Three Ways Boards Can Help Their CEOs

July 5, 2018

The relationship between a Board and its CEO is best described as a partnership. CEOs depend upon their Boards for guidance and support, while Boards rely upon their CEOs for focus and execution. How can your Board continue to help your CEO deliver strategic results for your credit union and its members? Through focus, action, and being a voice for members.

  • Focus on the long-term. As your credit union grows, governance and long-term strategic focus become more important. While Board meetings need updates of financial status and noteworthy operational matters; of greater significance, your Board can help the CEO work “on” the business, rather than be “in” the business. By investing more time on “white board” items of direction, legacy, and value, your Board helps your CEO lead a credit union that delivers the kind of results that keep your credit union relevant for decades to come.
  • Action over unanimity. Often, after much deliberation, Board members are unanimous in their votes on strategic direction and major operational decisions. However, from time to time, dissenting votes are present. It’s easy to table an issue, hoping for unity, but opportunities can be lost. “A 5-2 vote gives me direction,” said one CEO. “And, often, I can address the dissenting Board members’ concerns during the management phase.”
  • Be the voice of the member. In the most significant sense, your Board represents the collective interests of your members; the members are the owners, after all. Though the credit union model is not-for-profit, it should read “for value.” Often, that value is financial and experiential. “Our Board has made a practice of asking ‘What’s in it for the members?’ as our CEO discusses business plans and courses of action,” shared a large credit union’s Board Chair. “When we recognize the well-defined benefit our members will receive, we acknowledge that our Board is rightly representing their ownership interests in the credit union.”

Overseeing safety, soundness, and strategy frequently describes where Boards devote the bulk of their time. Though the design and execution of strategy and plans is, chiefly, the CEO’s role; Boards can increase the odds of success for their CEO and her or his execution of plans. With long-term focus, commitment to action, and justly representing members; your Board can help your CEO deliver valuable results to current members and those destined to help drive future growth.

© 2018 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.


“Next Level Skills for Front Line Leaders” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

June 25, 2018

As credit union members’ and consumers’ expectations and options for financial services continue to expand, so must the member experience. How does a credit union further develop member service and experience skills when so many possibilities are presented? In listening to scores of credit union CEOs and senior executives, more than a few themes emerged for enhancing the next level of skills for the member experience. Let’s explore how your credit union can practically enhance the member experience at the point of first, and most often, connection – the front line leader.

Be an expert. It’s a given that front line leaders should know a credit union’s products inside and out. More important, though, is the ability to ask questions, determine potential solutions, and make simple recommendations. It’s as down-to-earth as considering one’s self a consultant to members and helping each member achieve expected results. The expertise delivered to members demonstrates in-depth knowledge of issues and answers, positioning your front line as a trusted resource for members.

Be engaging. While a great deal of the member experience focuses on achieving results, it’s also pleasant to enjoy the human interaction. Communication skills, professionalism, individual focus, a personal touch, and body language awareness come into play. The front line is often the only point of personal contact for members; an engaging experience displays respect and appreciation, generating repeat business and long-term loyalty. Every interaction with a member is an opportunity to increase the value he or she expects and deserves from the credit union.

Be empathetic. Every member has a different story and need. Where one member applies for a jumbo mortgage, another member is checking a deposit balance daily until payday. Part of the member experience is seeking to understand where a member stands now, and helping the member move toward to the next step of success, regardless of business value. The role of the front line leader is to serve – in times of plenty and when budgets are stretched. Building lifetime partnerships with members involves serving members through all lifetime experiences.

Be elastic. Odds are high that your credit union’s business model has changed over the years; and, odds are higher that it will continue to change for members and their expectation levels. While positions at credit unions may remain; roles, duties, hours, and locations may change. The character of a business that grows with its members is that it changes with and for its members. It’s all part of upholding a business model that adapts with members. The better we are at changing and providing what members want, the greater the odds of members’ continued loyalty.

Be an entrepreneur. A business that is growing is one that is selling its products and services. Sales is a natural part of a business on the move. Entrepreneurial success takes an energetic, go-getter attitude that wants nothing more than the member to win with the value the credit union provides. Seeing every member interaction as an opportunity to help a member win leads to discovering where appropriate products and services help members most. Dismissing an opportunity to viably add value to a member’s financial and experiential well-being is effective neglect. When the member wins, your credit union wins. An entrepreneurial outlook and set of habits focus on success for every member, every time.

For most members, most times, their primary interactions with a credit union are via technology. Yet, human interaction is still a large share of the member experience and business development cycle. Consider the insights above, from credit union leaders, as you hire and develop the first – and most functional – level of leadership at your credit union.

© 2018 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

Great Boards Ask Great Questions

May 30, 2018

“Great Boards ask Great Questions” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

“How do you oversee your credit union differently today than five to ten years ago?” a panel of large credit unions’ Board Chairs was asked, referring to the pre-multi-billion dollar days of their credit unions. Unanimously, the chairs agreed that questions to their CEOs that focused on central strategies was of greatest benefit; and, operational conversations were best left to the CEO and her or his team of executives.

Similarly, when asked what types of questions from their Boards helped balance governance and execution, CEOs from several dozen additional credit unions indicated that “focus” and “challenge” were of highest value in aligning oversight and implementation. Basically, for a board to add tremendous value for its CEO, it should become a master of questions that are focused and challenging. Below are ten examples to get your Board started on the path of asking great questions.

  • What are our three most important areas of focus this year? This helps your Board concentrate on the broad direction of your credit union and where you anticipate moving forward.
  • What major strategies move the CU forward? Attaching specifics and measures to your areas of focus, strategies and plans allow your Board to view the real-world steps of progress.
  • What risks should we be taking? As fiduciary agents, a conservative outlook is normal. But, credit unions don’t grow – and members aren’t served – without taking well-designed and well-managed risks.
  • What are we missing with these plans and ideas? Part Devil’s Advocate and part Second Set of Eyes; often, a Board’s perspective and external assessment can help to refine ideas with angles overlooked during the internal design and deliberation process.
  • Where can we mitigate risk or improve the odds of success? Mitigating risk doesn’t eliminate risk (only inaction does that), but a firm analysis of risk and reward can increase the expected return for new or continued investment.
  • What results transpire with reasonable growth? Exceptional growth? Slow growth? With plans refined, different scenarios allow your Board to perceive the bottom line potential of your strategies; and, varied situations prepare your Board for possible modifications as results materialize.
  • What do you (the CEO) need to best execute and deliver long-term results? Here’s the part where your CEO tells your Board exactly what it will take to execute a plan. Be it capital outlays or business model shifts, investments outside the course of ordinary business are often a part of larger, strategic plans.
  • Are we moving forward at the same pace as members? Innovation, access, and relevance come into play every day. What do your members require and is your credit union acting upon their expectations for modern, pertinent financial services?
  • Are we staying true to our mission, adding and delivering value to members? Every credit union’s mission statement reads different, but states the same: to serve members. As you oversee strategic results, decisions, and trade-offs, do your members continue to receive and use products and services that add immediate and long-term benefit to their lives?
  • How can the Board help you (the CEO) grow professionally? The need for talent development doesn’t stop once one reaches the corner office. Ask your CEO what he or she needs to become a better CEO. An investment in your CEO is an investment in your credit union and for its members.

As leaders in governance, your greatest role is safeguarding the long-term viability of your credit union. This roles requires that you oversee the provision of value to members, sound financial results for sustainability, and consistent improvement for relevance and legacy value. Asking great questions of your CEO, with great results for members in mind, provides great value to all parties as they focus on leading – strategically and with great intent.

© 2017 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.

Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises, works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact:;; 951.340.3770.

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