I remember, not long ago, getting a frantic call for help from one of my client CEOs: “Jason, I need you to come out and talk to my managers; they just don’t get it!”
Stumped, I politely asked, “What exactly don’t they get?”
He didn’t have a specific answer. After grilling him with the necessary questions, I learned that his frustration was misdirected. His people were fine. The real issue was the fact that he wasn’t engaging his senior team. It wasn’t that his people couldn’t get it; it was that they weren’t getting it—from him. You see, this particular CEO excelled at vision but lacked at properly articulating it. He assumed his managers would automatically see and share his vision, and therefore be automatically motivated to achieve it. Because his assumption was wrong, he was left thinking that his senior management team was disengaged and unmotivated.
Leaders Need Leadership
Effective leadership continues to be a vital component of long-term success. While effective leadership at all levels is important, senior leadership directly impacts the performance of your organization. All too often, CEOs manage their direct reports like they’re CEOs themselves. They allow them too much autonomy and, in some cases, employ a hands-off approach to managing them. While I agree that a higher-level manager deserves (and should need) a less hands-on approach, I do subscribe to the belief that they still need to be led. Simply put, senior managers are employees. While they have grown in their careers, they haven’t outgrown the need to be led, managed and motivated. They have the same basic needs as any team member. Lack of motivation at this level can hurt—or even kill—your business. How they “feel” is how they will lead.
They look to you for leadership. They want feedback, validation, and direction. This is your team. They represent you and your ability to lead. Ownership of their satisfaction and performance begins and ends with you.
Assessing Your Team
Let’s start by assessing your team. How well do they work together? Are they working together, or are they working in silos? Are all players “buying in,” and are they committed?
Meeting Core Needs
The senior management team is the often-overlooked team. There’s a false assumption that they already have everything they need (skills, development, drive, etc.); however, they have the same basic needs as any team member. Core needs tend to be the same for everybody, and who doesn’t want to feel validated, accepted, and appreciated? Even senior managers with their “senior-level” responsibilities need recognition, support, and guidance.
For every frustrated CEO I talk to about lack of motivation on his or her team, I talk to two or three senior managers who don’t feel they are getting what they need from their CEO. While many of these talented managers have fond personal feelings for their leader, they end up feeling professionally lost and confused. All too often, communication is not open, honest, and complete between both parties. Senior managers need to have a solid understanding of their role on the team.
They want to know what their marching orders are. While they deserve the freedom to manage their area without their CEO peering over their shoulder, they ultimately desire feedback on their performance. They love to win. They love to do well.
These are smart, talented individuals who want to see their performance and the performance of their credit union improve over time. In order for that to happen, they need open communication and guidance from their CEO. Simply put, you have to maintain a connection to your people.
Because senior managers have the same basic needs as any team member, your process for meeting those needs should be the same as well. Do you have frequent one-on-one
meetings with your team members? Do you know what their goals, desires, and dreams are? Do you follow up with them frequently on their progress? Do they know your vision for the credit union and their role in helping achieve that vision?
Do you both even share the same vision? Are they getting what they need from you to be successful? And finally, what are the things that motivate each senior manager on your team? While specific motivators change depending on the individual, I would imagine most senior-level talent tend to be motivated by money (let’s be honest here), job satisfaction, recognition, and pride. I would also assume advancement or professional growth opportunities are included in there for most people. Why would somebody want to work so hard to achieve a certain level of success, only to stop? This type of discussion should take place between you and each of your team members. Every leader at every level from the top down should know what the primary and relevant motivators are
for his or her team.
Motivators are not only used to manage job satisfaction and production; they can also serve as a key driver of retention.
Senior managers want to feel good about their role on the team and valued for their contributions. They want to feel confident in their credit union’s future and know there are unlimited opportunities for growth and success. Winners like to be on winning teams. They relish in meeting or exceeding goals, and they want to be rewarded when they hit the mark. If there are no, or even limited, rewards (financial and otherwise), managers can be left to wonder if their efforts are valued. Basically, if winning and losing lead to the same outcome, why put in the extra effort to win? To retain top-tier talent, there has to be something that keeps them there.
There are many benefits to having a satisfied and productive senior management team. First (and probably most important), it allows you as the CEO the opportunity to be more strategic and visionary. When you have a solid and reliable team working below you, you can spend more time looking “up and out.”
Additionally, you also have a team that is ready, willing, and able to help turn your vision into reality. In the short term, this leads to a happier and more productive team. In the long term, it can help with leadership development and succession planning.
You also benefit from the “trickle down” effect. By practicing effective management strategies yourself, you are setting the stage for your senior managers to engage their direct reports in the same manner, and so on and so forth, all the way down the organizational chart. Ultimately, you will have an employee base fully committed to your credit union’s vision and strategic direction.
These are just a few strategies and insights, but if they start a dialogue in your head that leads to a dialogue with your team, I have succeeded. Remember: The satisfaction and motivation of your senior managers are directly tied to your business results. As a result, the stakes are simply too high to not give them the guidance and leadership they need for
Jason Boles is a popular trainer and serves as CEO of Fans Created, LLC, which provides strategic organization for credit unions. Contact him at email@example.com or 800-433-1541. Reprinted with permission from Connection, the publication of the Credit Union Association of New York (www.cuany.org).
When your senior executives move on to lead other credit unions, does your board and management consider it an honor? These types of moves could reflect well on your credit union’s ability to acquire and train good talent. Or, these turnovers also might reflect an inadequate succession plan.
An effective succession plan must go beyond designating someone to assume control should your CEO leave suddenly. It should be a process that actively grooms top talent while strengthening their bond to your credit union through a leadership continuity plan.
Begin with board commitment
A good succession plan requires a full commitment from your board of directors. It must go beyond approving a general policy to promote from within. A good plan also includes a champion responsible for regular review—not just during annual strategic planning—plus a continuous training program and a supplemental benefits program.
Few volunteer boards have the expertise and resources to design and maintain a succession plan. From within the credit union, tap the human resources (HR) leader as the champion to run the succession plan day-to-day and report on its progress regularly.
HR also can run a hands-on training program where executives cross-train in key departments. Participants also should learn what to do should the CEO leave suddenly, or should you experience an emergency or disaster that requires new leadership.
Incentives for top performers
Most credit unions must seek outside expertise to design supplemental benefits programs.
The Great Recession and its aftermath hit many executives’ retirement investments hard. This delayed impending retirement for some. And it raised awareness about the inherent legal limitations of standard retirement packages.
For example, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) and other regulations limit organizations’ contributions to 401(k), traditional pensions, and other plans that qualify for tax-deferral status. This leaves a significant gap in retirement income for executives.
A 2012 Aon Hewitt report estimates that someone making more than $150,000 per year who retires after age 60 will require 84.2% of his or her final salary in annual retirement income to maintain the employee’s lifestyle. But CUNA Mutual specialists who work with credit union executives to calculate their retirement income typically find that traditional retirement income sources can replace only 30% to 40% of a top executive’s working income.
A publicly traded stock company can fill this gap with stock options—a not-for-profit cooperative must find other solutions.
Addressing at least a piece of this retirement income gap for your leaders-in-waiting is a good way to retain them when competitors come calling. It not only satisfies a critical need, it makes it more expensive for competitors to match or exceed your benefit package. You can accomplish this through a supplemental executive retirement plan (SERP).
Benefits of SERPs
You can easily scale SERPs not just for CEOs but for the top one, two, or three management tiers. And you can design SERPs so they return the credit union’s initial investment and won’t represent a net loss over time.
Common SERP instruments include nonqualified 457(b) and 457(f) programs, and split-dollar life insurance. These can be set up as “golden handcuffs” that reward executives only when they’ve achieved certain goals for your credit union over a set period of time. Tailor SERPs to your needs and budget, too.
Be sure to work with your credit union’s legal counsel and with an experienced provider, especially one with significant experience creating legally compliant SERPs for credit unions.
SERPs and succession training programs take time and effort to set up properly, but they’ll transform your credit union from being a training ground for other organizations’ leaders to one with a solid leadership succession plan.
SCOTT ALBRACCIO is sales specialist manager for executive benefits at CUNA Mutual Group. Contact him at 800-356-2644, ext. 6656542, or Scott.Albraccio@cunamutual.com.
Michael Patrick O'Brien is an employment attorney with Utah law firm of Jones Waldo Holbrook & McDonough (www.joneswaldo.com). He also serves as the Legal and Legislative Director for Utah’s Society for Human Resource Management chapter. Contact him at 801-534-7315 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Okay training professionals, it’s time to face the facts: Not all problems can be solved by training. Which means we shouldn’t say “yes” to every training request that comes across our desks. Our role is not to take on as many requests as possible as a means to demonstrate value as a learning organization. Training departments exist to ensure that employees have the knowledge and skills they need to do their jobs well, while helping a company execute its corporate strategy. Fifty percent of training requests on average are not training related, so why do we keep saying yes?
I think I get it. If I’m not saying “yes” to all the requests from the kids in the neighborhood, I’m not going to get invited to the kickball game. Or even worse, I’ll be the last one standing in a school yard pick (a weak analogy offering way too much visibility into my childhood). In business terms—we’ve convinced ourselves that if we are not taking on as many training initiatives as possible, we become obsolete, lose budget, and are forced to reduce staff. But is it not part of our job to weed out requests that are not valid? Attempting to resolve a non-learning related issue will only cost resources and frustration. Roll out as many classes and assign as many coaching sessions as you want, but the problem would still remain unresolved. Taking it a step further: You now own it, including the failure of not resolving the issue. Didn’t see that one coming did you?
I grew up in the sales world prior to becoming a learning geek, so I’ll use an under-performing sales rep as an example. If the rep is missing quota, the manager often looks at product knowledge as the cause. The manager dials up the training team for help with a refresher course, training says “yes” of course and then provides intensive coaching. However, a month later, said sales rep is still missing quota and underperforming. So what happened?
The root cause for the performance issue is not product knowledge. It could be motivation, sales territory, leadership—or they are just lousy at sales. When I was a child, I would not make my bed; it was not due to lack of skills or knowledge, I didn’t want to do it! The point is, no due diligence was done to determine the root cause before applying the training intervention. Whenever there is a gap in performance, training is almost always viewed as a solution. However, this is not always the case.
So how do you avoid this trap? The best way to determine which requests are valid and which are not is with a simple training needs analysis. That may sound really scary and like way too much work, but by following just a couple of easy steps, you’ll have all the data you need for better decision making. The first step is to establish a process and guidelines for determining the needs. The second step is to work with managers to set performance expectations by identifying the skills and knowledge needed to execute the strategy—basically a skills inventory. Third, isolate the gaps. Now that you have determined the skills gaps, you need to identify which gaps can be resolved through training intervention. Fourth and most importantly, prioritize. If you are like most of us you have finite resources, so don’t go out and try to solve the gridlock in Congress and set yourself up for failure. Finally, develop the plan and execute based on what you prioritized. Still scary?
If you follow the above steps, you will have more success identifying which requests are learning-related. If you discover a request is not learning-related—just say no. This approach ensures your team will correctly allocate resources, reduce frustration, and successfully execute training programs.
This article was reprinted with permission from Fistful of Talent (www.fistfuloftalent.com), a website owned and managed by Kris Dunn, who posts blogs by top HR talent in the industry.
Mobile collaboration is a force multiplier of productivity for your credit union. That’s because mobile collaboration fits how people work today—anywhere, anytime. Advances in collaboration software, paired with the move to the cloud, are accelerating the adoption of mobile collaboration in businesses of all sizes. The need for new ways to collaborate is urgent, especially as the ranks of mobile and distributed workers are growing. According to Forrester, the number of “anytime, anywhere workers,” information workers around the world will grow to 29 percent in 2012, up from 23 percent in 2011.
With so many people working in different offices as well as from home, on the road, and in cafes, it can be difficult sometimes to work with each other and even more difficult to have those spontaneous discussions that are often necessary to solve a knotty problem or spark a new idea. Mobile collaboration tools re-introduce the human element—and face-to-face interaction—back into a workflow that has been dominated by e-mail communications.
With mobile collaboration tools, the right people can be included in key decisions, when they need to be made, because it’s easier to find and communicate with the decision-makers. Workers can brainstorm with each other more easily, no matter where they are located. Your customers can connect with the right resource in your organization faster. Ultimately, mobile collaboration leads to higher levels of customer satisfaction, improved workflows, and faster time to market. In addition, workers can travel less, which saves the company money and makes employees happier that they can closer to their families.
People want to use the most appropriate mobile device—laptops, tablet, or smartphone—depending on the context. But the tablet in general—and Apple iPad in particular—is at the core of the mobile collaboration revolution. People want to use their iPads to communicate and collaborate.
That’s why ShoreTel introduced Mobility 6, so workers can use their iPads to make and receive calls (using their business persona and corporate phone directory, even on personally owned iPads), exchange instant messages, and participate in video and web conferences. Conferencing for iOS makes mobile application collaboration a reality. Workers can share presentations, spreadsheets, and documents in real time with people in different locations or view the shared desktops of their colleagues’ PCs and Macs.
The addition of social technologies into an organization’s communications and collaboration mix could unlock additional business value. McKinsey estimates that knowledge workers spend 28 hours a week writing emails, searching for information, and collaborating internally. McKinsey estimates that by using social technologies to free up information locked in workers in-boxes could make knowledge workers 20 to 25 percent more productive. The value will come not only from tapping into consumer insights and crowdsourcing new products and services, but also from improving communication and collaboration, breaking down the barriers in functional silos across the company, and redrawing the traditional boundaries of the enterprise.
The impact of mobile collaboration can be seen already across many industries. For example, field service personnel can conduct remote inspections and maintenance using video. In schools, iPads and mobile collaboration are essential for tutoring, home-schooling, and other forms of remote education. And mobile collaboration has the potential to improve health care, as it extends the reach of health-care professionals into remote communities, long-term care facilities, and even patients’ homes.
Reprinted with permission from Anthem, the publication of the Northwest Credit Union Association (www.nwcua.org).