FAIRFAX, Va. - What comes to mind when you design a five or 10-year plan and try to forecast your future success? Knowing who your competition is, assessing your portfolio, evaluating your product offering and membership? While these are all valid factors that can affect a credit union's future, The Armstrong Group (TAG)-a leading organization management consulting firm- has taken the process one step further and designed a proprietary survey that measures and links the overall relational health of an organization to its business strategic plan.
"Very often a credit union comes to us for assistance with strategic and business planning and leadership development," explained Joe Jerkowski, a senior partner and lead consultant with The Armstrong Group, "but they're unaware if they're doing a good or poor job when it comes to organizational behavior. Neither do they know how that is affecting and possibly undermining their overall performance and membership."
That's what brought IBEW Plus Credit Union in Las Vegas to The Armstrong Group. "I had a misconception about how to empower our staff," said Rita Alleyne, president/CEO of the $92 million credit union. "I thought that just by being a cheerleader and encouraging our staff of 59 people to make decisions that they would do that because they had faith in me.
"In truth they didn't have faith in themselves and didn't feel empowered. It blew me away when I found out," Alleyne continued.
Over the past year, IBEW went through several major changes in upper management and had to deal with the ensuing transition. Alleyne said the staff had the misconception that they had to bring any problem to upper management for a solution, instead of making suggestions and decisions to remedy the situation themselves.
Jerkowski said periods of transition when there are changes at the leadership level or a lot of staff turnover usually make an organization particularly vulnerable to relational problems. He said changes in boundaries often result in an overactive board making decisions the CEO should make.
TAG put IBEW Plus CU through a series of exercises to turn things around at the credit union. Exercise number one was completing TAG's RHO (Relationally Healthy Organization) Factor Survey. IBEW's staff anonymously rated the credit union in 11 areas:
* organizational premise;
* organizational boundaries;
* navigating change;
* organizational communication;
* quality of people and personal excellence;
* outward focus (community and member focus);
* trust (organizational trust/distrust, co-worker trust/distrust);
* relational network thinking (systems/team player thinking)
* employee satisfaction;
* contribution to the organization
The credit union's staff also completed leadership and development modules Alleyne said "were designed to train the staff to be visionaries."
Of the 10 categories IBEW was rated in, they scored the highest in organizational premise and trust and contribution to the organization.
Because of the CU's high score, TAG has selected IBEW as the national benchmark in these categories for the RHO Factor Survey.
Alleyne said the exercises were an eye-opening experience. "It's sort of like when your mother or father would tell you to do something when you were a kid," she explained. "No matter how many times they repeated themselves and intellectually you knew they were making sense, emotionally you didn't accept what they were saying. It was the same way with us, so we needed an effective message of empowerment. The Armstrong Group opened up the lines of communication between the departments at the credit union. They helped us help the staff to believe in themselves and to have confidence in their decision making ability. They helped us empower the staff to be free thinkers and to make decisions.
Last year, IBEW hosted a two-day voluntary "IBEW Boot Camp" for employees. Attendees participated in a series of role playing exercises and were taught effective communication and facilitation skills, including learning to accept the responsibility and ramification of their decisions.
"If your staff feels they're more involved in the decision-making process, they'll be more effective in the day-to-day operations of the credit union," said Alleyne. "I just wish we had done this 10 years ago." -