manage our emotions and ourselves as we learn of our mistakes and failures the sooner we can move beyond this setback. Criticism and coaching are necessary tools of learning and developing.
  3. Know when to redirect our efforts – not all job assignment fit our skills or strengths. Sometimes we need to seek a reassignment even when that means a lateral move or a step down to a lower rung of the ladder. To try to “fake it ‘til you make it” is a formula for ultimate failure. Know yourself, be honest with who you are and where you can best contribute to the organizational goals and strategies and seek that role, even when it may be a perceived as a career setback.
  4. Learn how to manage and lead up – managers and executives aren’t always right and they are also suffer from the same human frailties of bad decisions, poor judgment and mistakes. Learn how to help your manager become better and therefore more successful in their role. This is a diplomatic endeavor that requires you to be sensitive to the manager’s insecurities and fears. Success in leading/managing up requires you to exercise your influence but also to learn how to lead the conversation to a point where the manager self discovers what you may already know. If you just confront and tell, you will fail in this endeavor. It takes a very thoughtful, sensitive approach. Learn to lead into this conversation with phrases like, “This conversation may feel a little prickly…” or “I would like to share with you a concern that I am having about… It is not meant to be critical of you but it may feel that way…” Having this conversation in a neutral space is helpful when possible, maybe over a cup of coffee or in a conference room instead of in the manager’s office. Make certain you are very clear on your motives; don’t leave then to try to interpret what your motives are.
  5. Seek and use Mentors – having a voice of experience and objectivity is a necessary part of the “hero’s journey”. Different mentors will be needed at different stages of your journey. Seek out mentors that can provide you with the frank and candid view of your seeming reality. A good mentor will require you to work and learn from their counsel but will also require you to be introspective. They won’t solve your challenges but will help you identify strategies and tactics to work through them.
  6. Be honest with your mistakes – we all have worked for managers that cast off blame like Teflon. They always have someone or something to blame for mistakes or failures. Don’t be that person. If you make a mistake have the courage to admit it, do your mea culpa, and then enlist the help of others to mitigate any harm or damage the mistake has caused. Saying I’m sorry is a learned skill. Now this isn’t to say you should make a lot of mistakes so you can practice this skill. But learn the elements of a sincere “I’m sorry”.
    1. Start with eye contact as you say, “I’m sorry” or “I made a mistake”.
    2. Clearly state what was done without making excuses, “I made a judgment call and it was the wrong one.”
    3. Acknowledge what you know has resulted from this mistake, be specific.
    4. State exactly what you have learned from this mistake.
    5. Identify what needs to be done to correct the mistake, be specific.
    6. Ask for the specific help you need to “fix the problem”.
    7. Thank all for their understanding.
  7. Become the expert in your role – regardless of where you are in the org. chart, take the time and initiative to become an expert at the job you are doing. Become a resource for others new to the job and become a voice of how to improve the processes and systems that your job relies on.
  8. Know how your job impacts the organizational goals – take the time to understand how expert performance in your role helps drive some of the key measures your organization cares about. I know this line of sight is often difficult but by using curious inquiry with your manager or others in the organization, the connections and strategic alignment will be discovered.

Whether you are a seasoned employee or a new hire, whether you have been promoted, transferred laterally or even demoted, learn from the experience, apply these eight points to your role and accept the reality that you have a chance for a fresh start with only one focus, that of being an expert in that role.

Companies don’t manage your career for you; you have to manage your career for yourself. If you have applied these eight steps to your role and you find that how your manager or the organization perceives you has not changed or you have been boxed out of your chosen career path, seek a new employer. Sometimes this “hero’s journey” requires a change of scenery…

Although this may seem like an exaggeration, it is extremely hard and costly for a vendor to connect to the core provider. Credit unions are also frustrated by these challenges because they prevent or at best slow down the credit union’s ability to provide their members the best products, services or applications. This slowing down adversely impacts the credit union’s efforts to stay relevant in a world where innovation is driving consumer choice and behaviors. Vendors are frustrated because these integration challenges stymies their ability to bring their innovative products, services and applications to the market quickly and easily.

Are these challenges necessary? Let’s look…

First both a cancer cure and a core integration need a common language. Different vendors are often asking for the same fields out of core but there is no common language or vocabulary. Even different core have different labels for these fields and these language differences need to be translated over and over and over.

Second both the cure for cancer and core integration need a common mapping between the data fields in core and the receiver of these fields. Currently each integration by a vendor to each core seems required a new map to access the data in these fields even though these fields have been accessed by other credit unions and vendors many times before.

Third the credit union and vendor need to learn from the lessons of others that have successfully done an integration for common fields in the past. Scientists cooperate across companies and even borders to seek a cure and are able to cooperate without revealing their “secret ingredient”. Credit unions and vendors need learn key lessons on how to normalize the language and how to “draw” the map for easier integrations from each other and even their competitors while maintaining their “secret ingredient”.

So, what is the solution? Collaboration!

Credit unions are built on their ability to compete in a cooperative world. Some even refer to this as “cooperatition”. It is the ability of credit unions to maintain their individuality and differentiation but still cooperate on matters that help the entire industry. Vendors to credit unions have an opportunity to learn from this unique type of “cooperatition”.

Here’s an example: Vendor A is a online banking provider and Vendor B offers a Personal Financial Management (PFM) product. Both of these vendors need to get access to a lot of the same core data for their product to work (transaction, checking, debit, credit, loan, balance, etc.) In today’s world, both of these vendors build their own map and translation code to allow this integration to work costing the vendor and the credit union significant money in professional services expense, taking too much time and using significant internal resource.

What if vendor to vendor and credit union to credit union we worked together and shared the map and the translation code for the common fields they are accessing it would be possible to remove a lot of the cost and time in doing these integrations.

But it doesn’t end there. These successful integration maps need to be shared with CUFX Standards. This hard work would now be captured in perpetuity. CUFX would then use these lessons learned to develop a common standard accessible for all of the credit unions that now want to build a similar integration with core?

In today’s world of fin-tech innovation, core integrations are no longer an option for credit union seeking to provide the best of breed products, services and applications for their members. This industry is no longer a “one size fits all” industry that a single vendor can provide all of the access, tools and products the consumer demands. Vendors and credit unions cooperating can solve this challenge.

 

The efficiencies and speed to market are realized when credit unions, core providers and vendors agree to a standard for integrations. Most credit unions have their focus on expense control and organizational efficiencies. Also vendors and core providers know any operating efficiencies credit unions realize will result in more sales and faster implementations of products and services. Faster implementations remove many of bandwidth constraints for both the vendor and the credit union.

But, creating a standard for integrations requires a unique negotiation between the credit union, the vendor and maybe the core provider. It also requires that all of the interfaces with the many core systems the vendor has already built be taken into consideration.

Recently a credit union was able to negotiate this kind of implementation with a vendor. In this case it was vendor that provides a “best of breed” loan origination system. Keep in mind that the steps in these agreed upon contact additions can be applied to any kind of system integration.

Here are the points of the engagement contract that the credit union and the vendor agreed to:

[Credit Union] and [Vendor] have contractually agreed included the following in the engagement contract:

  1. [Vendor], at reduced-rate billable hours, will work with [Credit Union] to define gaps between the existing CUFX Consumer LOS Standard and [Vendor] LOS.  [Vendor] will take into consideration their entire existing core interfaces to ensure a complete CUFX LOS Standard.  
  2. [Credit Union], with [Vendor] guidance, will write a CUFX compliant interface using the [Vendor’s] SDK. 
  3. [Credit Union] will then give to [Vendor] the completed interface with acknowledgement and guarantees that [Vendor] will productize and support the CUFX interface within 12 months

Many credit unions might not have the internal development capabilities to complete (2) above. In those cases, it is possible to find out another credit the vendor is working with that has this same core and these two (or more) credit unions take on this project via a cooperative cost sharing effort building the CUFX compliant integration once instead of each building it independently.

The reason credit unions need to work with CUFX to build a standard for integrations is simply because today’s credit union is faced with the need to do more and more integration to stay competitive with their product and services offering. More access and easier tools are being driven by consumer expectations, competitive pressure, the need to stay relevant to consumers with the explosion of FinTech innovation. This extra effort of working with CUFX is important and worthy work that will help credit unions, large and small, stay as a viable option in a consumer driven banking world.

Alex hits on all cylinders with this post!

Alex R Jimenez

Fifth_Avenue_Bank,_New_York_1900 Teller Line, Fifth Avenue Bank, NY 1900 (Wikimedia)

As digital banking continues to grow with banking customers, customer traffic in bank branches has drastically reduced.  In fact, 94% of consumers under 35-years-old bank online, according to First Data’s report, The Unbanked Generation.  The problem has grown so overwhelming that it has become the biggest concern branch banking is facing.

So far the approach that many banks have taken is reactive without being grounded in analysis. The resulting panic has driven many bankers to copy successful retail models, hoping to capture their success. As if to illustrate this point earlier this year, at a banking conference, I overheard a discussion between three bankers who were talking about the future of the American bank branch.  We had just listened to a speech by James Gilmore, co-author of “The Experience Economy,” in which he made the point that American…

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