John Harrington

Relevance depends on ‘real relationships’ with members

Digital and social media complement traditional models that build trust and produce results.

October 24, 2017

“Success demands moving beyond understanding the member experience and actively building member relationships.”

With this basic premise as a starting point, facilitator Randy Harrington took the participants of the inaugural CUNA CEO Council Conference on a journey connecting the worlds of digital, social media, and “relational communication.”

“This is deep stuff,” he says.

Yet Harrington, who has a PhD in communication, related this convergence in a way that attendees found relatable.

It’s not a big leap to consider your credit union as a dynamic expression of communication—internally with employees and externally to members and communities, says Harrington, founder and CEO of the consulting firms Extreme Arts + Sciences and Strategic Arts & Sciences.

“If we want to make a difference in our members’ lives, and if we want to be relevant in the future, we must establish a level of trust with members that only comes with a real relationship,” he says.

This means moving through a series of developmental stages with members that facilitates trusted and open communication, moving the needle past generic goals such as providing excellent service.

“The digital future demands that members trust us, and opt in to sharing their information with us, in a way that will facilitate truly customized services,” Harrington says.

Relational communication models also inform the way we interact as leadership teams, says Harrington, drawing from his experience working with Navy SEAL officers.

“In the SEAL teams, we see teams rooted in the basic premise of ‘swim buddies’—pairs of people that interact and operate as one,” he says. “If you can’t work with one other person, there is no way you can be an effective team member.”

Harrington advocates pairing senior leadership team members when starting major projects.

“When we look at the large digital firms, we see traditional departments and such, but the real work is accomplished by cross-departmental project teams,” he says. “When you get people comfortable working with another person, it’s an easy step to building incredibly powerful teams, incredibly fast.”

To conclude the session, Harrington guided the participants through a developmental model of human relationships. Bouncing between examples from romantic relationships, professional relationships, and member relationships, he identified key “moments of truth” that will solidify a strong leadership culture, and trusting member relationships.

These dynamics play out in front of you every day, in every conversation, Harrington says.

►Read more coverage from CUNA News and get live updates on Twitter via @AdamMertzCUNA@cumagazine, and @CUNACouncils, and by using the #CUNACEOCouncil hashtag. Learn more about the CUNA CEO Council, a member-led community of credit union CEOs dedicated to providing relevant resources and tools essential for success to its members at cunacouncils.org/ceocouncil.