Posts Tagged organizational culture

Promote Orbiting of the CU Hairball

Posted by on Tuesday, 28 September, 2010

I re-read “Orbiting the Giant Hairball” by Gordon MacKenzie recently.  This book is about how to think outside the box without getting sucked into the politics and ‘norm’ of your organization.  A must-read in my opinion (and a must re-read!).

In an interview with Fast Company MacKenzie defined the corporate hairball as:

“An entangled pattern of behavior. It’s a bureaucracy, which doesn’t allow much space for original thinking and creativity. It’s the corporate tendency to rely on past policies, decisions, and processes as a formula for future success.”

Brilliant! A free-pass of empowerment to your own ideas and the ability to share them with leaders of the organization to grow, modernize, and revolutionize it!!… If only it were that easy.

In Courtney’s post about culture, we find that there are two thoughts, a culture of fear and one of love. It seems only natural that those who work in a culture of love will be more apt and able to orbit the political hairball of your credit union.

It’s not that the hairball is an unnecessary element in the workplace; each organization needs a strong foundation to rely on. There is also a necessity for change, and that is very difficult in an established workplace. People shy away from change, it’s difficult to learn new things, try new elements (what if it fails – GASP!), and change long-lasting procedure that has been on the books since Reagan was in office. But change is the essence of life. Without progress (which is change, nonetheless) we cannot move forward. Who do we look to for bringing evolution into the CU industry?

Credit union folks are sharp. Anyone in the industry has the ability to unlock the next ‘big thing’, what goes awry is their fear regarding thinking outside of the box, orbiting that giant hairball of bureaucracy, stagnant ideas and old policy. Many people feel that bringing new ideas to the table is a waste of time thinking “why would they change this for my ‘out there’ idea, what if it doesn’t work? Will I get fired? …I should just keep my mouth shut”.  And boom, another brilliant idea lost to the hairball.

What can you do? Praise creativity! You may not know it, but there’s a very bright light bulb in your staff just waiting to be turned on. Make sure you don’t bypass this opportunity by cutting the power before it gets a chance to shine. In the words of Gordon MacKenzie:

“It’s hard for corporations to understand that creativity is not just about succeeding. It’s about experimenting and discovering.”

A Culture of Fear or A Culture of Love?

Posted by on Thursday, 2 September, 2010

Source: DesktopNexus Abstract

Lately I have been thinking a lot about culture. Merriam-Webster defines culture as “the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that characterizes an institution or organization.”  Culture, undoubtedly, has a significant effect on an organization’s success or failure.

One of my favorite books is The Mastery of Love by Don Miguel Ruiz. Although it is written as “a practical guide to the art of relationship,” Ruiz’s philosophy can just as easily be applied to culture. Ruiz (and many others) speculate that everything in life can be viewed in terms of love and fear.

I am willing to bet that organizations with strong cultures tend to lead out of love. Think about your own organization. Are you surrounded by people who act out of love, love for the members they serve and love for the credit union movement?

People who act out of love are passionate about the work they do and the difference they make in the lives of others.  Conversely, people who act out of fear are apprehensive, anxious and terrified of making mistakes or of losing their jobs. People who act out of fear tend to take things personally, and may have a difficult time making the connection between the part they play and the bigger picture.

One company that seems to lead purely out of love is Founded in 1999 with almost no sales, in 2008 they surpassed $1 billion in sales. Not only is Zappos a successful business, it is consistently rated on Fortune’s 100 Best Companies to Work ForWhen asked what the company’s biggest asset is, CEO Tony Hsieh’s answer is always the same: the culture.

Zappos culture is based on 10 Core Values:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

These core values play an integral role in how Zappos hires, trains and develops their employees. And these values aren’t just lip service. The Zappos 2009 Culture Book is filled almost entirely with emails from actual employees on what Zappos culture means to them. The comments were solicited from Hsieh, himself, who asked:

  • What does the Zappos culture mean to you?
  • What’s different about it compared to other company cultures?
  • What do you like about our culture?

Many leaders are afraid to ask their employees questions like this because they are terrified of the answers they will receive. Hsieh asked these questions out of love. He has faith that, “If we do the right thing, then in the long run we will succeed and build something great.” 

What about you? What does your credit union’s culture mean to you? What do you like (or dislike) about your culture? Does your organization act out of fear or out of love?

Source: NorthernSun

What Credit Unions Can Learn From Ritz Carlton

Posted by on Friday, 27 August, 2010

From Rick Olson:

Joe Callaway, author of Indispensable, gave us a great insight when he said “if you only look within your own industry, you are destined to eat the dust of your competitors.”  Scores of credit unions have made dramatic, positive changes by learning from one of the finest service providers in America, the Ritz-Carlton.

Having facilitated the World Class Customer Service Executive Institute for the past half dozen years, let me share with you some insights that have helped transform the service cultures of many credit unions.

Learning verses training

Recently, the Ritz-Carlton was named the training company of the year in the United States.  What a remarkable achievement.  Yet, when they talk about it, they say that they are a learning organization, not a training organization.  And what is the difference?  Learning is active, training is passive.  Learning puts the responsibility on the student/pupil.  Training puts the responsibility on the teacher.  Everyone within the Ritz-Carlton organization understands it is their responsibility to know what they need to know to excel at their job.


One of the most remarkable statements I have heard from the Ritz people is when they talk about their approach to marketing and advertising.  Their philosophy is this “Our empowered employees are our number one advertising strategy.”  You’ve never seen a  Ritz-Carlton ad on TV because they don’t advertise on TV.  And yet they have the majority of the top rated hotels in the country.  Every employee at the Ritz is empowered to make things right for the hotel guests.  They not only correct problems extremely well, but they go out of their way to make sure you have a memorable experience when you stay there.

Let me tell you my favorite empowerment story from the Ritz.  We were meeting in Atlanta and two ladies asked to tell their story before we started the session in the morning.  They were so excited about the previous evening.  The concierge had put together a great plan for them to see the highlights of Atlanta.  At one of the subway stops, the concierge got on their subway (he was on his way home).  He caught their eye, engaged them in conversation, and wished them well before getting off.  When they returned to their hotel room later that night, there was a nice note and a bottle of wine from the concierge thanking them for the great conversation.  They were thrilled, they told the class the story, and I have been telling the story for the past 5 years. 

I own the problem

Every employee who works at the Ritz-Carlton is committed to 12 service standards.  Each of the commitments begins with the word ‘I …’.  Number six is my favorite.  It says “I own and immediately resolve guest problems”.  In other words, if any employee becomes aware of a guest need or problem, they own that situation until it is fully resolved.  Every employee is committed to this standard. It is amazing to see in action.  I saw it lived out the first time I stayed at a Ritz.  Khalid was the bellman who took me to my room.  He talked to me about Wisconsin (my home state), Atlanta, and the group of credit union people who were gathering.  When he opened the door to my room, we discovered that the room was a mess.  Sheets and a bedspread on the floor, dirty dishes, litter throughout.  It was an awkward, embarrassing moment for Khalid.  But he never blamed anyone, nor did he roll his eyes. He simply apologized and brought me to a nice lounge.  He said he would get the room cleaned and come back and get me in 30 minutes.  Sure enough, in a half hour, he came and got me and brought me to my room.  It was perfect.  And there was a gift on my dresser for my inconvenience.  Khalid saw the problem, owned the problem, and dazzled me – the first time guest.

The lessons at the Ritz come fast and furious.  There is nothing like examining the very best, see how they do it, and return to your credit union to put those lessons into practice. 

What are some of the lessons you’ve learned from looking outside of the industry?

Rick Olson is the President of Rick Olson Seminars and is the lead presenter for CUNA’s World Class Customer Service Executive Institute.

Professional Development Beyond the Walls

Posted by on Wednesday, 4 August, 2010

Working in the archives can sometimes be overwhelming.  I’m sure working anywhere can be overwhelming.  So, we all have outside interests to keep us going.  When I was in grad school, our professors would often stress how participating in professional organizations can keep one intellectually interested in their profession.  Moreover, professional associations help to increase and maintain one’s social network.  I’ve stayed active in professional associations in an attempt to grow professionally.  I’m a member of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and Academy of Certified Archivists (ACA).  These organizations offer archivists the chance to exchange ideas, learn new techniques, and socialize with each other.

As a member of the SAA, I’ve been fortunate enough to present a paper, present several posters, chair a session at the annual meeting, be the editor for the Business Archives Section, and participate on both the Committee on Ethics and Professional Conduct and the Task Force to Develop a Values Statement.  I’ve been very fortunate to have these opportunities, but they didn’t come without effort, and a little luck.

My job makes me a member of the credit union movement, but my profession has little to do with credit unions.  As a result, when I look for growth opportunities, I’m often looking outside of my organization and the credit union movement.  Credit unions, leagues, and CUNA all offer great professional development opportunities.  Heck, CUNA even has the Center for Professional Development!  Whether you’re looking in your credit union, the league, CUNA or outside the credit union movement, there are some basic things to consider as you seek professional development.  Below are my 6 tips for professional development:

1.  Don’t be afraid to look outside your organization. 

Our organizations can limit professional growth for numerous reasons, and none of which may be intentional.  But, that doesn’t mean your organization doesn’t want you to learn and grow, and couldn’t benefit from your development.  In my case, looking to my profession offers many more chances for professional growth.  It might be the same for you.  Accountants, marketers, graphic designers, etc., all have professional organizations they can join.  Or, there are organizations which can use those skills to enhance their organization.  The point is these other organizations can help you improve your techniques, learn new practices, and meet others doing work similar to you.

2.  Volunteer and answer calls for participants.

When an organization asks for volunteers, they mean it.  This is your opportunity to get in the door.  And, we all know getting in the door is half the battle.  Sometimes we get intimated by other members’ credentials or experience.  We can feel like we don’t have the necessary experience to participate.  I’m telling you to place those fears into Al Gore’s lock-box!  Rather take up Rosie the Riveter’s motto, ‘cause, “Yes You Can!”  Take that chance and respond.  The worst thing that can happen is that you don’t get selected…this time.

3.  Be persistent and don’t take rejection personally.

If you don’t get selected for an opportunity, don’t take the rejection personally.  Most opportunities have limited openings.  You might not have been selected this time, but next time you might be needed.  In fact, the more chances you take the more often you are to be rejected.  Remember that a numbers game is always being played.  Keep on working to develop your skill with the existing opportunities.  Eventually, you’ll find you have a skill that is critically needed, and/or you’ve meet someone that can “put in a good word for you.”

4.  Look for social networks. 

Develop and maintain professional and personal relationships with different people.  One never knows when a person in your social network will help you out.  In my case, I was recommended for the SAA Values Task Force because of my youth and inexperience in the profession by a professor I had during library school.  Without this connection, my name likely wouldn’t have come up.  We all know the saying, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”  Sometimes this is the case, so try to know as many people as possible.

5.  Participate with pride, conviction, and honesty.

When it comes down to what you know, doing things with pride, conviction, and honesty will help out.  While my name was in the mix for the SAA Values Task Force based on who I knew, it was the “what I knew” that really got me into the group.  I had taken a course on archival ethics with the professor that offered my name.  He knew that I have the ability to critically examine important ethical value positions without being overly impressed by convention or other people’s convictions.  I can argue with the best, but try not to belittle or demean any other position.  I simply go on the facts as presented.  But, you must do your homework and be ready to offer your honest critiques.  Do this, and respect will follow.  Then people will come to you because they can trust you to be a positive member and to do good work. 

6.  Know your limits; or know when to say “no.” 

Once you get your foot in the door, it will quickly become apparent that more help is always needed.  In professional associations, there is often a snowball effect.  This happens in organizations too.  One committee leads to two committees – leads to a task force – leads to a presentation – leads to a paper – leads to another committee.  I’m sure you’ve seen this before.  Knowing how and when to say, “no” can be a very critical step in our development.  And, knowing when to step away can help too.  The point here is to say “no” before you start something that feels “off” or you feel yourself being too drained.  In my opinion, it is better to say “no” beforehand then it is to quit in the middle because you “burned out.”  Once you gain a good reputation, people will understand if you can’t help them every now and again.  They know when you are ready or interested they’ll be able to count on you.

I’m sure you have some other points which are helpful as well.

Can Your Frontline Recover?

Posted by on Tuesday, 3 August, 2010

I’m sure something like this has happened to you – a negative experience with a company that could have been saved so easily.

Last week my daughter developed pink eye after our normal pharmacy was already closed so I was sent to the other pharmacy in our area.  The pharmacist mistakenly declared there was no co-pay for the purchase and sent us on our way.  A few days later, I received an angry phone call from someone else at the pharmacy who was shocked that this mistake had happened. They went on to slam the poor guy that made the mistake, and demanded I come in immediately to pay for the prescription.  So back to the pharmacy I went.  I had to explain the situation to four different employees and wait for 45 minutes while they discussed how to proceed right in front of me.  Turns out their system couldn’t accept my $10.00 at this point due to how the initial mistake was entered. Again, they mentioned how stupid the first guy must have been and now the person that called me was an idiot in their eyes too.  Eventually, they agreed that I had waited long enough and it was time to let the $10.00 go.  They apologized for the inconvenience and sent me on my way. 

There were a few opportunities throughout this whole ordeal that the negative experience could have been turned around, but those opportunities were wasted.  Finally, waiving the co-pay could be viewed as a last ditch effort to save the interaction, but it was too late – the amount of time I ended up wasting with this pharmacy and how negative they made me feel certainly won’t be forgotten. 

Parts of this experience could have possibly been blamed on just one of the employees or even attributed randomly to the circumstances – but the whole experience had me really questioning this particular company and even more specifically their lack in arming their front-line staff with the training and tools necessary for recovery.   Studies show that some of the strongest customer loyalty comes not from smooth customer service experiences but from those times when something went wrong and the company did a stellar job in making things right.  

According to Celeste Cook, President/CEO of cuSrategies and opening keynoter for this year’s CUNA FUSE “Frontline staff is the face of your institution.  They have mega influence on whether you prosper, earn client loyalty, and develop new relationships.  Everything frontline employees do and say or don’t do and say impacts growth and retention.”  Cook shared these insights about the connection between employees and growth and retention in a recent article for Branch Manager’s Letter.  She goes on to state that “The touch points and opportunities afforded frontline staff to build and strengthen client relationships are far greater and have a far greater impact on growth and retention than any other delivery channel.”

With frontline staff at credit unions playing such an important role it is imperative that they be ready to handle all member interactions, even the really negative ones, as an opportunity for growth.  What about the frontline staff at your credit union?

  •  Do they see the importance of the job they are doing and how strongly that can impact the success of your credit union? 
  •  Have they been provided with adequate training? 
  •  Are they rewarded for exemplary service to members? 
  •  Are they empowered to do what is necessary to turn a negative member experience into a positive opportunity for the credit union?

I’m hoping that the answer is yes to most of the above questions, if not, what are you doing to ensure a simple $10.00 transaction doesn’t turn in to the loss of a loyal member?

Incentive Programs – First Up or Last Resort?

Posted by on Tuesday, 1 June, 2010

Angela Prestil

From Angela Prestil:

I recently had the pleasure of being one of the two co-instructors at CUNA’s Sales and Service Culture Institute. One of the questions asked by the majority of the attendees was regarding incentive programs. Should we implement them? How do we implement them? What’s the best way to implement them? How do we make them fair? I guess that’s lots of questions, but you get the idea. My first realization: We’re confused about incentives.

My first question if you’re seriously thinking about implementing incentives is “Why?” Why are you thinking about paying staff to do something that should be in their job descriptions? Recommending the right products at the right time to the right members is in your job descriptions, isn’t it? Maybe? Maybe not? My second realization: We’re confused about what’s in staff job descriptions.

We are quite positive that all supervisors and managers are coaching all staff on the processes taught for recommending products, right? What’s that you say? Branch managers can’t possibly be expected to coach with everything else on their plates? And you don’t really have a process for recommending products, unless we count that little pop-up window that keeps recommending the same credit card to the same members? My third realization: We’re confused about coaching and the processes we use.

Here’s my thought: Before you start throwing money at your staff like clowns throwing candy at a parade, get your ducks in a row:

  1. Be sure the whole credit union is supporting efforts to exceed your members’ needs. There are entire books and classes on creating organizational alignment around goals, so take your time and get some help if necessary.
  2. Figure out what you’d like your member experience to be for every delivery channel and touch-point. Then, make it happen consistently. Not sure what a member experience looks like? Check out a free webinar from CUNA’s Creating Member Loyalty™ for a quick look.
  3. Ensure managers have a repeatable, consistent process for creating a positive employee experience. Clear managers’ plates so they can provide timely coaching to each employee to deliver your desired member experience.

Got all of that done? And done well? If not, I’ll give you about 18-24 months to get that in place. Don’t worry, I’ll wait! I’ve heard that posts like these live forever. Come back when you’re done, and then we can talk more about incentives.

Back so soon? I’m not trying to be flippant. I know this takes a lot of work and a lot of concentrated effort by lots of people in the credit union. And I’d encourage you to do some homework and think about what you’re not seeing now that you’d like to see. Will incentives really get you there? If you’re not sure, drop me a line and we can talk about how to get you there. What have you got to lose? Perhaps we’ll both be confused at a higher level!

Angela Prestil is the Sales Culture Development Director for the Credit Union National Association.