Over the past several weeks, I have been asked by several people about my inspiration for the FARE Framework curriculum. The short answer is Leadership Development. One of the hot topics currently in business, including the Credit Union industry, is leadership succession planning, and it should be! As 10,000 baby boomers retire daily, business professionals in all industries have to look to the future and begin developing their succession plan so that their organization can survive the test of time. The credit union movement is no different. According to Glenn Strebe’s 2015 article in CU Insight, “78% of all CEOs are baby boomers,” which says a lot about the change we can expect to see in the coming years. Are we prepared as an industry for this shift? Do CEOs, Boards, and credit union professionals have the know-how to fill these professionals’ shoes as they retire?
For many credit unions the answer is no. For a great read on this topic, I recommend Stephanie Zuleger’s dissertation rightfully named Identifying Impediments of Succession Planning in Credit Unions. While Stephanie addresses the issues preventing succession planning from succeeding and what some CEOs in the movement have implemented to date, I would like to recommend that we begin by taking it back to the basics as presented in the Harvard Business Review article “Developing Your Leadership Pipeline” by Jay A. Conger and Robert M. Fulmer. In this article they cite the 5 rules of developing a leadership succession pipeline. As they state, the first rule, Focus on Development, is the most important rule, and what I will focus on here.
In focusing on development, I believe there are 5 key areas vital to success in the credit union movement as well as any other business, which I term the Strategic Development Model. The first is Leadership which is the fundamental principle behind managing others, and there are many courses, seminars, and programs already developed around this vital topic specific to our industry. The FARE Framework is an answer to the second area of development, Financial Management, or how the numbers side of our business works. The third area is Operations and Project Management focusing on what we actually do and how we change processes as the business environment changes around us. The fourth area is Strategic and Competitive Analysis detailing how each credit union sets itself apart in the market from other credit unions, banks, and disruptive financial technology. This is another area where you can find many resources to assist in development. The final area, and in my opinion one of the weakest areas of focus today, is Cross-Functional Understanding. This piece is the hardest piece to train because it is part leadership, financial management, operations, and strategy mixed with a healthy dose of awareness, empathy, and collaboration.
While I in no way believe the FARE Framework is the only way to assist in developing leaders for the challenges of tomorrow, I do believe it helps with three of the key areas of development. The obvious one is Financial Management. It also begins threading the topics of Strategy and Competitive Analysis while exposing non-financial managers to the Cross-Functional Understanding of how Finance, Accounting, and Risk functions operate. Further, the current design of the program leads to interactions between departments which help to build the vital ingredients of awareness, empathy, and collaboration. And this multi-faceted purpose is what truly makes the FARE Framework exciting.
Learn more about the FARE Framework and my project.
 Kessler, Glenn. “Do 10,000 Baby Boomers Retire Every Day”. Washington Post: July 24, 2014.