Stop Waiting for the Other Shoe to Drop and Start Leading

Margins are slim. Delinquencies are up. Profitability is down. And we're all wondering when the next shoe will drop.

OK. That's reality. The challenge now is what we do with it. That's the stuff of leadership. It's also the stuff of research. The connection? Good leadership and good research have a common purpose: to drive positive change.

In times of uncertainty, power flows to those "in the know." The phenomenon is called "expert power," and those with special skills, knowledge, or expertise can wield significant influence in the marketplace. (And how do you — and your credit union — get "in the know?" You got it: Research.)

Now is a time of uncertainty. Now is the time to gain that expertise. So what is the expertise (and corresponding research tools) you need? Consider four fundamentals of business success:

Focus. You know the adage. "If you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being...nothing to anyone." This first rule has plagued CUs for years; especially in the movement away from single sponsors (where focus was natural). Brand studies, member loyalty/satisfaction research, segmentation and modeling, and member/employee focus groups can help here. Each leads to knowledge about whom your CU can and does serve best, and how to grow within that key segment for the future.

Employee Experience. Your associates create your member experience. You may not see a direct line from happy employees to happy members, but a good member experience without happy employees is virtually impossible. Know your employee experience, and use key research to learn how to make it better. Employ job satisfaction/climate studies, employee NPS/advocacy research, and/or employee focus groups (especially now on ways to save money and improve processes).

Member Experience. Advocacy research (NPS/Net Satisfaction) proves member loyalty and satisfaction drives financial performance. To what extent do you know your members' experience? Even small CUs can be deceived here. Some small CU CEOs say, "I know my members." The reality is, without data, at best we know only the few members we see in our branches. We don't see or know most. Transaction/NPS research, new account research, closed account research, segmented membership studies, and/or focus groups can all help develop knowledge and drive leadership for heightened loyalty and profitability.

Relevant Distinction. Knowing how you can provide specific, targeted, relevant services to your members in a unique, and distinctly better way is what true leadership is all about. This is "expert power" at its apex. But if you don't understand what your members (and employees) want, think and feel, how can you be in a position to act? Without such information, how can you be in a position to lead?

Leadership can be defined as "sustained followership toward a common goal." That is, one cannot lead without followers. Now, more than ever, team members need experts they can confidently follow. Members want experts they can trust.Research leads to knowledge. And knowledge is power.

Neil Goldman is Senior Partner with Member Research. He can be reached at 310-643-5910 or ngoldman@memberresearch.com.