Editor's Column: Conference Awash in Common Sense, Little Action
Credit union conferences are a curious thing. They’re great networking opportunities for executives and can provide education for those seeking it.
At CUNA’s America’s Credit Union Conference last week, Tom Peters was great as the crotchety old business guru telling credit unions what they need to do and not do. He appeared to relish the role and made some good points. I think he took everyone there down a notch without them knowing it when he essentially told attendees that they don’t work anymore.
The reason they were able to attend conferences was because all of the people back home were keeping the lights on without those individuals in the audience. The attendees–the top executive in other words–should consider themselves working for those on the frontlines and not the other way around.
Personally his remarks on the superiority of women at getting people to work better to achieve goals, rather than merely obtain power, were dead on. This can only improve credit unions and every business into the future as more and more women earn advanced degrees and rise up through the ranks. (The idea that the United States, this bastion of freedom and democracy that teaches everyone they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up, has never had a female leader is appalling.) The key is balance, and credit union data indicates that they are pushing the needle in the right direction.
However, the remarks also drew groans of “We all know this” and “This is common sense.” Well, yes.
But as another keynoter, Shawn Achor, said, “Common sense is not common action.” If everyone would just follow simple rules like treating your employees well, these gurus would all be out of business. What executives bottom-up and top-down need to do is just execute. It is part of the job title.
Achor, who spoke on “The Happiness Advantage,” explained how the brain works when you’re happy versus when you’re not. All of this was well and good, and Achor was an excellent presenter and a good juxtaposition against Peters, but there weren’t any real takeaways from the session. Happier people are less stressed and more creative and productive. And he admitted this was common sense, but common sense doesn’t lead to common action.
So perhaps that is the takeaway from his session. You know you should take time to smell the roses, quit smoking, lose weight or whatever your sin, but most of the time people won’t. For example, I knew I shouldn’t have accepted two conference call invites on Credit Union Times’ production day because it ends up stressing me and others out (hat tip to Managing Editor Donald Shoultz), but I had to. At least in my own mind.
Many of us do these kinds of things all the time that we know are detrimental–common sense does not lead to common action. Would more people know about credit unions if more credit union professionals, volunteers and members talked about credit unions and in a more unified way? Of course. Do we? No. Why? The conference calls get in the way of the real work that needs to be done.
Bill Cheney announced from the stage at ACUC opening session that CUNA is working on a more focused and unified message for credit unions to communicate with consumers. So far the program is short on details, but the example provided, that credit unions save families $150 a piece, brought credit unions’ value to members’ wallets. Good common sense will tell you to highlight what matters to consumers, in this case their credit unions’ budget impact, but credit unions have been reticent to step forth with the common action and execution of a communication strategy with an integrated theme.
While this effort and execution has been desperately needed for decades (dare I say even a century?) on the coattails of Bank Transfer Day is a perfect time. Transfer Day provided a great boost to credit union membership, and yes for some even loans, but that grassroots event is done. What are credit unions going to do for themselves?
Executives will be happier in the bigger picture if they take the time to look at the bigger picture by helping to execute a national campaign bolstering credit unions, which would include serving their employees and making them happier so they’re more productive and creative and better serving members.
All the words CUNA can come up with don’t mean anything if credit unions–the ones on the frontlines with consumers–don’t continue to back up the people helping people promise with substance. Credit unions must realize that the help people need has changed and the credit union must change with it.