Catalysts for Change

Don't wait for the temperature to rise before you take action

July 1, 2012

It’s been mighty hot around here the past few days, and I’m grateful to have an air conditioner.

We never had air conditioning when I was a kid, and the upstairs of our old farmhouse would get hot. My three brothers and I would sweat and complain—loud and often, but in vain.  

Shortly after the last of us moved to college, Mom and Dear Old Dad acquired an adorable Bernese Mountain dog. Evidently, this breed can’t tolerate heat. So when the temperatures rose, the puppy whimpered. And soon it was lounging in air-conditioned comfort.

My brothers and I still smart about that. The dogs continue to stay cool.

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Bray is research librarian at CUNA.

What motivates you to act? What external influences, new people, exciting technology, community event, or other occurrences have served as change catalysts for you, your staff, or your credit union?

Consider changes made and the process. Was anyone offended during transition periods? What were the effects? Who benefitted, and how? Do circumstances get really “hot” before you act, or are you forward thinking enough to anticipate evolutionary needs?

Is there anything in the research this week that might serve as a catalyst?

An Economic Warm-Up

The State of the Nation’s Housing 2012,” published by Harvard, reports mortgage payments are more affordable, relative to rentals, and sales of new and existing homes are on the uptick. But this good news is tempered because “sustained employment growth remains key, proving the stimulus for stronger household growth,” and, “the persistent weakness in home building has in itself hindered a strong rebound in hiring.” 

Take a look at “The 2012 Long-Term Budget Outlook” by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO projects “by the end of this year, the federal debt will reach roughly 70% of gross domestic product.” That would be the highest percentage since shortly after World War II. Spending on health care due to an aging population and rising costs of care itself will greatly affect the U.S. economy. The report analyzes several policy scenarios and budgetary outcomes.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book reports hiring was steady or showed a modest increase and price inflation was modest across most areas of the country. Most federal reserve districts reported slightly stronger loan demand, as well.

What do consumers think?  Consider this: “Americans Upbeat About Local Economy, Down on the World,” according to Gallup. The fact that Americans believe the U.S. is in better shape than Europe, “may provide some comfort to those worried about the impact of a struggling U.S. economy on consumer confidence.”

Optimism is a good thing, and here’s why: “A Child Born in 2011 Will Cost $234,900 to Raise.” This comes from a USDA report. Housing costs are the largest expenditure in child rearing, while child care and education, and food were the next two largest expenses. The cost of raising a child is up 3.5% from 2010.

Do choices you make in service offerings--or failures to offer such--have economic benefits or detrimental consequences? How does the economy itself affect service to your members?

Back at the Office

Paying it Forward Pays Back for Business Leaders,” according to a Catalyst study. Effective leaders aren’t only good decision makers and strong managers, but also focus on development. Mentoring others has an economic impact in addition to the philanthropic benefits. Those helping others received $25,075 in additional compensation between 2008 and 2010 because “developing other talent creates more visibility and a following within the organization for the high-potentials who are doing the developing…” Mentors and coaches are proactive and, therefore, more often employed at senior executive or managerial levels.

Can you be the change catalyst for an employee at your credit union to benefit both of you?

Finally, let’s take a glimpse at what the military has to offer in leadership development in “Improving the Decision Making Abilities of Small Unit Leaders.”Civilians can apply some lessons reported by the U.S. Marine Corps. “The pace of change and inability to assess and predict in a timely manner the situations that Marines will face have intensified,” the report says. “Moreover, facing an agile, adaptive enemy means Marines themselves must continually observe, learn, and adapt if they’re to succeed.” How can you apply some of the leadership development tactics and strategies this report presents?

Enjoy these summer days, but realize that change is inevitable and can come about in various ways. Sometimes it’s an unexpected catalyst, or on occasion, doing nothing has an impact. But we also can affect change by thinking proactively and focusing on leadership development and other strategic tactics. 

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.