Ratio: Forward Looking to Backward Looking

Ratio: Forward Looking to Backward Looking

Too many credit union board members spend too much time looking at what happened last month, last quarter and last year. In the current environment of uncertainty and volatility, directors need to be able to spend as much time as possible on strategic thinking. Looking ahead to your “big picture goals.”

By Kevin Smith

Today we’re going to talk about a new ratio. Yeah, if it’s the credit union industry we do like to talk about our ratios, don’t we?! But this one might be a bit different than the financials that you’re used to seeing.

Let me ask you a question: How much time do you, as a board member, spend dealing with things that are strategic and future oriented? How much of your volunteer time are you using working on, or planning for the “beautiful future”? Dreaming of what your credit union could be and working towards that?

Forward/Backward Looking Time Spent

How much time are you spending looking at the strategic?

 

Monitoring Whether the Current Economic Uncertainty is Bringing Greater Risk to Your Loan Portfolio

Monitoring Whether the Current Economic Uncertainty is Bringing Greater Risk to Your Loan Portfolio

 By Tim Harrington

Economic uncertainty makes assessing risk in a credit union’s portfolio that much more difficult. Credit unions can take advantage of  existing reports to tease out signals and indicators to help determine what’s happening within their sphere.

Ask an economist if the U.S. economy is going to stay strong or slip into a recession and they will probably just give you a perplexed look. Why? The economic signals are terribly mixed. Traditional indicators of health or recession are occurring simultaneously, and no one knows where things are going from here.

But as a board and management team, there are a variety of internal reports that can give you an idea whether your credit union’s risks are increasing or decreasing. The traditional measures of credit risk, namely delinquency and charge-offs, will not tell you that your risks are changing. These are “lagging indicators.” These tell you of a problem in the past, not that a problem may be starting to happen. 

Balanced Scorecard and CEO Oversight

Balanced Scorecard and CEO Oversight

The Balanced Scorecard approach provides boards a range of variables to measure success. With a mixture of financials, strategic values of the organization and others, this provides more confidence in their assessments. When boards and CEOs collaborate to establish these measurements, it also helps clarify the plan for all involved.

By Kevin Smith

Board members: how comfortable are you in your role as evaluator of your CEO? More and more I’m hearing discomfort among directors about how they assess the performance of the CEO. And it’s no wonder, the more complex the industry gets, the more information the board has to digest, the more difficult it is to keep up with … well, … everything! Add to that the fact that very often, credit union board members don’t come from the financial services world in their professional backgrounds. Of course, none of this means that these are bad directors, or that they don’t offer a world of value to the strategic thinking of the credit union. But it DOES mean that directors these days need to make sure they’re using the right tools, and getting the right kind of information/education to keep them current to good work in an efficient amount of time.

Three Kinds of Lip Service That are Hurting Your Culture

Three Kinds of Lip Service That are Hurting Your Culture

By Kevin Smith

Three Kinds of Lip Service That Are Hurting Your Culture

Lip Service

Lip Service

Lip Service

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You know about Lip Service, right? (hint: it’s not just a rockin’ song by Elvis Costello.) This is when you talk about something but your actions don’t back up what your lips are saying. It’s a terrible feature in organizational cultures and it can devastate trust and morale. I see it all the time. But not all lip service is created equally. I see three forms of it regularly and each has its own kind of negative effect on an organization.

Best Practices in Board Recruitment … Part (n+1)

Best Practices in Board Recruitment … Part (n+1)

By Tim Harrington and Kevin Smith

Board recruitment should be an ongoing process, a continuing cultivation. Everyone is super-busy, so making this as streamlined as possible for recruit-ers and recruit-ees is imperative. Building business card solutions and one-click information can do this.

As part of our roles for TEAM Resources we get the great privilege to spend time with credit union staff members, executives, CEOs and volunteers on a regular basis. Sometimes that’s part of individual consulting with organizations and sometimes while speaking to groups at trade events, conferences, schools, etc. And while we think we have some pretty great ideas about how to do things, we have to admit that we get a lot of great ideas and information from high performers who show up at these programs.

Are You Holding Executive Sessions … Regularly?

Are You Holding Executive Sessions … Regularly?
By Tim Harrington and Kevin Smith

At times directors should meet without the CEO or others present. This is an opportunity to raise questions or concerns in a closed environment. This session allows the board to maintain independence from senior management. Done regularly it is part of the culture. Done too rarely and it creates concerns.

Executive sessions or closed meetings, are an opportunity for the board to meet confidentially, with only board members present. Though the board may choose, or not, to invite others to attend.

Executive Sessions

Executive (in camera) Sessions

*For the folks out there who are nerdy about language like me, these sessions are also called in camera (literally in a chamber) sessions. Our good friend Latin rearing its head here. And I think it may be obvious why that may be a very confusing term that is no longer used in this day and age of viral video and smart phones with cameras, especially since we’re referring to a meeting that is closed. – Kevin

We believe you need the Executive Sessions. Periodically and routinely. The board needs the opportunity to have confidential environment, where only directors are present, so that people can speak freely. This may be about board challenges or governance issues, CEO compensation, or performance. It may concern the auditor’s report, or it may simply happen regularly to reinforce the idea that the board is independent of management and that there will be a place to express concerns.

Strategic Planning and the Worst Metaphors I can Come Up With

Strategic Planning and the Worst Metaphors I can Come Up With: Hunting Baby Elephants and Killing Sacred Cows

by Kevin Smith

I recently had the pleasure of spending several days with a credit union working with their board on strategic governance, then with the board and senior team together on strategic planning. This work is really fulfilling, and rewarding. Hopefully the credit unions get half as much out of it as I do. Part of the fun of doing this really difficult work is establishing rapport between myself and the group I’m with, and helping them increase the level of rapport and critical dynamic among the participants in the session.

Inevitably throughout the day we end up creating inside jokes, a shorthand of references that only we understand. In this particular session, I found myself unnerved at one point because in the same sentence we were talking about killing baby elephants and hunting down sacred cows. Such violent language and imagery! How did we end up here?! These are not my favorite kinds of inside jokes. Alas, here we were … and I’m trying to salvage the value of these metaphors for the benefit they are supposed to bring.

Let Them Surprise You with the Results

by Kevin Smith

“Don’t tell people HOW to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and let them surprise you with the results.”

George S. Patton Jr.

Good leadership means sometimes giving up some control. Credit union board members (and many CEOs) have the chance to unleash the power of their staff on their members and the world by loosening up to let them surprise you with the results.

Last week I had the good fortune to be invited to facilitate theIntentional Credit Union Leadership event held by the Michigan Credit Union League. It was a great event with so many great attendees who are leaders, leaders-in-training, and those hoping and trying to develop in that direction. I was inspired by what I saw.

We did a number of things to make the room help inspire thinking towards leadership and creativity, to get people in the mindset of the event. For one, we had inspirational leadership quotes around the room, and we asked the attendees to write and share their favorite aspirational aphorisms. The words from General Patton that you see on the top of the page were among them.

What Board Meetings Should Accomplish

Credit union board members should keep a clear focus on what they should accomplish in each meeting. To be efficient directors can try to follow this rule of thirds: Strategic Discussion, Reporting and Education. It will keep the focus and improve performance.

by Tim Harrington & Kevin Smith

As we travel around the country working with credit unions, we’re so fortunate to meet great people who are part of the credit union movement. We get to interact with those who have a great deal of experience, people who are happy to share what they’ve learned over the years. We’ve had the opportunity to learn some great practices (and a little bit of nonsense) over the years which we always try to pass along (usually not the nonsense).

The Best/Worst Pencil Sharpener: A Note on Sharpening Your Focus & Difficult Decisions in Strategy

Credit unions are challenged to sharpen their strategic focus. To do this they need to make hard decisions about what they will and what they won’t do. Saying “no” to things can be challenging.

by Kevin Smith

I know, I know. I can just hear the comments now, “You’re writing about what?! AND you’re going to lead with a pun like that?!?!” Yes, I have some thoughts about my pencil sharpener that I’d like to share. And I swear that I think that they are totally relevant to credit unions and strategy.

There … in the picture. That’s it. The pencil sharpener that I’d like to talk about. It’s awful looking isn’t it? It’s huge, and heavy. A “Boston Champion.” And here’s a feature: it’s kinda hard to use. It takes three hands to successfully use. Well … sort of. Once you get the hang of it you can do it with two hands. There’s video below so you can see it in action.  Much about it is clunky and inconvenient.  And here are the steps involved to make it work: