Leading with Heart – driving inspiration, values, and meaningful member experience

Motherhood is a constant test of balance.  It is our dream to see our children grow into strong, successful and independent adults-yet at the exact same time, we want to hover next to them like shadows ready to race in and prevent every scrape.  It seems like only yesterday I was teaching my daughter to ride her bike.  Perhaps more terrified than she was, I was hesitant to remove her training wheels.  With training wheels she was safe, and naturally, being the completely sane mother I was, I knew the second I took them off she was going to fly down a hill, crash, break her neck and die!

I tell this story because as credit union leaders we are not that different from parents, desperately wanting our organizations to flourish while simultaneously feeling like that nervous mother afraid to remove the proverbial training wheels. 

My project was born from those challenges, and while the vehicle is technology the journey is about engaging the heart.  Yes, I am creating a CRM, but that in it of itself is simply software.  Re-designing the member experience involves the creation of a tool powerful enough to drive strategic direction, generate team member empowerment, and promote confidence from our boards, leaders and members. Creating this tool has been a source of inspiration, understanding the certain necessities that are critical to our success- three of which I would like to share.

1.  The Power is People
“A leader must be inspired by the people before a leader can inspire the people.” - Simon Sinek

Our team members are the heart of our credit unions.  They are the individuals on the front lines working with our members, and acting as the voice of the organization.  When developing our CRM this was where I began.  When teams are empowered with the right tools and training we are setting them up for success. Additionally, studies suggest that employees who feel empowered in the workplace make better decisions, show higher rates of job satisfaction, and have increased retention. This is why CRM customization is critical.  The team member’s became the voice driving the architecture.  In my case, this included a thorough investigation of the good and bad.  What was working for our teams?  Where were the major pain points? It is amazing the amplitude to which change management can be conquered when even the smallest wins are given to those on our front line.  

2. Transparency is Culture
“A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity.” - Dalai Lama

Ask your boards and C-Suite to generate a list of organizational values most desired, and transparency is nearly always included.  After all, our boards and leaders are not that different from the mother watching her five year old race away on a bicycle.  They want to empower their teams- they want us to succeed, but they also need to understand, protect, and lead the organization.  In order for both of these to live harmoniously trust must flourish, and transparent culture feeds this.  So I asked my leaders: what information do you need in order to feel confident in empowering your teams? Do you have this information? And what is missing?  Responses came around better understanding our members, data on call resolutions, SLAs on problem management, and increased tracking to drive incentive. Another common theme was the need to easily access our data when new questions arise.  It was these conversations that created the structure for the dashboards and reporting systems that now live within our CRM and help guide our organization. 

3. Scaling for the Future
“Success today requires the agility and drive to constantly rethink, reinvigorate, react, and reinvent.” - Bill Gates

The final piece was equipping my organization with technology able to grow and change as quickly as the world we live in.  A strategic investment of this magnitude must be able to sustain organizational growth, withstand the pressures of an ever expanding technological landscape, and have the agility to be easily altered to match strategic change.   Phase one of my project has been live for less than 6 months and already several phases are planned to launch within the upcoming months and years.  As we begin the process of generating a new strategic plan, the agility of my CRM has been critical to this process.  This system will remain the epicenter of our member and team member experience by providing the tools, dashboards, and information necessary to drive maximum impact- now and in the future.

Jessica Vartanian