Shared Purpose, Powerful Motivation

Defining what makes the credit union different can be the key to ensuring employees articulate that difference in word and deed.

Remember building forts as a kid? Perhaps one with blankets and couch pillows? Or one with snow blocks in the front yard?

The more friends around to help, the bigger and better the fort. Everyone had a specific job to do, and team alignment around a shared purpose helped to make the biggest, darkest, most secretive hide-aways possible.

That shared purpose fueled the team and helped its members work in unison. Most likely, that shared purpose ensured the team’s ultimate and total success at least until someone’s parents insisted the living room be cleaned up or the children come inside from the cold.


The thrill of the accomplishment made it all the more likely the team would come together to do it again on the next rainy or snowy day.

Looking back, you might think it was plain old fun, pure and simple, that helped build the best forts. But could it be something larger a shared purpose, perhaps that pushed you forward? Shared purposes are powerful motivators. They’re also something every credit union can leverage to ensure success across teams.

In successful organizations, stakeholders all work together as a single entity toward a common future. They know where they are today. More importantly, they know where they want to go tomorrow. This is their shared purpose.

One could say credit unions have a well-defined shared purpose. And on some level, I agree.

On the micro level, there are individual credit unions doing a pretty good job defining their shared purpose and instilling it with their stakeholders: their members, their employees, and their communities.

But, on the macro level, I’m not sure the credit union movement has established a purpose and tells its story well enough or loudly enough.

Could the average American describe the shared purpose of credit unions? Could the average credit union member, for that matter? Could the average credit union employee articulate their credit union’s shared purpose if asked today?

Without knowing where we want to go in the future our shared purpose our movement has no hope of achieving the future it desires.

Thinking in macro terms can be difficult and daunting, solving macro problems can feel outside of our control. But every great journey starts with a single step, and every credit union can take the single step of making sure its stakeholders its employees, members, and communities are aligned behind their shared purpose.

Clearly define the reasons employees come to work every day through a lens of what’s most important to them. Clearly define the future the movement is aiming for, that shared purpose. These together will set the stage for the long-term sustainability of individual credit unions as well as the entire industry.

Don’t leave the definition of the credit union’s shared purpose to chance or natural evolution. That’s akin to the childhood game of telephone, where what comes out one end is completely different from what went into the other end.

Shared purpose is too important for that.

Define, articulate, communicate, and embody the credit union’s mission, its goals, its reason for existing. Demonstrate and live that mission inside the walls real and virtual of the organization every day.

Shared purpose is a powerful motivator for stakeholders. Are you fully leveraging yours?

June 25, 2018

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