When Sandi Carangi became CEO at $75 million asset Mercer County Community Federal Credit Union in 2015, she worked side-by-side with the outgoing CEO for the first month, and had access to him via phone for an additional two months.
This initial day-to-day interaction with the outgoing leader was invaluable, she says. When the former CEO left the confines of the Hermitage, Pa., credit union, Carangi was ready to “take the wheel” and ease into her new duties but could still reach out to him if questions surfaced.
“It was a three-month process,” Carangi says. “He helped with the day-to-day operations and then let me run with it. But being here in the office that whole first month was probably the most important part of the process.”
Not all onboarding programs are so well thoughtout. Some outgoing CEOs spend months or weeks serving as a sounding board for their replacements. But in other cases, new leaders often must navigate the onboarding process alone.
No matter what method credit unions ultimately use, credit union boards that don’t already have an onboarding process in place for incoming CEOs should develop one. It’s one way to ensure a smooth transition, especially as 10% of credit union CEOs plan to retire within the next two years, according to CUNA’s 2016-2017 Staff Salary Report.
While each credit union has its own approach, the most important component is setting and communicating both short- and long-term goals and expectations, says Charles Shanley, executive vice president at John M. Floyd & Associates, a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider.
This includes walking the new CEO through the basics, “such as where the breakroom is, working the phone system, and making the proper introductions,” says Shanley, who oversees the company’s recruitment services. “That’s usually the board chair’s responsibility.”
Start with introducing the new leader to everyone at the credit union, including employees who report directly to the CEO and community partners. This might be easier for individuals who were promoted from within the credit union, but for those coming from outside the credit union, it’s a critical step.
Shanley says these initial actions usually cover the first 90 days, although every new CEO and credit union is different.
Once relationships take shape, the new leader can move on to more strategic, long-term goals, including learning day-to-day operations and the credit union’s culture, and developing processes and policies to improve the credit union’s performance.
Meeting with the board and setting clear expectations is the most important part of any CEO onboarding process, Shanley says. After setting those goals, the board should continue to monitor the CEO’s progress toward achieving those goals.
If the CEO isn’t clear on expectations and the board doesn’t provide feedback, the new leader will be flying blind. Onboarding, Shanley says, requires “consistent feedback, clear expectations, and monitoring.
“You can’t just turn the keys over and let them go,” he says. “That would be disastrous.”