There were several lessons from the past that our credit union was able to leverage once again during this recent period of turmoil:
1. Accept and move on: When things go astray, accept the reality of the situation quickly and don't waste time playing the "blame game." Every minute spent doing so is one more that is taken away from figuring out what you're going to do about the situation at hand and moving forward.
2. People are everything: We are in a service business. That means we cannot succeed without great people to provide that service. This is a fact that takes on even greater importance during periods of challenge. And while it might seem counterintuitive to take such measures during those times, that is when it becomes even more critical to identify your "9s and 10s," continue investing in their success through professional development and other means, and keep working creatively to broaden that pool.
Those also are the times to be uncompromising in lacking tolerance for those who cannot, or will not, rise to that level. Treat this issue as though the entire future of your credit union depends on it-because it does!
3. Decisions are a must: Sometimes it is necessary to make tough decisions that may be unfavorable to a subset of members, employees or even communities, but which will benefit the credit union's membership as a whole. Don't shirk your responsibility to make such decisions; you are paid to make them!
4. Communication is essential: Continually remain candid with both staff and volunteers about big picture matters within the credit union. They need to know what the exact situation is, what it is going to take to come through it successfully and what truly could happen should it not improve.
While that can be a difficult message to share, doing so helps create an environment that allows these vested parties to ask the tough questions in an open forum rather than ruminating about them on their own. Once those questions are aired and answered, everyone has the same information.
Not only does that approach foster increased trust throughout the organization, but it is also the only way those people can make an informed decision about whether they want to be part of the necessary solutions. This results in increased understanding and acceptance throughout the company when strategies that are outside of the norm need to be implemented.
5. Cooperation is crucial: Credit unions are truly cooperative enterprises that are inescapably joined with one another. Ultimately, as a result of our mutual share insurance participation, this means that the risks inherent within a single credit union are borne by every other credit union.
Conversely, we also all benefit when our fellow individual CUs are strong and able to survive challenges. And our ability to do so in the long-term still largely stems from our willingness to continue working collaboratively and cooperatively with one another during good times and when the going is tough. No credit union should ever feel it is too large or too independent to be part of such endeavors.
This is also a great continual reminder that there is little to be gained by credit unions competing with one another, especially when there are so many consumers and businesses who continue to be poorly served by banks, mortgage brokers, payday lenders and others in the financial services world.
6. Regulators count: Do not fear the regulators or their message, but don't let them consume you either. Stay professional and remain open-minded in working with them, even when you see matters 180° differently from one another. Take whatever actions they may legitimately require, but maintain your focus on doing what is in the best interests of your credit union's membership.
7. Philosophy works: The credit union model remains both viable and relevant. It has endured many challenges over the course of its history and has come through them all. While no credit union is perfect, our "people first" philosophy helps prevent us from being the cause of economic problems while also continually positioning us to be an important part of their resolution. That is a legacy we can be proud of and a future we should be excited by.
President and CEO
Greater Nevada CU, Carson City, Nev.