Is It REALLY a Priority?

Originally posted on CU Insight – 4/18/14

There is a lot of information on how to be more productive not only at the workplace but also in one’s personal affairs.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research on this very topic. One book that I highly recommend is “Folding Time” by my good friend and internationally renowned productivity expert, Neen James.

One of the most common mistakes that organizations make and that leads to decreased productivity is that they misidentify priorities. What do I mean? There are many examples. Let’s examine a couple of “priorities” that are pretty common:

We need training on _______.  Organizations decide that their employees are lacking in a certain area. It might be a specific skill set (service, building relationships, business development, lending, etc.) Executives realize that if their employees get better at those things, they will be more productive. They will work smarter….not harder. They will reach and exceed the goals that have been set. They will be happier and the company will benefit.

We need to perform an analysis of the competitive forces that exist in our market. A thorough understanding of any organization’s marketplace is crucial to its success. Enough said.

Our employees need to be more engaged. For full disclosure, I am not a big fan of the term “engagement.” I think that’s it’s overused to the point of it being sociologically cliché. When I talk to clients, I encourage them to create loyal employees. To do so, the organization must have a solid and effective value proposition.  So the task is to create that strong value proposition and then provide the guidance and training for the employees so that they can truly be advocates for that value proposition.

So, now you’ve identified some priorities. Now just GO and TAKE ACTION on them! Simple enough, right?

Not so fast. Unfortunately, something else happens in entirely too many cases. Namely, the organizations collect information, perform due diligence, obtain proposals, and then…..

“We’re too busy for this right now….”

“We’re still thinking about it. Yes, we know. It’s been 6 months….”

“Our meetings get in the way…..”

“So and so didn’t do their part….”

“Maybe we can fit it in for next year…..”

Also, there is a bit of unprofessional and even discourteous behavior that occurs in some cases.  Namely, when the people (e.g., internal company personnel or even outside service providers) that take the time to prepare proposals try to follow up for an update or answer,  they find that voicemails go unanswered, e-mails are ignored, and there seems to be no contact at all.  So it begs the question – was this really a priority?  

Do any of these excuses or actions sound familiar?

Here’s how the best organizations deal with what they’ve identified as priorities:

They don’t let other things get in the way of completing the tasks associated with going into action.

If something is truly a priority, they are ready to act immediately when they are presented with a plan that can get the job done.

They don’t get “buyer’s remorse” before they even buy.

Everything that is not on that “priority” list will have to wait. Period.

They have the professionalism and courtesy to respond to the people that have taken valuable time and put in considerable effort preparing the information that was requested.  

So when you’re identifying priorities in your organization, make sure that they are really and truly the most important things that you should be working on right now.

If you’re not prepared to ACT, it’s not a priority. If you get buyer’s remorse before you even buy, it’s not a priority.  If you know that this is really a Wish List item for “one day,” wait until that day when you make it a priority before you request that anyone start working on a plan.

But be honest with yourself and others that might be counting on you to “flip the switch” that puts a plan in motion. Identify your organization’s true priorities and get to work on those things….now.


Look for my new book in late-summer or early-fall 2014!!

The first book, Stop Complaining! Start Growing! Is available through Amazon here.

Who’s facilitating your Strategic Planning Session this year?






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3 Strategic Planning Considerations

The best organizations plan. They do so meticulously. It is an ongoing process for many. However, despite its ongoing nature, there is also a need for a focused meeting or session of some kind. The best organizations and companies know this. They understand that if they’re not planning….they’re not growing. They understand that that they have to work the plan. They measure progress and hold people accountable for getting the work done.

When considering your strategic planning session for this year, consider the following:

Plan on identifying 3 or 4 strategic initiatives. You don’t need to walk out of your planning session with 10 or 15 goals to consider it to be a success. If you are really going to strategize, you should be able to identify 3 or maybe 4 “big-ticket” items for which you will prepare realistic action plans. Stay out of the minutiae. Keep your discussions at a higher level.

Don’t keep secrets. After your planning session is done, the very worst thing that you can do is to keep the discussions a secret. You’re not committing espionage. You employees should be told about those 3 or 4 strategic initiatives. If they don’t know what’s important, they won’t be able to help achieve the goals that have been set. Give them the resources and tools that they will need to succeed. The first and most important of these is knowledge.

Get out of the office. If you can, try to conduct your planning session outside of your office. If you just use a conference room in your building, there is a good chance that you will be distracted. Instead of focusing on the planning, you’ll be thinking about what’s going on in the office. You’ll be tempted to “run upstairs” to check your e-mail or voicemail. If your team members know that you’re in the building, you may be interrupted by a false “emergency.”

If you’re off-site, these distractions won’t be as prevalent.


Click here for more information about Your Full Potential, LLC’s strategic planning services.

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Use The Force!!

Almost 40 years after “Star Wars’ came out and having watched the movie dozens of times, I’m not sure if I’ll ever completely understand what the “force” is. What I do know is that it’s something. It’s wild. It’s life changing. It’s powerful. It’s important.

An awful lot of things fit those descriptors: getting married, becoming a parent, starting a business, getting a promotion, etc. In great organizations, the “force” can be used to describe the thing that creates and sustains success. Perhaps it’s a great culture or an outstanding professional development program. Or it’s a fantastic leadership team or strong roots that have withstood the tests of time and endure in the present.

Have you taken the opportunity to identify your organization’s “force?” How about your personal “force?” Are you even able to identify the reasons for your success? Are you freely sharing your gifts with others? Does your organization improve people’s lives? Can you point to specifics?

Before he did anything else, each day Benjamin Franklin asked himself “what good am I going to do today for someone else?” At the end of the day, he made sure that he had an answer to his own question. Does your team have a morning meeting or huddle? Are you asking that question in that meeting?

Henry David Thoreau once said “most men live lives of quiet desperation and go to the grave with the song still in them.” Are you ensuring that your organization is singing its song every day as loudly as possible?

What is your “force?” What is your song? Where will you sing it? How will you share it? Who will benefit?


Look for my new book in late-summer or early-fall 2014!!

The first book, Stop Complaining! Start Growing! Is available through Amazon here.

Who’s facilitating your Strategic Planning Session this year?

Posted in Building Relationships, Business Development, Change, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Performance, Strategic Planning | Leave a comment

3 Ways To Increase Products-Per-Member Ratios

Let’s face facts. The traditional ways of doing retail banking are going the way of the dodo bird, dinosaur, and wooly mammoth. Times have changed and financial institutions need to keep up. Digital banking, effective cross-selling, and using data are three of the most critical things that FI’s need to embrace…right now.

A recent article points out that the success of a financial institution depends largely on how deep the relationships with their account holders go.   Put more succinctly: the higher your credit union’s products-per-member (or services-per-member) ratio, the higher your credit union’s performance.   The article states that credit unions should have a goal of at least 2.5 products-per-member. Yet fewer than 450 credit unions nationwide hit that mark. Of course, every credit union decides for itself what defines a “product” or “service.” So the 2.5 ratio is a bit subjective. But if you think about it,, getting to 2.5 isn’t all that difficult. Every member is required to have a savings account. If your members also opened a checking account and a credit card with you, you’ve hit the mark and more.

Getting new members to join your credit union is vital to your long-term success. There’s no doubt about that! However, many organizations forgo the amazing opportunities that exist within their current membership rolls. Here are 3 tips on how to improve your products-per-member ratio:

Run reports – if you have one, use your MCIF system to segment your membership. If you don’t have an MCIF, work with your core provider to run SQL reports based on specific parameters. Here’s an example of a great first report to run: Members, ages 25-45, no credit union checking account, no credit union credit card.

Implement Cross-Selling – stop thinking about it and just do it. Your competition is doing it. Make sure you train the employees and if your people continue to fight you on “selling,” it might be time for them to leave your organization.

Make things SUPER-convenient – if you can, get rid of paper applications. Automate as much as you can. If you’re talking to a member about transferring a credit card balance, do the work for them. If you’re refinancing a loan, show the numbers, talk in terms of monthly payment savings, and stop relying so much on the low rate. Most people don’t care about rates. They care about what they can afford as a monthly payment. Give them what they want. Simplify, simplify, simplify. If moving accounts to your credit union is perceived as a hassle, people simply won’t do it.

Go forth and develop more business!

Posted in Building Relationships, Business Development, Credit Unions, Cross-Selling, Digital Marketing, Employees, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Performance | Leave a comment

3 Ways to DRASTICALLY Increase Productivity

Organizations struggle with a lot of things. Some of these include the rising cost of providing benefits, lack of skilled-workers for open positions, various human resources issues, etc. But perhaps the biggest killer is a lack of productivity. I’ve never met a business owner that didn’t care about two things: profit & productivity.

If employees are productive, the company will be more profitable. That isn’t rocket science. Then why do so many companies still struggle with this? There are numerous answers to that question; however, in this post, I wanted to give you 3 ideas that will increase productivity at your organizations.

Hold people accountable for their work – It’s at the top of this list for a reason. Organizations in every industry have their 5-star employees and their duds. It should be obvious to anyone reading that there are definitive ways to handle both kinds of these employees. But what about the people that fall into the category of “we know that they can do the work but for some reason, they aren’t?” In many cases, a lack of productivity can be traced directly back to the fact that the organization does not have standard accountability protocols.   If you have those average employees and you want them to stay average (thus draining your organization of business….every day,) by all means, continue to hold some people accountable while others are allowed to get away with anything. But the best organizations have a few things in common: they hold their employees to an expected level of accountability AND they enforce it, they have realistic action plans to reach goals, and they employ a project management system/review to track progress.

Use people to their full potential – It is imperative that you ensure that your employees are doing the right things, based on their skill sets and passions. Find out what energizes and inspires your employees to work harder and smarter. The best thing to do would be to bring in an objective 3rd party that can perform the assessment, give you honest feedback, and make recommendations for potential changes. They can provide an “Employee Enhancement Package,” if you will. I know a guy.

Communicate better – My last blog post discussed why poor communication could kill an organization.   But I need to reiterate the point because I’m still hearing from a lot of people that they can’t seem to make improvements in the communications arena. My first question is whether or not they’ve checked out 15five, one of my company’s strategic partners that I introduced in the last post. I mean, c’mon….a free 30-day trial by using the promo code: insight-sean. Then you’ll get another 30 days free if you decide to sign up.   What more do you want, folks? Yet, I’ve heard that only a handful of companies have even bothered to go to the site and signed up for the free trial using that special promo code. That’s sad considering that some of the best companies in the world (remember them?) already use this groundbreaking tool that opens the lines of communication between executives and employees in organizations of all sizes in any industry.  At least try it. It might be the solution that you’re looking for!

Until next time, dear readers…..



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Is Communication STILL An Issue?

Throughout my travels, working with credit unions across the country and around the world, there is usually a lot of discussion related to weak communication between employees and management or among departments.  This lack of communication is one of the top reasons that executives give for slow growth, decreased productivity, poor performance and low morale.

Many times, a lack or productivity can be traced back to a significant lack of understanding on the part of employees (who are responsible for the productivity) as to what is expected of them.  There is a lack of clarity that leads to conflict between the employees and the managers that are responsible for ensuring that their team members are productive.

It may be because the employees were never given clear and concise goals.  Maybe the expectations of the managers were unrealistic or the managers may think that they have been perfectly clear.  Ineffective communication leads people down different paths, prevents people from getting on the “same page” and tends to create the “silo” effect in the workplace.

Many credit unions rely solely on an annual performance review to provide feedback and to communicate goals and expectations.  In many cases, this is the only time that employees hear from their superiors.  Even worse, the employees are not permitted to add their own input to the proceedings.  So what happens is that the employees loathe review time and since they can’t affect the final outcome of the review in any way, the review does not reach its intended purpose – to provide quality feedback and to improve employee performance.

But what if there was a quick and efficient way to keep communication and feedback flowing all the time, in between the annual reviews?  Even better, what if that communication was two-way, meaning that both management and employees could contribute commentary, share insights and ideas, and provide everyone the opportunity to be more innovative, creative, and forward-thinking?

Good news!!  A software tool has been developed to help organizations achieve all of those things!

I am proud to announce my company’s new partnership with 15Five, Inc. Featured in respected publications like Entrepreneur, FastCompany, Wired, and Inc., this program is currently being used by industry powerhouses like Amazon, Sony, GoDaddy, ShoreTel, andCulture and the American Red Cross.  Don’t get nervous!!  While these are some big companies, 15Five is very affordable and will be priced according to the number of users at your credit unions.

Here’s an overview of 15Five and an explanation of how it works:

15Five is a lightweight employee feedback and reporting tool that takes you from individual questions to organizational transformations.

Each week, every employee takes 15 minutes to write a report that takes their managers no more than 5 minutes to read.  Answers become beneficial conversations whereas managers and executives gain insight and awareness of company-wide challenges and opportunities.  The software will also help organizations catch mistakes earlier, before they become big expensive problems. 

15Five helps teams establish trust, develop effective and efficient communication, and fulfill individual and collective purposes.  As a result, employees feel more valued, more engaged, and are more productive.  As opposed to holding onto their ideas, employees view their report questions as an invitation to innovate and share ideas. 

15Five CEO David Hassell said, “We are extremely proud of the benefits that 15Five gives to the companies and organizations that choose to use it.  We designed 15Five to improve communication and feedback between front-line and management personnel that is so critical to an organization’s success.  We are excited to be working with Sean McDonald to bring this program to credit unions.”

What do 15Five clients have to say?

“It’s given the entire executive team visibility to the activities across the country, shortened our executive meetings, and created some good cross-functional issue escalation and faster resolution, among other things. – It gives me visibility into the problems and successes at my company and a feeling from the staff that they are being listened to.”

- Dan Hoffman, ShoreTel

“Absolutely love 15Five.  Outstanding Product.  We committed to a level of transparency at andCulture a year ago but did not have an effective way of making consistent enough to be fully felt by our team.  15Five enabled our group to fulfill this promise and so much more.  Keep up the great work and we’re looking forward to evolving with you as you grow your offering.”

-       David Hickethier, andCulture

Want to try it for free for 30 days?  Go to and click on “Have Promo Code?”  Enter the promo code insight-sean and enter your e-mail address to start your. If after the 30 days, you sign up as a subscriber, you will receive another month free!

Please e-mail me at if you have any questions.  Give this program a shot – you won’t be disappointed.      

Posted in Budgets, Building Relationships, Credit Unions, Employees, Human Resources, Leadership, Management, Performance, Strategic Planning, Training | 2 Comments

Why So Serious?

Those of you that have seen the late Heath Ledger’s exquisite and haunting performance as the Joker in “The Dark Knight” will surely remember the line, “why so serious?”  Even though the character of the Joker is a pure psychopath, he does remind us to do something that too often we forget to do.  Namely, have some fun!  (Full disclosure: I do not think that the Joker would make a good CEO.)

Research shows that the most productive and passionate employees are those that are allowed to have some fun at work.  No one is saying that you have to transform your organization into a playground but let’s face facts,…..some companies resemble morgues rather than places where creativity and innovation are encouraged and rewarded.  Research also shows that it is possible to run a successful business and have a little fun at the same time.

Here are 3 things that you can do to create a more exciting workplace.

Have contests.  Healthy competition among employees is a good thing.  It encourages hard work, pushing limits, and exceeding goals rather than simply meeting them.  So the next time you do an auto loan promotion, make it a friendly contest.  Make the rewards for the winners significant.  Encourage the team members to pump each other up to get past the goals line.  If you want some inspiration, watch some of the coverage of the Winter Olympics.

Give some latitude.  Instead of stifling someone’s creativity when they are looking for a solution to a problem, let them test solutions that may otherwise be considered “taboo.”  Give your employees access to professional development and training and then let them use what they’ve learned to make things better and more efficient.

Celebrate wins…..BIG!  Employees love to feel appreciated.  They want to know that their hard work is making a positive impact on the organization.  So when something big is achieved, then make it a point to celebrate those wins.  And do it BIG!  If you’ve exceeded your goal for new loans during a campaign, have a party!  If your new membership numbers are off the charts, give everyone an incentive of some kind.  The point is to let the employees know that their accomplishments are significant by doping something for them that is also significant.  If you want to communicate appreciation, celebrate achievements and reward outstanding performance.

What are some things that your organization does to have some fun?  Share your comments below.


 Originally posted on 2/24/2014 on CU Insight


Posted in Building Relationships, Business Development, Change, Credit Unions, Employees, Gen X, Gen Y, Human Resources, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Performance, Strategic Planning, Training | Leave a comment