It’s no secret that these are challenging times for credit unions and credit union leaders.

The entire financial services industry has been turned upside down in the past three years and most agree that the uncertainty and upheaval are far from over.

As a result, the day-to-day business of every credit union has changed, and the long term outlook for many credit unions is anything but certain.

During times like this different people have different reactions, particularly when it comes to communicating:

  • Some shy away from sharing their concerns because they don’t want to appear worried or unsure.
  • Others openly share their concerns with people outside the company, but become cautious in communications with their colleagues.
  • Then there are those who soldier on doing their shanghai jobs and waiting for someone to ask them what they think.
  • And, of course, there are those who share their every thought with everyone except those who need to hear them.

Though the list is not exhaustive, the point has been made.  Uncertainty changes the way people communicate, and as a credit union leader it is important to recognize this and take action to ensure that it does not adversely impact performance.

It starts with your leadership team.  If they are not being candid and open with each other, it will quickly filter down to the teams they lead, and that will lead to even more disruption within the organization.

ACTION ADVICE: Consider blocking out a day each month where your leadership team goes to a private place for a half-day “We Need to Talk” session:

  • The only agenda for the session is candor, honesty, and openness about what is going on in the credit union.
  • Share the good, the bad, and the ugly, but set clear parameters that there will be no retribution, no blaming, and no personal attacks.
  • Focus on getting concerns on the table, sharing the good things that are happening but getting lost amid the challenges, and discussing the real challenges that the credit union is facing.
  • Don’t document or track the conversations—just talk about things and build a stronger bond within the team by opening up the dialogue and getting everything into the open.

CRITICAL CAVEAT: If you choose to take this action step, recognize that it is worthless if you only do it one time.  In fact, it will likely take multiple meetings before the group gets comfortable and starts to focus on the real issues.  If you all agree that “what we say here stays here when we leave here,” and work to create the level of trust that it take to adhere to that agreement.  You may want to have someone facilitate the conversation so that everyone can participate equally and to avoid having anyone singled out as the leader of the conversation.

It’s Your Turn…Have you experienced this phenomenon in your credit union?  Are people communicating differently now than they did three or four years ago?  What are the impacts and implications?  Please post a comment and share your insights.