Credit Union Strategy: The Doorbell is Ringing

finger pressing doorbell on a blue wall
Deedee Myers, Ph.D. Photo
Chief Executive Officer
DDJ Myers, an ALM First Company

4 minutes

Insights from boards aspiring to answer the call for an increased positive member impact

A monumental change has been ringing our doorbell for the past few years and is now walking right through—whether we are ready or not. Boards are responsible for strategy, policy, and advocacy, and the call for board performance is loud and strong.

Boardroom dynamics with an organizing principle for strategic excellence, relevant policy shaping, and advocacy in the community and across the nation have a far-reaching positive impact on the membership. This article shares insights from boards aspiring to answer the call for an increased positive member impact.

Conversations That Matter

A quest for forward-thinking mindsets and strategic characteristics to be fully embodied in the boardroom is a door opener to ensure sustainable value in the future. Fine-tuning or a total redesign of the board meeting agenda and committee structures are two ways boards are practicing today to be ready for tomorrow.

Take a look at the agendas for your last six board meetings and answer these questions:

What percentage of board member time was focused on strategy or tactics?

How frequently do one or two voices derail the strategic dialogue for a deep dive on an inconsequential budget line item?

Is it easy to call attention and reset direction when a board member inappropriately crosses the boundary of CEO responsibility?

Or, are voices in the room quiet in deference to that board member’s longevity?

Are we having the conversations that matter?

Useful Committees

Relevant and productive committees support a board strategic mindset. Committees designed to impact the day-to-day operations easily cross over the operational accountability and authority of the CEO and are not the best use of a board member’s strategic and fiduciary competency and time.

Committee members should be clear on how they add value to the committee, its responsibilities, and metrics for success on behalf of the membership. Frankly, a committee involved with deciding the color of paint and carpet or what the compensation of direct reports to the CEO should be is a move away from the inherent need for strategic board leadership.

Chair Leadership

Similar to the loud doorbell ringing to get the board’s attention, there is a loud knocking at the door and the chair needs to answer now before it is too late! The chair is the most critical and pivotal role on the board, and a strong chair, one who makes sure the board is in the right conversation, manages the attention and focus of the board, develops an effective chair-CEO relationship, and ensures strategic decision-making at its best.

We can no longer afford to simply rotate the chair role and give the next person in line the job. Imagine if all credit unions had the same approach for selecting their next CEO, by simply picking the next person in line.

An effective chair has leadership character that includes courage, focus, and decision-making. The chair ensures that all directors are adding value at each board and committee meeting and are prepared to fulfill their responsibilities through learning and development plans.

Board Renewal and Recruitment

Succession planning practices are at the heart of every high-performing board. Our research indicates that at least 35 percent of board members expect to transition off the board within the next three years. Surveys illustrate that most credit unions do not have a systemic succession-planning process and that boards have ample opportunity to develop annual learning plans for each board member and improve their recruitment and onboarding process

Start with a future vision of a high-performing board three years in the future and walk backward to today. Then, create the characteristics needed to ensure a strong pipeline of potential board members.

If you have the mindset that it is difficult to attract the younger generation, pretend there is a ready supply of next-generation leaders knocking at your door. What would you say when you open the door? “It’s a lot of time and work to be on the board” is the most frequent answer. Try this out: “Our board is shifting to be more strategic and high-performing, and your skill set and leadership qualities are what we are looking for. So, let’s talk.”

Once these awesome leaders answer the call, give them a custom learning plan with annual renewals.

Mindset Matters

Forward-thinking mindsets are a call for action to ensure boards have the right people and do the right work all the time. Be mindful about recruiting the talent needed, onboarding, and continual renewal to maintain relevance.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC, is CEO of CUES Supplier member and strategic provider DDJ Myers, Ltd., Phoenix.  DDJ Myers, Ltd. is committed to supporting credit unions with exemplary products and services for board development and governance, strategic planning, executive search, executive compensation advice, and succession planning. The firm’s leadership coaches provide top tier executive and board coaching and facilitation of individual, organization and board assessments.

Compass Subscription