“Final Score: Board – 1; CEO – All Others”

December 11, 2018

“Final Score: Board – 1; CEO – All Others” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

“Members of the Board, I would like you to meet our new CFO,” said the CEO of a large credit union as he introduced the newest executive. Pleasantries were exchanged, small talk occupied several minutes, and the CFO excused himself to tend to the afternoon’s matters. The CEO shared the background of the CFO and how happy he was to now have a complete team of managing executives. The scheduled meeting with the Board and CEO continued as prearranged.

In contrast, another credit union’s Board directed the CEO to not relieve an operations executive of her duties. “She’s been with us for years, members love her, and it may send the wrong message to staff, pointed the Board.” The CEO felt her hands were tied. The operations executive was not meeting new expectations, had not delivered on a performance improvement plan, and was actively working against necessary changes in the credit union’s culture and strategic growth plans.

A board of directors has one employee – the CEO. Most breakout education sessions on governance remind us of that steering tenet. How is it practiced at your credit union? Obviously, boards develop working relationships with other executives; the executives are often involved in meetings that involve strategy and board affairs. And, boards often rely on the expertise of executives to share deeper insights into operational matters.

As much as a board desires to ensure the credit union is led by the best, its role is limited to selecting and evaluating the CEO. For the CEO to be effective and fulfilled as the top executive, he or she anticipates having the authority to build and refine the kind of executive team that is suitable for the credit union’s strategic future. While the CEO may choose to discuss issues and candidates with the board; that conversation should be for insights, clarity, and observation. Ultimately, the CEO is responsible for building the organization and accountable for the results that follow.

As for the CEO with the excessively involved board; she ultimately made it clear: the credit union would continue to suffer financially under current operating leadership; and, was about to struggle even more as she considered resigning. Her board decided to commit to its one employee – her. The results? Membership growth, record revenue, higher margins, increased efficiency, lower losses, and newfound profits.

The most effective boards remain focused on governance and oversight; and, the most valuable CEOs remain occupied with strategy and execution. Boards can best help their CEOs succeed with clear support on strategy and the freedom to implement. In return, the CEO can deliver what the board needs most from its singular employee – sound operations, strategic progress, and sustained relevance for members.

© 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: jeff@jeffrendel.com; www.jeffrendel.com; 951.340.3770.

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The Member Experience: A Phone in One Hand, Time-Honored Service in the Other

November 21, 2018

“The Member Experience: A Phone in One Hand, Time-Honored Service in the Other” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

During a recent credit union lending conference keynote, I offered up the idea that we – for the remaining hour – retitle the meeting the “Borrowing Conference” as a way to provide focus on the member. It made for a stimulating dialogue as we concentrated on the borrowing-lending experience from a member’s perspective. In the end, crafting easier experiences for members was significant in improving the experience and allowing for more loan growth.

Several dozen credit union leaders from all states – contributing their thoughts to this article – offered their views on improving the borrowing experience. Truth be told, the elements of a successful borrowing experience extended to other member experiences. In general, four themes emerged: go digital; listen to your members; the only way is the easy way; and, stay true to the credit union service model. Let’s explore.

Go Digital

“Ink pens around the industry are drying up,” shared one CEO, “And that’s just the way our members like it.” From research to application to underwriting updates to approval to signing to service, the message is clear: members expect the entire borrowing experience to be mobile. “We accepted that our credit union is a retail business with high retail expectations from our members, shared a senior lending executive. “If our members can check-in for a flight and order a room service sandwich for lunch before landing, they anticipate the same access and experience with every retail business, including ours.” For these credit unions, self-service is the foundation for member service.

Listen to Your Members

An attention-grabbing slide found its way into a PowerPoint deck displaying that 80 percent of executives think their businesses deliver an outstanding consumer experience while 8 percent of consumers answer the same. To discover how to close that perceived gap, many credit unions utilize member participation and feedback in their design, testing, and refinement of member experiences. This end-user model is valuable: the best source of information about a new or existing experience is the member. Constant, real-time feedback allows for continuous refinement, incremental innovation, and an ear-to-the-ground process that listens, learns, and acts from the wisdom of those served.

The Only Way is the Easy Way

Historically, the borrowing process can be inconvenient, drawn out, and stressful. Much industry research has shown that the best predictor of repeat business and increased spend is “ease of doing business.” To this end, a number of credit unions began asking, “How can we: create as few steps as possible; approve in-branch as quickly as indirect; work ‘members’ hours’ rather than just 9 AM to 5 PM; and, think through the member’s eyes?” Through journey and empathy mapping processes, these credit unions understood where processes and experiences started, slowed, abandoned, and ended. A chief experience officer summed it up best, “Until we figured out our inconvenience – and took the hard, but necessary steps toward greater ease and convenience – we were losing opportunities to serve our members and grow.”

Stay True to the Credit Union Service Model

As quickly as members are moving toward omni-digital status – and as much as the cost accountant and efficiency aficionado in all of us loves self-service – not all experiences are digital. Some models and communities lend themselves to a more “high touch” standard of service. Some loan requests can’t be auto-decisioned; they’re “character” loans. And, some experiences require a human voice, face, and mind to reason through matters of financial importance. “We’re dealing with people’s lives, families, and financial resources. All are intertwined and incredibly important to the member,” shared a COO. “We want our members to use technology; and, our members will use it as necessary. But, not at the expense of providing service, delivering an experience, and expanding a partnership with the credit union they own.”

A picture that comes to mind is the well-known credit union logo and image of two hands holding a globe and caricatures of people. The depiction has been used around the world and continues to represent the philosophy of “people helping people.” While the illustration may appear outdated, the message continues to remain pertinent. An up-to-date refresh on the logo might position a mobile phone in one hand while the other supports the value of the credit union philosophy and model. And, it just may capture the essence of the member experience: a balance of digital and personal, both supporting your credit union’s vision of service to all members through all phases of life.

© 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: jeff@jeffrendel.com; www.jeffrendel.com; 951.340.3770.


How Your Board Can Enrich Your CEO’s Success

November 20, 2018

“How Your Board Can Enrich Your CEO’s Success” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

The relationship between a Board and the CEO can be best described as a partnership. The Board looks to the CEO for planning and execution; and the CEO looks to the Board for guidance and strategic focus. How can your Board best partner with your CEO in enriching her or his executive effectiveness?  In listening to scores of credit union CEOs, three themes emerged describing ways that a Board can increase its value to the CEO.

Expand Your Outlook

Many directors are, or have been, leaders in their professional fields. The various perspectives are of great value to the CEO because they embolden the CEO to think in different ways. Often, the diverse insights, experiences, and opinions – while not instructions – can help your CEO add applied value to your credit union’s long-term vision. A fresh way to see the Board’s role is that of “the guide on the side.” While business plans and day-to-day execution are the bailiwick of the CEO, your Board can ensure it keeps its focus on next levels of strategic success for your credit union and members.

A constructive method to help lead your Board with this expanded view design is to encourage your CEO to look for new ways to grow the long-term experiential, economic, and civic value of your credit union. Whether it be an expanded footprint, new line of business, or testing an untouched opportunity; this approach allows your Board to help your CEO work “on the business,” rather than the details of being “in the business.”

Commit to a Continuous Partnership

Great boards keep getting better; and in many ways – education, certification, self-evaluation, recruitment, leadership, etc. After all, a CEO deserves a great board (and vice versa). While individual development is significant, so is the fullness of the relationship with your CEO. Where your Board meetings – by design – are focused on business, first-rate communication between your Board and CEO is central.

Your Board Chair can lead the communication/partnership dynamic. The Chair can assure that each director’s insights are sought out and heard. The Chair can ensure that each director adds to the conversation and deferentially considers others’ contributions to the dialogue. Last, the Chair can sustain that the CEO is getting maximum benefit from the Board and look for ways to enhance its support and encouragement to the CEO.

Speak with One Voice

E Pluribus Unum – “Out of Many, One” goes the motto of the United States. It functions in the Board Room, too; and, it’s of immeasurable value for your CEO. A mixed set of directors will occasionally produce an assorted array of understandings, expectations, and desires. It can also generate dissent.  While dissent is valuable when it leads to better decisions, it cannot lead to confusion for your CEO and out-of-focus guidance for execution. Dissent stays, and one message leaves, the Board Room.

While your Chair should guarantee that all thoughts are gathered and considered; there may be times when your CEO needs leadership from the Board, even if a split vote ensues. Delay may lead to opportunity lost; and, dissenting ideas may eventually be managed through execution. However, as a Board – a single body – one voice must guide and support your CEO. It allows her or him to focus and execute, delivering results and relevance for your credit union.

If your Board wants to be the best body it can be for your CEO, ask – and look for ways to act. It’s a fundamental component for a successful relationship. Your CEO can ask the same from your Board (a subsequent article on this aspect to follow). And, it’s a way to grow – together – to make certain your members get the best credit union they deserve.

© 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: jeff@jeffrendel.com; www.jeffrendel.com; 951.340.3770.


Ten Attitude Skills for Front Line Leaders

November 15, 2018

“Hire for attitude, train for skill,” is a workplace saying that has existed for decades. Its premise is simple: Attitude creates opportunities for success; skills complete the tasks to implement the opportunity. As frontline leaders, your mindset paves the way to deliver exceptional service for your members. Below are ten attitude skills that everyone can put to work, effortlessly, right away.

  1. Being on time. For your shift, from your lunch break, and at every meeting with a member. Timeliness shows that others’ schedules are just as important (if not more) than our own.
  2. Work ethic. Your credit union’s success didn’t happen overnight; it occurred one member at a time. Your commitment to hard work, every moment and member, is the key to success.
  3. Effort. Often, you’re asked to do something new; and, it can be frightening because of the fear of failing. The best way to overcome this fear? Act. You’ll learn, succeed, and get better.
  4. Body language. A smile, “good morning,” handshake, and open posture creates a welcoming atmosphere. It says, “I’m glad you stopped by. How can I make your day better?”
  5. Energy. Stand when you meet a member; find a way to add value to a conversation; and, take a genuine interest in another person. You’ll find new ways to win and have fun in the process.
  6. Attitude. If you believe a transaction will be a hassle, that transaction will be a hassle. If you believe a great experience is yours to own, your outlook will create that great experience.
  7. Passion. You get to help members put more money into their lifestyles. Knowing that you help create big and small differences can put zeal into the mix of daily opportunities to win.
  8. Being coachable. Admit it: you don’t know it all, but it would be nice to keeping growing your expertise at your job. Ask your manager where you can get better and act on the advice.
  9. Doing extra. Some days, you’re so efficient that you might find an extra thirty minutes left in the day. Take initiative and lend a hand to a colleague who could use your help and support.
  10. Being prepared. Keep your work organized, study up on products, and stick to one task at a time. Your efficiency, knowledge, and focus will be top quality – and members will love it.

JC Penney said, “The friendly smile and the word of greeting are certainly something fleeting and seemingly insubstantial…But they work for good beyond your power to measure their influence.” You have countless opportunities each day to create positive experiences for members and lasting impressions of your credit union. It begins with attitude, continues with exceptional service, and peaks with lasting success – for your members, credit union, and professional development.

© 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 leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.

Contact: jeff@jeffrendel.com; www.jeffrendel.com; 951.340.3770.


“The Strategic Sprint Just Got Faster”

September 20, 2018

“The Strategic Sprint Just Got Faster” by Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

A 2015 CU Insight article, “The Credit Union Strategic Sprint,” reasoned that including 90-day Strategic Sprints into operating plans would build start-up enthusiasm and attitudes among executives, managers, and front line leaders. At its core, the Strategic Sprint systematized a year’s worth of strategic initiatives into quarterly sprints to toward incremental success.

Enter The Age of Agile; a stage where success is marked by an organization’s ability to understand, plan, and act in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous marketplace. “Our strategic planning process used to span five years,” shared the CEO of a multi-state, multi-billion dollar credit union. “We recognized that a five-year outlook created a ‘We have five years’ approach. But, our members won’t wait. These days, we focus on two years, but we are constantly moving forward in thirty-day segments.”

The Strategic Sprint just got faster. Agile management and execution is now a strategic necessity and advantage.

Several other credit union leaders disclosed how they employ small, cross-functional, independent teams that work in short cycles. Their continuous states of intentional and strategic movement allow them to habitually be in a state of “To Do, Doing, and Done.” “Strategy is not a place,” shared a long-time CEO, “It is an activity that must be drilled every day.”

Some takeaways from these credit unions focused on agility in their strategic execution.

  • Focus matters most. From the Board Room to the C-Suite to the Boots-on-the-Ground, these credit unions welcome that actions and decisions can occur through a process, rather than at the end. Conventional planning often involves extended periods of information collecting and investigation. “Often, we don’t have the luxury of three months to research a new product or provider, says a Florida CEO. “We have three months to research, decide, and begin. Haste does not lead to waste; rather, it compels us to find focus.”
  • Small, appropriate teams – with a time-sensitive mission – generate fervor. For each strategic initiative, these credit unions included leaders from all areas with a direct interest in an outcome. For example, one credit union had a strategic initiative to “Introduce an auto leasing product in 90 days.” On the team were representatives from lending, marketing, IT, branches, the contact center, and compliance. If one did not have specific influence or decision-making authority, he or she was not a part of the team. Peripheral and excessive teammates only slowed down the works.
  • Three weeks proved the right time for most decisions. With a compelling, time-sensitive goal before them, these functional and focused teams mapped a process that determined the order of decisions – and the focus for the team. In most cases, three weeks was ideal. The time frame was long enough to gather, review, debate, and decide; but, short enough that urgency was inserted into the equation and “sleeves were rolled up” right away. The fourth week was for loose ends, brief celebrations, and moving on to the next three-week cycle.

As your credit union moves forward for its members, an interdependent blend of relevance, swiftness, and precision is necessary when executing on strategic matters. This requires a new level of agility in management and leadership. Consider these lessons from credit unions that have cultivated agility and necessity into their planning processes. As the industry moves faster – and members’ expectations lead the way – so must our ability to swiftly deliver products, services, and results.

© 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: jeff@jeffrendel.com; www.jeffrendel.com; 951.340.3770.


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: jeff@jeffrendel.com; www.jeffrendel.com; 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: jeff@jeffrendel.com; www.jeffrendel.com; 951.340.3770.