Great leaders encourage the heart

We know that our capacity for growth and good work is enhanced when our efforts, and we ourselves, are appreciated.

My thoughts today go out to our people, those hardworking people who work day-in and day-out serving our members on the front-lines or in back-office support positions. The importance of this group can’t be overstated: they reflect our culture, they are the face of our brand for every human interface, and, in most cases, they are the very people whose efforts will either make or break the strategies we have been so busy planning. I haven’t seen a sales strategy yet that works well without the overwhelming support of the people on the front-lines. New product roll-outs depend on their buy in, ability, and willingness to tell others.

We cant do it without them

Our dependence on the performance of our people continues to grow, as regulatory compliance efforts continue to tax our limited resources and the competition heats up. The value of great service, product knowledge, and the ability to sell or make referrals has never been higher.

Overall, this is a very remarkable group. I love to visit with member-contact staff. It’s often where I find the most passion for serving members and, unfortunately, it’s an untapped or under-utilized opportunity. Frequently, it’s humbling to visit with this group and hear about the challenges they face. Being on the lower-end of the income ladder has its challenges, especially for the single working moms who try to balance significant external pressures while focusing on the member in front of them whom they are trying to serve. Sometimes, I just don’t know how they do it, but they do. There is rarely a dry eye from this group when they are privately or publicly recognized for doing a great job.

Blood, sweat and tears

There are hosts of issues today that impact the lives of our people. Personal attention and words of encouragement can go a long way in improving their quality of life and the quantity of work they perform. Encourage the heart, and people will give blood, sweat and tears to support the vision and mission. Give people something to believe in: themselves, leadership, the mission, visions, strategies. Most of us want to be part of something bigger than ourselves and most of us are working towards (or hoping for) more opportunity and a better way of life. Let’s help more people find it.

Encourage the heart of your people

Get out of the office. Go visit and get to know the people who report to you (and the people who report to them). Time is one of the greatest investments you may ever make in your team. Get out and hear from them, find out what makes them tick and what motivates them. Let them know they are very important to you, because they are. Live human interaction is how we feel a part of something. E-mail and phone calls just don’t cut it all the time.

Go out and find something good to report. Find something they are doing right and recognize them for it. People love recognition because it makes them feel appreciated. People who feel appreciated try harder and give more. It has to be sincere. Be specific about why they are being recognized and why that activity is so important to the brand, mission, vision, morale, member benefits…you get the idea. Reinforce why the good act is so important and why we need more of that behavior. Be specific with your praise, avoiding generalizations – they aren’t as meaningful.

Remind people of what they are fighting for. Sometimes because of the stress or hyper-focus on our work, we lose sight of the bigger picture. The thing or things that we are striving towards: our vision, mission or personal advancement. Regularly find ways to remind people of why the extra effort is worth it. For example, if we want the driving force to be member impact, find a few member stories to share and recognize your people who made the good things possible.

Nothing is more motivating than a story where our personal help improved a member’s quality of life. Help them see for themselves the tangible impact they make. Or perhaps you may want to remind someone how their extra effort is helping them progress towards their personal career objectives. Heck, I never wanted to go into collections, but did it ever support my loan-underwriting career! Thank goodness I had a leader who frequently recognized me and reminded me the benefit collections experience would have on my credit union career. He was right! Help them see the tangible impact they make.

Give them hope. Offer more time and energy to the people in your care. Your personal investment in their cause will give them hope. It will strengthen their feeling that something desirable is likely to happen for them, the member and the credit union – if they remain committed and fully engage in the cause.

For when there is victory, when battles are won, when burdens are lifted, when brighter shines the sun, when struggling souls gather where heroes below, they find in themselves the heart of the strong. Tom Krause