Does Your Credit Union Have A Horticulturalist?

Growing a productive company culture requires different care for “annuals” and “perennials.”

The arrival of warmer weather means time spent in the garden.

I’m what you’d call an aspiring green thumb. I long for beautiful, full English gardens the ones that look messy on first pass but actually have an orderly structure to the plantings and coordination of colorful blooms. Granted, I have never realized my vision, but I keep trying season after season.

At the beginning of each season, as I spend time cleaning and preparing my plots, I always feel energized and enthusiastic that after a few hours I’ll be good for weeks. It doesn’t take long before I realize more work is needed to keep things looking as I like.


Gardening is not a one-and-done prospect.

Neither is building a company culture. Just when you’re satisfied with how things are looking, you find a new stone to turn or a new challenge to overcome.

Really, Katy? Gardening like culture flowers like people?

Hang with me, I assure you I haven’t spent too much time in the sun. Both need the proper nourishment and ideal conditions to thrive. Also, you must match the conditions for optimal outcome plant to soil, water, and light; person to skills, role, and environment. Neither are one-size-fits-all and both need the proper support to develop to their fullest potential.

The garden of Katy Slater inspired the Callahan SVP to unearth parallels between tending to the perfect plot and cultivating credit union culture.

In my family, I take full ownership for tending the gardens. When it comes to tending your organization’s culture, who owns it? Sure, everyone plays a role. But, organizations need one person who is ultimately responsible to assess, build, and sustain culture.

Without one person at the helm, an organization is unlikely to arrive at its desired outcome. Building and sustaining a culture of engagement, empowerment, and shared purpose takes more time, energy, and focus than most think. To achieve desired results, a culture cannot sit on the corner of several people’s desks. It has to sit squarely in the middle of one person’s.

After assigning ownership, it’s time to focus on how to allocate the culture resources.

These resources are often focused on individuals early in their careers think of these as your annuals, those you plan to replace often but hope to stretch out their lifespan. The cultural resources applied to this group include recruiting, onboarding, and training.

It’s Time For Tough Questions

Asking tough questions helps the credit union movement flourish. Make Callahan’s Tough Questions commentary on a regular stop for insight on thinking differently about the movement and framing strategies for success. Read more today.

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Many organizations have mastered these activities. But what about perennials those long-tenured staff and upper management? What cultural investment does the organization make for these contributors? Their culture investment likely requires a different set of tools because they’re looking for different outcomes and returns.

This group holds institutional knowledge and reinforces an organization’s value proposition in day-to-day interactions with employees, members, and organizations.

People look at company culture differently depending on where they are in their career. And, yes, it’s impossible to be all things to all people. But, how can credit unions empower the owner of culture to design and implement investments that meet varying needs of diverse team members so the credit union can have a successful and stainable culture.

The best gardens are those designed with thoughtful consideration by one person but tended to by all who enjoy them. Teamwork reaps the best blooms. Maybe that’s why we call the best gardeners horti-culturalists!

July 23, 2018

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