Leadership Amid Crisis

It’s been six months, and already the world has faced what might be the defining challenge of the 2020s.

It’s a new year a new decade and a new opportunity to start afresh and take stock of what’s working and what’s not. The coronavirus pandemic has destabilized social and economic structures across the globe. When ithit, credit unions had to quickly decide how to keep employees healthy while still providing members access to their money. But, what is leadership if not the making of difficult choices?

Senior leaders across the industry talk about their institution’s immediate response to COVID-19, lessons learned, and what comes next. Here, see what those leaders and others had to say about:

Everything came to a head at once. There wasn’t time to become a leader, you had to be one. Before COVID-19, we navigated from one project to the next. During COVID-19, we had to move quickly, pivot, and engage with our employees and community members. Kim Withers, CEO, Meridian Trust FCU ($447.8M, Cheyenne, WY)

I’m an introvert by nature, and it can be a bit challenging for me to put myself out there. But in times of crisis, you have to do that. I’ve had more one-on-one conversations in the past few months than I’ve ever had in my career.That’s been the best way I could have spent my time. Marci Francisco, SVP of Member Experience, Premier America Credit Union($2.9B, Chatsworth, CA)

I’ve looked to minimize mistakes but value the takeaways that come from them. The pandemic is unknown territory for everyone, and it’s not realistic to expect that every decision you make will be the right one. I try to listen to my staff and be transparent with the decisions I make. I want to learn and evolve in how we do things so, tomorrow, those decisions are even better. James Wileman, CEO, Credit Union 1 ($1.1B, Anchorage, AK)

I had to become more confident in how to make and communicate decisions that not everyone is going to fully agree with. You might make a decision convinced it’s the most rational and justifiable for the organization and its members, but atthe same time, it will impact employees in different ways. You need to know that and communicate why it’s still the right decision. Rick Anderson, COO, Sandia Laboratory FCU($2.7B, Albuquerque, NM)

When I introduce something, I like to have the confidence that it’s well thought-out and I understand its potential impact. I haven’t had that luxury these past few months. I’ve had to rely heavily on those around me to help researchnew rules and regulations, which pushed me out of my comfort zone. Kristy Hesse, Chief Human Resources Officer, Community First Credit Union($3.6B, Appleton, WI)

I had to keep myself healthy and learn to compartmentalize for my success as a leader. Everyone is in the exact same situation, and none of us have been through this before. As a result, I’ve become more consultative. No one knows anything for sure, so it was necessary to reach out to new and different people to ask for advice and recommendations based on the environment. Kate Laud, CEO, Opportunities Credit Union ($44.6M, Winooski, VT)

I’ve had to adapt to the pace of change and acquire a level of comfort in managing the unknown while working from home. It’s caused me to stretch my own thinking on ways our teams can connect and engage when they are under personal and professional stress themselves. Jessica Ridsdale, CLO,Northern Credit Union($306.1M, Watertown, NY)

I had to learn to manage and lead remotely, to have more texts, calls, and video chats to discuss business so we didn’t feel isolated. Then, I had to be flexible and let my team know they can take some time during the day to home school or do what they needed to do. Roderic Flowers, SVP of Human Resources Development, State Employees Credit Union of Maryland($3.9B, Linthicum, MD)

I have learned not to take anything for granted and to adjust on the fly. Marketing campaigns planned in advance no longer mattered. New messages, new campaigns, and new creativity took precedence. This time has reinforced the need for agility,creativityand compassion.Leigh Anne Bentley,CMO,Leaders Credit Union($470.2M, Jackson, TN)

I’m usually fast-paced and hard-driving, but I’ve had to take a step back from that and be more aware of my team’s needs, dynamics, and pressures have more personal conversations and offer more praise. What we are building is in demand, and I’ve focused on elevating their work within the organization. Judah Musick, Chief Technology Officer, Red Rocks Credit Union($352.2M, Littleton, CO)

This article appeared originally in Credit Union Strategy & Performance.

June 30, 2020

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