Pickin' and Grinnin'

Every position has unpleasant tasks, but they enhance the pleasant, rewarding facets of our jobs

January 30, 2012

There are many wonderful things about growing up on a farm in Wisconsin. Picking rocks is not among them.

Methodology: Dear Old Dad assembles the workforce—surly Big Sister and three reluctant lads. Rock picking day is usually 95 degrees. Wearing “grubbies,” you head out to the field with your bucket, your hay wagon, and your considerably bad attitude.

You survey the large land mass plowed for some crazy agrarian pursuit. You curse the sea of rocks before you. Dear Old Dad is ridiculously cheerful. He loves this “family togetherness project.” But no one else does.

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

You sigh, and drop into the bucket the first of a zillion rocks. You tire quickly. You engage in fights with your brothers and fling dirt balls at them. They volley back. Dear Old Dad whistles the theme from “Star Wars” and admonishes his ornery offspring, “Play nice, children.”


Your bucket is full. You heave it onto the wagon, consider your sunburn, and pray for rain to end the misery.


All of our jobs have unpleasant aspects. The teller line is grumpy, the loan officer is overwhelmed with rate check calls, and maybe the CEO gets to shovel sidewalks.

These “opportunities” sometimes occur in providing excellent member service. Patience, dedication, and understanding how the pieces fit together make for a happy big picture puzzle.

The monotony, stress, or frustration of “unpleasant” chores enhances the rewarding, fun aspects of our jobs.

Let’s leave no stone unturned in this week’s research.

Brookings rocks things out this week with its “Global MetroMonitor 2011: Volatility, Growth, and Recovery.” An interesting factoid from this competitive analysis: “Ninety percent of the fastest-growing metropolitan economies among the 200 largest worldwide were located outside North America and Western Europe.”

The U.S., Western Europe, and Japan host 95% of slowest-growth metro economies.

Pick up this corroborating gem, “New Economic Report by US Conference of Mayors Shows Anemic Growth in Nation’s Metro Economies." This report offers “a glimpse into what middle-class families are going through… Median real income for U.S. households in 2010 was $49,455—7.1% lower than in 1999, when it was $53,252.”

And “A Closer Look at the 2011 U.S. Rental Market” echoes sentiments in a previous Round Up report that “if economic conditions extend consumer uncertainty, we may continue seeing would be home owners continue to rent.”

What does the sluggish economy mean for your members? Are they buying or renting? Might the trend change? How can you help?

Leadership nuggets

Deloitte holds a golden nugget, unlike most rock pickers, in “Talent Edge 2020: Redrafting Talent Strategies for the Uneven Recovery.”

Economic markets are influencing how employers consider leadership development: “Many companies are seeking new sources of growth and are tailoring talent plans to address differing regional needs to support effective talent strategies and business operations.”

What is your credit union doing in consideration of succession plans and leadership building? Are you prepared to adapt to economic demands?

A rolling stone gathers no moss, and the World Economic Forum recognizes the struggles decision makers face in “Global Risks 2012.” This report explores various global issues.

“In the decade ahead, our lives will be more intensely shaped by transformative forces, including economic, environmental, geopolitical, societal and technological seismic shifts. The signals are already apparent with the rebalancing of the global economy, the presence of over seven billion people and the societal and environmental challenges linked to both.”

How people live & work

Continue skipping stones! RAND Corp. offers a glimpse into “How Americans Will Live and Work in 2020”. This study focuses on trends in four areas—the economy, demographics, workplace, and lifestyles—and their impact on poor Americans.

It also offers analysis on the role of philanthropic institutions to help address challenges for this demographic, including “a growing jobs-skills mismatch and inadequate funding for social services.”

There’s one last boulder to move this week in Bowling Green State University’s study, “Unmarried Boomers Confront Old Age: A National Portrait.”

Census study results (1980, 1990, and 2000) indicate that one in three boomers was unmarried. “Unmarried boomers faced greater economic, health, and social vulnerabilities compared to married boomers.

“The rise in unmarrieds at midlife leaves baby boomers vulnerable to the vagaries of aging. Health care and social service providers as well as policy makers must recognize the various risk profiles…to ensure that all boomers age well and that society is able to provide adequate services to all boomers…”

Can your credit union consider various community and social outreach initiatives to help low-income groups—and perhaps grow membership in the process?

Back to the rock pile

When your rock wagon is loaded, you dump it on a remote pile.

Later, you reflect upon the hard work required to compose this aesthetically pleasing monument. You climb to the top of the pile and sit on a large rock washed clean by the rains and warmed by the sun.

Trees surround you. Birds sing. Rocks display a range of color, shape, and heft.

You pick one up and consider your role in this accomplishment. Wheat waves in the wind of the rock-less field.

 Not a bad day’s work. 


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