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Developing Strategic Thinkers

Hear from Jeff Rendel, president of Rising Above the Enterprises, about how credit unions can develop strategic thinkers. Jeff is a Missouri-favorite speaker and will host two sessions at the MCUA Convention & Expo in October. Click here to learn more and register.

By Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional and president of Rising Above Enterprises

The results are in and – to no one’s astonishment - strategic thinkers are respected as being among the most highly esteemed leaders. After investigating numerous leadership skills (such as communication, credibility, people skills, and a focus on results), a strategic attitude to leadership was many times more important than other leadership activities. Undoubtedly, strategic thinking and leadership is a differentiator.  

Strategic thinking is not a detached process that happens once or twice each year at the All Managers Meeting or your strategic planning session. Strategic thinking is not a detached process that happens once or twice each year at the All Managers Meeting or your strategic planning session.  Strategic thinking is a daily exercise where managers lean toward more than only what is required for the day; in its place, managers make choices today knowing full well the decision’s weight  and effect on your credit union and its stakeholders in six months, one year, and three years.

So, how can credit unions develop strategic thinkers and leaders? How can you foster predictable strategic thinking all the way through your credit union? Build some or all of the following practices into your leadership actions and systems at your credit union.

  • Take your strategic vision and direction to the troops.  Once your board of directors and executive team establishes a set of strategic objectives, share these goals throughout your credit union.  If one of your objectives states that your credit union will deliver measurable, world-class service, your colleagues need to comprehend this wide-ranging approach in order to remain focused and integrate it into their connections with your members and fellow professionals.
  • Expect and allow managers to set aside regular time aside for strategic thinking and innovation.  Provide external and strategic intelligence to your leaders that influence the business of your credit union and members.  Ask your managers to think beyond the day to day, discuss internal matters, and generate innovative solutions that produce long-term benefits for your credit union.  Dedicate time for your managers – as a group – to deliberate what’s next and relevant for your credit union, allowing them to develop products, services, and processes that contribute to your credit union’s strategic success.
  • Build strategy into your training and development programs.  Sessions in your training room may be very tactical, but they are linked to strategic success.  Explain to your teammates how day-to-day activities help to increase revenue, best utilize resources, and deepen member loyalty.  Describe how every role and action helps your credit union’s strategic progress.  Demonstrate how every job contributes to strategy.
  • Commit yourself to being highly strategic.  In any credit union, many hats are worn and projects are juggled.  It’s part of the entrepreneurial nature of your business.  As entrepreneurs, you’re also responsible for success.  Keep people focused on strategic objectives and the impact of their actions.

Strategic thinking is a frame of mind and a set of practices. It asks you to ensure that your operational actions and high priority responsibilities are joined to your long-term vision and objectives. It’s often the difference between the run-of-the-mill and extraordinary credit union leader.  More important, it keeps your credit union in the lead for your most important stakeholders – your colleagues, members, and communities.

© 2014 by Jeff Rendel.  All rights reserved.
Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional, and president of Rising Above Enterprises works with credit unions that want elite results in leadership, sales, and strategy.  Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit unions and their business partners.