Not everyone needs to be, or should be, a leader. And even among those who have the tools to be leaders, some simply aren’t a good match for your credit union’s culture.
About that culture: Mold it to your ideals before developing any grandiose leadership development programs because your culture is the strongest determinant for the traits your future leaders will adopt.
And don’t force upwardly mobile employees to keep their intentions secret. Foster their dreams, whether that means they move up the ladder internally or pursue opportunities elsewhere.
Three credit union executives shared those and other insights on leadership development.
Embrace the messiness of the process
Leadership development can fall through the cracks in work environments where thin resources must be invested almost entirely on day-to-day functions.
That’s short-sighted, says Matt Monge, who has been designing a leadership-oriented environment at $495 million asset Mazuma Credit Union, Kansas City, Mo.. He’s the credit union’s chief workplace culture officer.
“You don’t leave a business’s finance to chance, human resources to chance, compliance to chance— nor should you,” Monge says. “But for some reason, with leadership development we cross our fingers and figure that people will muddle through and everything will be fine.
“I don’t know why you’d do that instead of thinking, ‘We’ve got all these people here who have a natural inkling toward wanting to do something important, something bigger than them, and for some of them it’ll be leading. Let’s help them become that, whatever version of a leader that is.’ ”
Monge is developing a leadership training program for Mazuma, making sure to marry the curriculum to the credit union’s culture. The first step is assessing the existing culture and changing it if necessary.
“It’s an exercise in self-awareness on a group level,” he says. “It’s looking in the mirror, asking difficult questions, and trying to get very honest answers. Who are we? Why do we exist? What things are true of us now? What things do we want to be true of us?”
For best results, employ a multi-tiered program that starts with a foundation of beliefs and becomes more detailed as an employee progresses into management— the way scaffolding rises around a building as it’s being constructed, Monge says.
A “holistic” program covers change management, tactical leadership, organizational development and theory, coaching, human resources and development, communication, and leadership and diversity. Community learning, in which participants interact by questioning and advancing each other’s ideas, provides superior results, Monge says.
Embrace leadership development as an organic process, he advises, finding beauty even in the warts.
“It’s not this sterile, purely academic thing where people [view] a PowerPoint and then get a certificate and suddenly they’ve been developed as a leader,” Monge says. “It’s going to be messy, but that’s part of the beauty of it.”
NEXT: Ambition isn’t a dirty word