Empty Your Cup: Time To Unlearn Entrenched Habits

Empty Your Cup: Time To Unlearn Entrenched Habits

Posted on CBInsight and CUInsight

I have to pause and brag a bit because I am so amazed at what the younger generation does to advance its leadership skills. Our household has been busy the past several weeks. Five of my children test this month for their second-degree black belt in taekwondo or, more appropriately, their 2nd dan. Over the past six years, they have practiced 8 to 10 hours a week in addition to the requisite reading, essay writing, community service, annual 250 acts of kindness, a major project, and 20 plus hours of assistant teaching. Two weeks ago they took a 223-question written test, and they all scored between 94% and 98%. Next Saturday, they have their last two-hour physical test on patterns, sparring, and board breaking, followed by a black tie dinner. By now, I imagine you readers who are parents are remembering some similar event for your kids.


This morning, my children had to unlearn a practice, called emptying their cup, to take on a higher level of accountability and ownership for a new practice to advance their leadership skills. In the past, their teacher has provided the boards they would break with their hands, fists, and feet. This time, each of the five was responsible for cutting and bringing 24 boards, 1 x 10 X 12 inches. My contribution was to drive them to Home Depot; they were responsible for finding, cutting, and delivering the boards to the dogan for their test.

It didn’t take long for the level of engagement to ramp up. After a bit of debate about the math problem, they figured out how many boards were needed, located the lumber section in the store (yep, had to ask for help!), managed to get the boards to the cashier, and loaded the truck we had borrowed. Their appreciation for how the boards magically appeared for each previous testing gained momentum before we left the store. They had never considered the teacher’s effort to have the boards ready—the boards just always appeared! Historically, the focus was on the kick. Now the focus was on creating the environment to execute the kick. The phenomenon experienced today was definitely a mindset disrupter.

Still, the greatest learning came next: being taught how to use a table saw. This level of skill required a masterful teacher to guide my children in effective cutting without harming a finger or hand. A good friend, Dave, helped each of the kids manage the saw and expertly cut the boards. Eyes were focused, bodies centered, and awareness and attention enhanced.

What, you might ask, does this story have to do with credit unions? Frankly, everything! Credit unions are at a place in history that requires emptying the cup to make room for new methods and ideas. Emptying the cup does not mean letting everything we know to go down the drain; rather, it represents that we let go of perceptions, actions, and mindsets that hamper our ability to be masterful today and tomorrow. Entrenched mindsets, tired dialogues, and tactical focus at the board level will keep our cups full; yet, they may be full of lukewarm coffee with soured milk.


These five kids experienced a mindset disrupter today that led to new, shared learning; vast appreciation of a teacher; and, a desire to show up well in the final two-hour test next week. There was an alternative that would have saved all of us time and energy: Mr. Joe, their teacher, volunteered to bring the boards to the dogan. Definitely tempting! Yet, if we had said yes, a mindset disrupter would not have been possible; the cup would have stayed full, and the shared learning opportunity would not have been available.

I’ll make this relevant:

  • Board agendas need to shift from tactical to strategic: Start with a blank sheet of paper and create an entirely new design.
  • Board packets need to reflect a strategic board. Challenge the status quo.
  • Strategic planning needs to move from an annual event to an ongoing, holistic way of doing business and include cross-functional and multi-level stakeholders. This level of robustness increases engagement, innovation, and ownership.
  • Strategic succession planning should be front and center, all the time, throughout the organization. See quality coaches, mentors, and teachers.
  • Talent development needs to be part of each executive’s performance expectations. Otherwise, good people are at risk and the level of disengagement rises.
  • Board committees need to be fine-tuned so they reflect the current needs of the credit union.

Ask yourself:

How full is your cup?

When will you empty it?

What new leadership practices will you invite in?

Beyond Basic Succession Planning

Beyond Basic Succession Planning

Posted on CUES Website
February 2016 – Vol: 39 No. 2
by Laura Lynch

Many boards undergo CEO succession planning at its most basic level, what Peter Myers, MSC, PCC, calls the “regulator satisfier” level. At this stage, there may be a document at the credit union that explains who takes over if the CEO is not available and what level of authority that person is entrusted with before needing to consult the board.

“This really just checks the box of ‘succession planning’ to meet regulatory requirements,” emphasized Myers, vice president of CUES Supplier member and strategic partnerDDJ Myers in a December CUES Webinar.

Strategic succession planning, on the other hand, goes far beyond basic regulatory requirements. “Succession planning is really having the right people ready at the right time to do the right work,” Myers said.

For example, Myers is often asked how early a board should begin planning for a change in CEO. His answer: five years out. The search, at this point, is a strategic discussion about the role of the board and the credit union five years down the road. This type of strategic planning for succession will help the board forecast the type of CEO needed for the job.

Three years before a CEO’s departure, he said, the board should be compiling the CEO profile, which will probably look very different from the current CEO’s profile. At this point, the board will put together a leadership development plan for internal candidates. This gives potential internal candidates what they need to be successful in the succession process. Coaching plays a part for internal candidates as well.

Two years out, the board should check on the internal candidates to see if they are developing themselves and checking off requirements to fit the profile. At this time, the board can also begin discussing and developing an employment contract, if it will be needed.

One year before a new CEO is hired, the board should give the internal candidates interview opportunities. Myers explained that giving internal prospects this advanced chance to meet with the board allows directors to give feedback and allows internal candidates to have time to adjust before final interviews in the coming year.

“Through the process, there is a communication strategy,” Myers explained. “It has to be managed with dignity. What that means is, if we’re doing things in a surprise fashion or in a silo or a vacuum, it will cause potentially unnecessary, unforeseen, very much unintentional breakdowns. And your board and maybe your internal candidates will begin to look elsewhere when they know your CEO is retiring in the next year. [Instead,] we want to keep [internal candidates] engaged.”

Communication should not stop once the CEO is on board. To the contrary, Myers advised that a systematic process for transition be put in place for at least six months.

“Too often boards have the idea that they (the new CEO) showed up, they are ready to go, and it’s business as usual. More often than not, you put a new person in that role, they’ll find different things than the old person. They’ll want to look at things differently,” said Myers. Regular check-ins between the new CEO and the board for at least six months will help proactively identify changes to be made.

CUES members can view a recording of this webinar, “Evolving Board Mindsets.” 

Strategy or Agility: What Comes First?

Strategy or Agility: What Comes First?

Posted on CUInsight
By Deedee Myers

Confusing levels of strategic leadership were the focus of a post last fall, during a key season for strategic planning. Last week, strategic agility was the focus of speeches at a conference for credit union board chairs and CEOs. These interesting and robust conversations amongst conference attendees included reflections and speculative questions on how to acquire or enhance strategy and agility.

So, which comes first, strategic leadership or agility? This morning, I started to create a mind map called Strategic Leadership and Organization Agility, and I struggled until I realized what was missing! The leadership type is crucial. What kinds of leaders are needed to have a sustainable organization with a viable, living strategic plan and organizational agility?

The types of leaders in your organization influence its success in strategy and agility. An abundance of strategic and visionary leaders with minimal transactors, processors, and builders roadblocks innovative and strategic thinking,. A team comprised of all process-oriented leaders, on the other hand, draws attention away from the organization’s vision and purpose.

I dusted off a piece of research from a couple years ago on the eight basic leadership archetypes. Most boards have a significant percentage of process-oriented members, and many of those boards, however, want a strategically focused CEO as part of succession planning. This dynamic is both challenging and exciting, as the board wants to act more strategically yet also has process-oriented members.

An embedded organization culture, simplistically, either has an appropriate blend of leadership archetypes or is weighted toward one or two of the eight basic archetypes. Check out these high-level archetype descriptors. Which best represent your own, your overall executive team’s, and your organization’s leadership archetype?

The Strategist

  1. Is excellent at abstract, imaginative thinking
  2. Has a long-term orientation
  3. Has the ability to see the big picture and to plan accordingly
  4. Is a great conceptualizer and can present all the options
  5. Has the capacity to think globally
  6. Can think laterally; is a groundbreaker
  7. Is excellent at aligning vision with strategy

The Change Catalyst

  1. Recognizes opportunities for organizational transformation
  2. Has a great capacity to identify and sell the need for change
  3. Is talented at entrepreneurship and prepared to take on risky, independent assignments
  4. Is always looking for new, challenging assignments
  5. Possesses a great sense of urgency
  6. Can make difficult decisions and is tough minded
  7. Has aptitude at selecting talent to get the job done

The Transactor

  1. Prefers novelty, adventure, and exploration
  2. Thrives on new challenges
  3. Is not very interested in day-to-day management
  4. Makes a great deal maker or negotiator
  5. Embraces change and has strong risk tolerance
  6. has a great talent for spotting new opportunities
  7. Is proactive, adaptive, and focused on the short term

The Builder

  1. Greatly needs to be independent and in control
  2. Has an enormous amount of energy, drive, dynamism, and enterprise
  3. Possesses enormous perseverance and a great capacity to deal with setbacks
  4. Can live with a great deal of insecurity and ambiguous situations
  5. Has the capacity to thrive under pressure due to a long-term focus
  6. Has a high but calculated risk-taking propensity
  7. Possesses moderate social skills and has difficulty dealing with authority

The Innovator

  1. Has a great drive to pursue creative and imaginative ideas
  2. Is always on the lookout for new projects and activities
  3. Is never satisfied with developing ideas and has difficulty with closure
  4. Tolerates and even enjoys complex problem solving
  5. Sets stretch goals for whatever needs to be accomplished
  6. Is not political or is quite naïve about organizational politics
  7. Is not interested in organization politics.

The Processor

  1. Has a systemic outlook and a positive attitude toward authority
  2. Is effective at turning abstract concepts into practical action
  3. Is effective at providing structure, processes, and boundaries
  4. Dislikes unstructured situations
  5. Adheres to rules and procedures
  6. Is self-disciplined, reliable, efficient, cooperative, and conscientious
  7. Is excellent at time management

The Coach

  1. Prefers novelty, adventure, and exploration
  2. Is empathic (has a high EQ), is good at listening, and inspires trust
  3. Has an affinity for people and is cooperative
  4. Is excellent at handling difficult interpersonal and group situations
  5. Has talent for creating high-performance cultures and teams
  6. Is a great developer of people and is great at giving constructive feedback
  7. Prefers participatory management


The Communicator

  1. Is excellent at communicating broad themes and the big picture
  2. Has impressive theatrical skills and talent at creating make-believe
  3. Can reframe difficult situations positively
  4. Has a talent for influencing others
  5. Is good at networking, building alliances, and attracting others’ attention
  6. Is excellent at managing various stakeholders
  7. Is not too proud to ask for outside help and use advisors or a consulting firm

 Too much of a good thing
The above descriptors highlight the advantages of each leadership archetype. How do we know there is too much of a good thing? Too much focus on strategy or vision can leave people behind in the execution; the innovator can have less-than-desired communication skills; the coach could have issues with holding people accountable; and the communicator may talk too much or neglect effective action. You get the gist. . .

Now, we come back to the question: Which comes first, strategic leadership or agility? I appreciate having an understanding of the key participants: Which people are occupying the seats on a bus, and which seats are occupied with ineffective participants? When the organization’s leadership has a blend of archetypes, the subsequent strategic conversation is facilitated differently than if the team, including the board, mostly consists of just two of the eight archetypes. The strategic outcome still needs to be relevant and timely and to perpetuate value to the stakeholders.

There’s No Second “1st” Place

There’s No Second “1st” Place

Published in CUInsight
By Deedee Myers

Once the baton is dropped in the leadership race . . . your credit union is at risk. Strategic Succession Planning is a critical step to serving that purpose and mitigating unnecessary risk. If for any reason your CEO departs and you have not identified or groomed a “step in” or “drop in” candidate, your members are not being served. You have not adequately mitigated risk. This is not a gray area; but very black and white.

There are many reasons why a CEO may no longer be available for work. Regardless of the reason; the board has a responsibility to have potential successors ready to serve. A strategic succession plan covers all the bases for CEO departure for any reason:

  • Incapacitating illness
  • Sudden demise
  • Surprise departure
  • Under performing
  • Normal retirement
  • Organization restructure

Succession Planning is a process to ensure that the right people are in the right places at the right time. It is not a ‘Drive By’ event that leaves leadership to chance and risks the purpose of the credit union. The board of directors is responsible for hiring the CEO and, consequently, that future potential successors are identified and available when needed. The CEO is responsible for the development of potential successors. Ensuring proper succession to the CEO desk is a responsibility with an outcome that materially impacts the members, employees, community, and the future of the credit union. It should be taken seriously as it is could be the most important decision the board will make. This article describes a systematic process for the board to ensure that the right people are ready at the right time so they can be in the right place.

Creating a robust and fail safe Succession Plan requires a structured and systematic process. It is the boards’ responsibility to decide what competencies are required to meet present and future needs of the credit union. Use the strategic plan as a beacon for developing a list of competencies, both hard and measurable skills, and soft, personal mastery skills. Competencies need to be defined so there is no misunderstanding of how to measure performance of that competency. A Succession Plan needs to be updated every time there is an update in the strategic plan. The CEO Position description needs to be reviewed and updated on an annual basis. A written position description should include measurable work habits and personal skills required to achieve a work objective.

Using a qualified facilitator for your first time through a systematic process will provide a foundation for moving forward and updating your Succession Plan every year. There are certified coaches with specific disciplines in Succession Planning and online templates to document and create performance yardsticks for competencies. This is deep and serious work that will strengthen the organizational competencies and capabilities. As a member of a board that creates a robust Succession Plan, you will be adding value that will positively impact your credit union for years to come. . . . the baton will be passed in the Leadership race.

Drive Sustainable High Performance Through Agility

Drive Sustainable High Performance Through Agility

The cornerstone of competitive advantage and performance is the design of an organization. No matter how incisive and cunning your strategic plan is, an organization’s ability to reach its potential is jeopardized if the design, culture, and structure are not aligned.

The alignment challenge is ongoing because of increased complexity, unpredictability, and instability of external environmental change. An organization design needs to be performance efficient today while embodying flexibility for the long-term unforeseen future.

We have been researching and studying the components of sustainable high performance and share some observations for you to consider as you evaluate practices to evolve your organization for ongoing success.

Traditional strategic planning focuses on creating stability in the conditions among an organization’s customers, its suppliers, competitors, and distributors or delivery channels. An agility framework is designed and constructed differently; each element and feature embeds flexibility as the foundational practice. The pieces are then aligned to support long-term adaptability with high performance.

The agile organization has three common elements:

1. Robust Strategy produces results regardless of the environment.

  • Take advantage of momentary opportunities with the assumption that one single opportunity will not last forever, yet the profit generated exceeds the cost of change.
  • A robust strategy does not minimize enduring traits and dynamics of the organization; it fully leverages them for an advantage.
  • The agile organization moves with speed and elegance as its Board and CEO approve and orchestrate the change.
  • Elements needed are a broad range of products and services supported with passion, urgency, enthusiasm, and engagement; and, a compelling competitive advantage in offerings, quality, service, and support.

2. Adaptable Organization Design features maximum surface area, transparency in information flow, relevant and deft recruitment and talent management and rewards systems, and fluid decision-making.

  • Promote a shared perspective on motivating and engaging employees.
  • Implement clear and open information-sharing practices and processes for real-time communication.
  • Use multiple reward and bonus practices aligned with the strategy and expectations. Each person understands how his or her contribution is meaningful and relevantly rewarded.
  • Recruit employees who are quick learners and appreciate the change.
  • Employees are self-accountable and conduct frequent goal-setting reviews.
  • Use a talent management strategy wherein the employment contract states change is an expectation and a condition of employment.

3. Shared Leadership and Organization Identity understand that any change effort requires more than a single leader and an aligned organization identity.

  • Leadership is an organization capacity rather than an individual expectation, thereby maximizing the surface area.
  • Share knowledge and spread power, empowerment, and accountability throughout the organization.
  • Minimize with intent, top-down direction, and decision making.
  • Create organization identity with intention. Integrate internal culture, external brand, image, and reputation.
  • Proactively promote value-creating capacity and capabilities. Ongoing learning, including double-loop learning, generates current and future value.
  • Integrate critical thinking, competency building, and capacity.

Transforming an organization to be truly agile is not easy in the short term. People will readily accept some of the changes and resist others. We notice employees excited about understanding how their contribution connects to an objective, that their rewards are tied to individual performance, and the expectation to be self-accountable. However, getting to that excitement and understanding is a challenge, and once on the other side of the transformation, it makes the new practices worthwhile in sustaining an organization in a complex environment. Leadership alignment, in thought, words, and actions, is the most important factor of success.

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