Are You Willing to Step Aside?

Are You Willing to Step Aside?

First published by

Does the threat of not being reelected discourage incumbents from shirking their duties to be a high-performing board member or engaging in empire building with other board members and the membership at large? My hope is that all board members are committed to serving on the board to the best of their ability and adding value to the membership.

One of my favorite questions to ask a board member is “Are you willing to step aside and make room for someone who can add greater value?” One board member shared that every morning she asks herself, “Am I giving the value needed? If not, why? If yes, how do I know?” Self-reflection, such as these questions, is a courageous leadership move. How much do I live in the legend of myself?

Most credit unions have a semi staggered board of directors wherein a certain number of directors are up for reelection every year. A staggered approach to board elections has both benefits and potential problems. A major benefit is that the board has a constant supply of trained and ready board members for continuity. A potential challenge is presented when the chair and vice chair are up for reelection at the same time. In a high-performing board, this simultaneous reelection is not the same issue as when the boardroom is full of posturing and politics. If each board member is adding value, the membership will notice. Here are ways a board—and, hence, board members—can be seen as high performing.

  • Elect a strong chair, one who provides leadership and direction; stay away from the “next-in-line” concept for electing a chair.
  • Work in partnership with your CEO.
  • Understand the role of the board.
  • Hire and retain a high-performing and compelling leader as an expert CEO.
  • Be in strategic partnership with the CEO; ask strategic questions and engage in strategic conversations. If you don’t know how, learn.
  • Hold a compelling vision of the organization’s potential for serving the needs of the membership.
  • Reflect the membership with relevant board diversity.
  • Create a true strategic plan with emphasis on strategic.
  • Stay in your lane and out of operations.
  • Adopt a robust board meeting agenda.
  • Establish a purpose to add value.
  • Maintain an efficient board structure, including size of board, meeting agenda, 
committee structures, and officers who serve the greater good above and beyond 
  • Establish a strategic approach to board recruitment and composition to ensure the 
membership is represented.
  • Adopt board learning plans and update them every year.
  • Have frank conversations on how each board member adds value.
  • Conduct periodic assessments to find out what you are doing well; invite the 
executive team to assess the board for effectiveness.
  • Adopt a rigorous onboarding program.
  • Create a plan to build the board with the right people and prepare them for their
  • Identify and transition to the right board leaders for ongoing board renewal, 
development, and leadership succession planning.
  • Dust off your governance structure and fine tune it for the board of the future, 
This is a long list, and yet, everything falls into place with a committed, high-performing board. My suggestion is to take time in the next few months to discover the true potential of your board and lay a solid foundation that holds up for many generations to come.
Beyond SMART – Ensuring Your Projects are Relevant and Sustainable

Beyond SMART – Ensuring Your Projects are Relevant and Sustainable

This blog post is part of the 2016 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted August 05, 2016.

Conducting the coaching calls with the Top 15 NTCUE applicants has been both a rewarding and an inspiring experience. Each one came to the coaching session with passion, talent, and a forward-looking sense of accomplishment. The purpose of the first coaching call is to support the applicants in expressing his or her project, creating structures for success and sustainability, and connecting deeply felt passions to measurable and observable results for multiple stakeholders. They got this!

Two blended communication rubrics provided a framework for the coaching calls. One is a widely known methodology for goal setting: SMART, and the other, founded in communication theory, is called Mutual Commitment to Success (MCS).

Passion and volition for their projects are foundational. Any project, idea, or innovation requires commitment to the right action to ensure success and sustainability. After all, this competition is all about advancing the next generation of leaders.

SMART was used as a basic framework for transforming a great idea into an observable result. We started with the Specifics of the project: the specific goal and the need it serves or the opportunity it creates.

We discussed how their projects were Measurable, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Thus the coaching calls included a 360-degree view of all the stakeholders and how they each experience increased value because of the efforts of each applicant and his or her project. I heard well thought out plans from each applicant.

The applicants shared how their projects were to be Achieved, including the resources required and the order in which their priorities would need to be carried out to achieve success.

We brainstormed the layers of Relevance, and each applicant easily related his or her project’s relevance in the context of the credit union, its membership, and the community.

The rubber hits the road with the action steps in the three Time frames: what has already been achieved, what’s going on now with the project, and what the future road map looks like for the deliverables. Each applicant expressed clarity on the timeline and acknowledged potential bumps in the road. Regardless of the challenges or obstacles, the Top 15 remain steadfast in their passion and commitment to intentional action.

Lastly, the applicants explored the sustainability and replicability of their projects. That is, does the need for the project transcend time? Can other organizations easily adopt and adapt the project for their needs? What resources are needed over the various project phases, and what investments do they require? Is the project an offering outside of the credit union industry? Does the investment warrant the result?

The MCS Commitment to Action Model, uniquely offered by the DDJ Myers Leadership Institute, was also used in the coaching call. Basically observing the leadership presence of each applicant and his or her capacity, competency, reliability, and sincerity to be the Next Top Credit Union Executive who will represent the thousands of people in their generation of leadership in credit unions. Each one has a strong sense of self, a uniquely positioned offering, and a competitive edge that will make it difficult for all of you to select the Final 5!

Over the next three weeks, read their new blogs and view their videos and feel proud of these applicants. Your imagination and creative juices will flow just like mine! Each applicant has a lot to share with and offer to this world!

Deedee Myers,

Best Board Member Behavior: 15 Common Sense Pieces of Low Hanging Fruit

Best Board Member Behavior: 15 Common Sense Pieces of Low Hanging Fruit

First published by

Recently I had the honor of facilitating a group conversation for 80 board members.  The topic was how to be seen as an engaged, committed, and high-performing board member.  The organizing principle used as the basis of conversation was the board is responsible for strategy, policy, and advocacy.  This list of 15 common sense behaviors is both simple and provocative especially in the context that boards have a high degree of potential turnover in the next three years, 35%. Email me your thoughts and I will keep the stream going.

  1. Believe in and advocate for the credit union
  2. Know the vision, mission, and strategic plan
  3. Passionately talk about the credit union
  4. Show appreciation
  5. Separate your personal and professional life from the work at the credit union
  6. Invite members to the annual meeting
  7. Update your black book list on potential board member nominees
  8. Read the packet and be prepared to ask strategic questions with a lens of helping
  9. Stay in your lane, focus on the big stuff
  10. Proactively and brilliantly participate in strategic planning
  11. Use the credit union products and services
  12. Step into difficult conversations with passion for the member
  13. Create your learning plan and take care of your board education requirements
  14. Proactively support board decisions
  15. Show up for your CEO
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.

Call Now Button