Board Members Play Essential Role in Driving Credit Union Growth

Strategic Link partner, Jeff Rendel, examines how board members can guide CEOs.

1/14/2020

The relationship between a board and its CEO is best described as a partnership. Credit union CEOs depend upon their boards for guidance and support, while boards look to their CEOs for focus and execution.

Strategic Link partner, Jeff Rendel, President of Rising Above Enterprises, is an expert in credit union board-CEO relationships. Here he shares how board members can maintain productive and strategic relationships with their CEOs that deliver impactful, positive results for members.

  • Focus on the long-term. As a credit union grows, governance and long-term strategic focus become more important. While all board meetings must cover a credit union’s financial updates and noteworthy operational matters, its board members can help the CEO work on the business rather than be in the business. By investing more time on “whiteboard” items of direction, legacy, and value, a board helps its CEO lead a credit union that delivers the kind of results that keep their credit union relevant for decades to come.
  • Action over unanimity. Often, after much deliberation, board members are unanimous in their votes on strategic direction and major operational decisions. However, from time to time, dissenting votes are present. It’s easy to table an issue, hoping for unity, but the opportunity for action may get lost. “A 5-2 vote gives me direction,” says one CEO. “And, often, I can address the dissenting board members’ concerns during the management phase.”
  • Be the voice of the member. In the most significant sense, a credit union’s board represents the collective interests of its members; the members are the owners, after all. Though the credit union model is not-for-profit, it should read “for value.” Often, that value is financial and experiential. “Our board has made a practice of asking ‘What’s in it for the members?’ as our CEO discusses business plans and courses of action,” shares a large credit union’s Board Chair. “When we recognize the well-defined benefit our members will receive, we acknowledge that our board is rightly representing their ownership interests in the credit union.”

Board members cite safety, soundness, and strategy as their main priorities, while the design and execution of strategy and plans is, chiefly, the CEO’s role. But board members should look too increasing the odds of success for their CEO and his or her execution of plans. With long-term focus, commitment to action, and equal representation of members, a board can help a credit union CEO deliver valuable results to current members and those destined to drive future growth.

Editor’s Note: The Northwest Credit Union Association encourages credit unions and their board members to visit the Association’s Directors’ Resource Center, which helps guide board members on best practices.

Strategic Link business partner Jeff Rendel is a certified speaking professional and President of Rising Above Enterprises. He works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy. Visit his Strategic Link page to learn more about partnering with him.