I am writing this while enjoying a wonderful vacation with my family in the beautiful Outer Banks of North Carolina. Why am I working on vacation? I hadn’t planned on it but after making some observations during this trip, I wondered if some of what I was seeing applied to credit unions – especially as we move closer to planning and budgeting season. So here are 3 ways to improve your strategic planning sessions:
Focus on the environment. One of the things that is very noticeable here in the Outer Banks is the concentrated effort to preserve the natural beauty and flow of what was here before us and what will remain after us. From protecting the sand dunes to ocean preservation, there is little doubt that environmental concerns are prevalent here.
As credit unions dive into their strategic planning seasons, it is important to remember to take a look at what is going on throughout the credit union industry or environment. While a good chunk of your planning time will be dedicated to your specific credit union’s goals, the latest tactics, trends, and dynamics of the industry as a whole are also important to know and understand.
Be steadfast yet remain flexible. My wife, kids, and I are not alone on our vacation. In fact, we are sharing an awesome ocean-front home with 3 other families and “Pop-Pop.” For the past couple of years, my father-in-law has invited all of his kids, their spouses, and of course his grandchildren on a family vacation. Those of you that have experienced this kind of trip know that vacationing with other people presents its share of challenges. Each family is different and personalities and other family dynamics can sometimes clash. Our family is no different. But we are fortunate in that everyone here is respectful and remembers that this is a vacation for everyone and that we all have the freedom to enjoy ourselves as we see fit. And sometimes, remaining flexible is the best solution to the issues that may arise.
It is crucial for credit unions to set strategic goals and to come up with action plans to achieve them. But like a family vacation, plans may need to change from time to time. And it is important for credit unions to remember that obstacles and challenges will present themselves and that they may need to regroup and reassess their current course of action. So when setting those goals, just remember to leave some “wiggle-room” in the mix.
Uncover gifts & talents. My 7 year old nephew, Grandon is an amazing kid. He was diagnosed with severe autism when he was just 2. At the time, the diagnosis was terrifying. There was a lot of uncertainty and anxiety. Grandon and I share a special bond – you see, we both have the same birthday. (Of course, I am just a tad older than he is!) Over the past 5 years, Grandon has made remarkable progress – going from a boy who didn’t speak at all to knowing and saying people’s names, giving hugs, and interacting with other people. Yesterday, Grandon’s mother (my sister-in-law Patty) and I were talking about gifts and talents. Patty mentioned that she still wasn’t sure what Grandon’s gifts were. I didn’t respond to her statement verbally but started thinking that young Grandon does indeed have talents and gifts – we just might not understand all of them. One of Grandon’s gifts that is certainly evident is his ability to empathize. My 19 month old son, Logan was having a very tough day yesterday – very cranky and doing a lot of crying. At one point, Grandon began crying a little too – not because he was sad but because someone else was. Again, I didn’t verbalize how I felt about that but I was very touched by the concern showed by this little boy who, quite frankly, has challenges to face that I cannot begin to imagine.
When conducting your planning sessions, try to pay special attention to and have a discussion about the gifts and talents of your staff members – especially your management teams. Is there some potential that needs to be unlocked? Are you challenging your people to work smarter and achieve great things? Do you have the “pulse” of your team members? Do you know what inspires them, motivates them, and impresses them? Yes, for the record, I am recommending spending a fair amount of time in your planning session apart from number-crunching. You’ll be better off in the long-run because the numbers and goals you set will become more meaningful and relevant if you have a better understanding of your organization’s psychology.
OK – back to the beach to build sand castles with my 3 year-old daughter, Leah. She’s pretty much been hanging on my arm while I have been typing this.