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.

Culture of Engagement: Beyond Employee Satisfaction

Culture of Engagement: Beyond Employee Satisfaction

This blog post is part of the 2015 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted November 05 2015.


A few years ago I wrote a scholarly paper on culture. The intent of the research was to define culture as how people live inside an organization.  My research produced 149 definitions of culture.  I imagine there are more than 149 definitions. The definition of culture was not what I was learning; my learning was deeper. I’ll come back to that later.

First, let’s turn to the term “engagement.”  Many of my clients conduct employee satisfaction surveys or culture assessments. Satisfaction and happiness do not necessarily mean the employee is engaged.

Employees can be happy at work because of the social network or a decent paycheck. Game rooms, ping pong, or pool tables may contribute to employee happiness. Happiness is different than employee engagement and yet can be connected to employee engagement if other organization practices are relevant and meaningful.

Employee satisfaction surveys can be misleading and often the bar is set too low. Employees may be satisfied with a 9 to 5 work schedule and not complain. Satisfaction does not necessarily mean the employee will put in extra effort, creatively problem solve, or think outside of the box.  Think about it – two people in a personal or professional relationship can say they are “satisfied” and yet, over time, miss opportunities to be deeply connected and committed.

Engagement raises the bar to an employee’s emotional commitment demonstrated by words and actions on behalf of the organization. Engaged employees adopt an organizing principle to do what is right at any time. They readily put in the effort to move a product or service out to the members and do so without complaint. Engaged branch personnel behave in a way that demonstrates care and commitment to the members’ financial health. Engaged executives have open conversations with direct reports about what is important to them and related to the organization. Engaged employees proactively explore more productive and efficient ways to serve and keep margins intact. Bottom line, engaged employees put their heart into their commitment to the organization.

Culture – that word again – is directly related to employee engagement. Culture is in every organization. Culture formation needs intentionality and purpose, or it creates an unexpected and unwanted culture. It is clear to me that the culture of an organization starts with the board of directors and the executive team being in alignment about performance metrics and employee engagement.

Departments and functional areas each have a culture. Those in roles of leadership have the responsibility to demonstrate values through their behaviors to create and sustain an open culture of inclusivity and accountability. Departments with a culture of engagement produce high standards of service, which leads to member satisfaction and organization sustainability.

What would be different if each department or function manager performance rating included a narrative on how they create a culture of engagement? What would be different if others described you as the best person to work for because of your inclusivity, openness, and observable commitment to the success of each employee?

My recommendation is to reflect on how you create a culture of engagement and ask others for their feedback. Plan a series of department or organization meetings with your team, openly discuss the culture, intentionally define the desired culture, and adopt the practice to make that culture a reality.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC

Culture of Engagement: Beyond Employee Satisfaction

Pros and Cons of Remote Work

This blog post is part of the 2015 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted November 2, 2015.


Remote working is an ideal way to be sure you are hiring the best possible talent, recruiting talent from competitors, reducing relocation expenses, and minimizing the impact of a job change on an employee’s family. Mergers, acquisitions, merging up, or takeovers require the industry to rethink the office as the standard corporate meeting place.

Work without Walls is a Microsoft white paper that states, “62 percent of employees believe their productivity increases when they work remotely . . .” Conversely, only 15 percent say their company’s support remote working.  There is a definite gap to discuss.

Remote employees have many opportunities to increase productivity. These same employees worry that bosses lose confidence in the employee’s ability to effectively perform as a fully engaged employee if not physically present in the office space.

Following are some pros and cons to remote working. Then I discuss one of the biggest challenges I have seen in the industry regarding the C-Suite and remote working.


  1. Increased focus: Employees experience minimal in-office distractions and can devote required attention to projects and initiatives.
  2. More productive time: No commute, or transitioning between environments.  The hour to get ready and commute is directed toward project management or team conversations.
  3. Flexibility for working parents: More family and work time increases the quality of life for employees and their families.
  4. Increased diversity of talent recruitment: The organization has increased access to high-quality employees when the requirement to work within the organization’s walls is removed or minimized.
  5. Circadian rhythm in alignment with productive time: Some people are more productive at 4:30 in the morning and others at 9:00 a.m. Do the work when your circadian rhythm is at its peak.
  6. Ease and Agility: The remote worker reports more ease in their day that enhances their agility and flexibility in delivering on work commitments.
  7. Office space reallocated: Organizations with tight office space may not need to expand, thereby reducing facility expenses. One client set up hoteling offices for visiting remote workers.  The hoteling office has Internet access, desk, lamp, and often four walls for privacy.  They are intended for temporary short-term use, two to four hours, typically, and less than a day.


  1. Ideas suffer from lack of feedback and brainstorming. Innovation is not time-bound to a clock, and when employees only have an hour here or there scheduled for brainstorming, the process can lose its energetic excitement.  People who aren’t around each other long enough don’t collaborate on ideas naturally.
  2. Relationship building suffers: Positive relationships come about in different ways. Some need to be in the same space for long periods of time to build a particular quality of rapport. Others can get there over the phone or through video chat.
  3. Cyber security: The IT department needs to make sure this is well managed and monitored.
  4. Workaholics have no respite: Those with work as the priority in life need to set boundaries to ensure their nutrition, exercise, and family relationships are strong.
  5. Impact on the family: Be in conversation with your family to set appropriate boundaries for your time and workspace. My home workspace has an outside entrance; my conversations are private, and I am not distracted by home noise and activities during my work hours.
  6. Feeling of isolation – not being in the casual and spur of the moment conversations: You and your employer need to be clear on practices of inclusivity, sharing successes, and a social network at work.
  7. Decrease in the monitoring of others: If you work remotely more than in the office, be clear on how you monitor your team and what support is needed to ensure success.

Remote Work Challenge
Organizations with a high performing C-Suite* team have more success with working remotely. If your C-Suite operates more in functional units rather than as an executive team, remote working is problematic.

Too often I have seen breakdowns in organizations in which the C-Suite is in conflict and there is a noticeable lack of coordination, collaboration, and communication. Executive teams with high trust and mutual respect and commitment don’t happen by accident.  A high-caliber team that operates as one did the work, often with an external facilitator, to create a positive sense of value as a team.

Remote working needs to be secondary to the C-Suite operating in trust. I believe both are doable with the right conditions of success and practices.

*C-Suite:  Denotes executives with a chief title, or highest functional level of responsibility, such as chief executive officer, chief financial officer, chief operations officer, chief marketing officer, etc.

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC


CONFUSING LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP: What Really Is Strategic Leadership?

CONFUSING LEVELS OF LEADERSHIP: What Really Is Strategic Leadership?

The strategic planning cycle is in full swing this fall, which has me thinking about what makes strategic planning successful and what is missing when the process and outcome feel less than inspiring. Bear with me while I share some theoretical-practical perspectives.

My intention is to create space in the strategic planning domain for strategic thinking and strategic leadership, which are two of four critical components for an inspiring process that creates sustainable value.

Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership can be difficult to describe because it is highly complex and complicated. A successful strategic leader utilizes microscopic perceptions to transfer to or create macroscopic expectations. These perceptions and expectations require exploration and assessment of the current and future environments and the nature and force of these environments as well as knowledge of the required competencies for success.

Beyond the competencies, and often the most elusive, is ensuring all those responsible for the strategic success have the same commitment with the same degree of relevant focus and energy. Participants can say they are on board with the new strategic organization paradigm yet have difficulty shifting away from being highly tactical or operational.

Strategic Planning

A function of strategic leadership is to create a plan of action to fulfill regarding a quintessential advantage, risk, or challenge to an individual, team, board, or organization. To do so requires in-depth, long-range planning, the most profound and complex decisions, and leaders with the highest conceptual ability to manipulate microperceptions with a macroscopic vision with quality, desired expectations, which may or may not be obvious at the start of the process.

Strategic Thinking: The Most Difficult Part of Strategic Planning

Connecting the means to an end (vision) is the strategic plan. The level of strategic thinking required for a successful strategic plan is complex. The thinking, in a group or team, includes characteristics of uncertainty, ambiguity, complexity, and even volatility in data and knowledge amid the diversity of personalities, desires, and even personal agendas. Staying in the game, sorting out relevant data and knowledge, and listening to and acknowledging diverse perspectives are attributes of strategic thinking.

Strategic Environment

The strategic environment is everywhere in and around the organization. Internally, it is the culture, climate, project management, leadership styles, and identity of those in roles of strategic, operational, and tactical leadership. The internal strategic environment includes understanding internal processes, competencies, and people to effectively deploy resources to leverage competitive value. Externally, it is the organization’s reputation, political state, economic and world markets, competitive forces, and more. It is how the external environment perceives and responds to the organization’s competitive value, its leaders, and its products and services. The external environment is both current and future—today and all possibilities for tomorrow.

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Tactical and Operational Leadership

Let’s put tactical and operational leadership into perspective.

Tactical Leadership addresses with the here and now, with short-term decisions and risk management for immediate gains, and is highly transactional in nature.

Operational Leadership is about building the structures and systems that allow the strategic leader’s vision and objectives to become realities. The operational leader inspires the transactional leaders to be engaged and high performing and creates the systems to support the values of the organization and encourage a culture with value related congruent behavior patterns.

Moving Forward

Strategic planning requires strategic thinking and strategic leadership. The best strategic plan requires exemplary strategic leadership. How are strategic leaders noticed in the strategic planning and thinking process?

They are intentional, bigger-picture leaders who deal in the theoretical, visionary, hypothetical, and strategies.

They have a solid vision of the future and how the organization will work in the future.

They set the vision and direction for the organization, utilizing corporate-level strategy, competitive edge and relevant strategy, positioning, and offensive and defensive maneuvers.

The Big Question

Who are the strategic leaders in your organization, and are they fully leveraged in the strategic thinking process “to create a dynamic strategic plan for the organization’s success regarding its quintessential advantage, risk, or challenge? If the answer to this question is anything other than a resounding YES, then include the development of such compelling leaders as a strategic initiative.

Drive Sustainable High Performance Through Agility

Career Failure: Repeat Offenders or Singular Episodic Event?

This blog post is part of the 2015 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted September 25, 2015.By: 

Career failure has many twists and turns that can cause each of us to go into a deep reflective space. Questions you ask might include:

Did I make the wrong employer choice?
What did I miss in the interview?
Would I be more successful with a different boss?
Can I pick my board of directors next time?
Should I have listened more?
Should I have been clearer in defining expectations?
How would an executive coach help?
Why was I such a jerk?
I deserved that promotion. Why did she get it?
What if I had fired that executive who caused the original problem?
I worked so hard . . . Why?
Will anyone ever hire me again?

It is often easy to blame someone else for a failure in our career, using the Blame Game rational. The more difficult and effective approach is to look in the mirror for what we missed, took advantage of, did not prepare for, and mismanaged relationships. There are two sides to the coin.

Career failures often come about because of mismanaged and miscommunicated expectations. Your manager has expectations that were not clearly understood by you and, an outcome is a lack of performance ending in job loss, a hoped for lost promotion or reassignment.

Five tips to managing career success include:

Monthly check-ins proactively managed by you
Check in with your supervisor, and peers, once a month and find out how you are doing from their perspective. You may think everything is perfect, and yet, they perceive a misalignment in expectations and performance. Ask questions such as: How am I doing? From your perspective what is working? What needs more attention? If you had to choose today, would you still hire me? Be open to listening, not being defensive. Thank the speaker for their assessment and, if appropriate and relevant, ask for more details on the components of success.

Write your resume for three to five years in the future
What new responsibilities, achievements, accomplishments are on your resume in the future? How is your current career aligned with that vision of the future? What resources do you need?  Who supports our success that has a say in resource allocation?

Engage in Executive Coaching
Converse with your manager about the advantage of engaging with a certified leadership/executive coach. A coach sees your blind spots, helps you craft your career and appropriately challenges you in ways that peers or your supervisor are not able.

Participate in a 360° leadership assessment
It provides direct and honest feedback that your peers and supervisors may not be equipped to do so in person.  Work with your coach to review and make meaning of the results.

Commit to advancing your leadership presence
At this stage in your career it is not your intellect or expertise that gets you promoted or in trouble; it is how you lead. Leadership presence is 93% of why others follow you! Hence, a compelling reason to get the help that is not successfully derived from a leadership book or PowerPoint. Learning new practices of self-awareness can support you with new leadership practices that result in a successful career.

What tips do you have for Career Success?

Deedee Myers


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