Early in his Navy SEAL career, Rob Monroe learned a universal leadership lesson about the value of collaborative thinking.
“From the very beginning, we’re taught to tap into the support and ideas of the entire team when we’re planning an operation,” says Monroe, who recently addressed the inaugural CUNA CEO Council Conference about the mechanics of high-functioning teams.
For Monroe, that meant curbing his tendency to want to do everything himself—to “take care of planning for the team.”
Tasked with creating a full mission brief during “BUD/S”—Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training—Monroe took sole ownership and sent his team away for a few hours’ sleep.
“Next thing I know, it’s the middle of the night, and I’m not making real progress,” Monroe says. “My instructor walked in and asked, ‘Mr. Monroe, you are class leader—where is your team?’”
The instructor stressed that Monroe would be far more successful if he included his team in planning from the beginning. It was a lesson he never forgot. “They were grumpy to be woken up,” he says, “but we got the job done.”
Planning in the world of credit unions might not require submarines or high-altitude parachute jumps, but the pace of change and the complexity of the business increase every day.
Sifting and winnowing the best ideas from various members of the team better prepares you for the challenges you face, says Monroe, who retired in 2010 as a Navy captain after a 28-year career that included a stint coordinating U.S. security for top leaders of the Iraqi government.
“When you approach planning from a team perspective, you get better ideas—and people can adapt faster and more effectively when something goes wrong or changes,” he says.
Those lessons carry over to Monroe’s current role as founder and director of Redfin Risk Mitigation.
“When I teach people how to optimize their personal security—the security of their business and their families—the same kind of planning process goes into play,” he says. “Everyone needs to understand the plan and know how to work the plan.”
Conference attendees peppered Monroe with questions following his presentation, and Monroe—a self-identified “credit union guy”—deepened his appreciation for the role credit unions play in creating brighter financial futures for their 110 million members.
“It was great to speak to all these great Americans who are working so hard on behalf of their members,” Monroe says. “It opened my eyes to the challenges of the industry. I am proud of them and proud of what credit unions are all about.”
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