When people think of board member and credit union communication, many may initially think of conflict. The most successful credit unions have a key executive team that integrates seamlessly with their Board of Directors to accomplish their overall goals. However, this kind of symbiotic relationship is not always the case. When it comes to improving board member/CEO relationships, it all comes down to transparent communication. Communicating in an open and transparent fashion will improve understanding and lead your credit union to even greater success.
As a CEO, it is your job to ensure you are communicating as much and as clearly as possible with your board. Initially, you may see it as a distraction from your daily duties of leading the credit union to financial success, however, in the long-run, a good relationship with your board will help you immeasurably in your quest to achieve that goal. In fact, the primary reason CEO’s are let go from their roles is a dysfunctional relationship with the board.
At Newcleus Credit Union Advisors, we are dedicated to bridging the communication divide between CEOs and Boards to facilitate the growth of health Credit Union culture and fiscal growth and prosperity. As such, we’ve created a few areas of focus that can help you improve the relationship with your board while creating opportunities for success for the credit union as a whole.
First and foremost, be open and transparent with your board.
As with all communication in your life, it’s better in the long run, to be honest and open. While working with a board can sometimes feel like the process is adding extra steps and unnecessary bureaucracy to your process, it’s essential to be patient and transparent. If you work around the board you may find that you’ve created even more conflict and delays in achieving your goals.
In order for the board to trust you with the functions of the credit union, they need to understand your motivations and methods. When you present an incomplete story they may feel that you are deliberately obfuscating the truth, even when that is not the case. Be sure to inform the board of the background and preparation that has gone into bringing them important decisions, especially with time-sensitive decisions, as board members do not want to feel blindsided or backed into a corner.
With board member communication, the earlier the better. Ensure they are included in early-stage research and discussions and have ample time for questions. It’s important to share both the highs and lows that come up throughout the year, it’s better they hear the bad news from you and can collaborate to find a solution to resolve the situation.
It’s important to keep the information simple.
While some board members have a robust knowledge of the workings of the credit union, it’s safe to assume that many do not. Although they carry significant influence over credit union decisions, they don’t always know what it takes to run the credit union day-to-day. Most board members have other competing commitments that don’t allow for ample time to dive into the details of the day to day running of the credit union.
With that being said, it’s important the board trusts its CEO to take on the responsibility of managing the day-to-day tasks the credit union requires to succeed.
Finding a balance between sharing every granular detail and providing only the high-level overview is the balancing act of the CEO. The granular details should come when board members ask direct questions. Be specific and concise when presenting the high-level issues the credit union is facing. Offer concise summaries of the salient points in a written document that the board can review and provide opportunities for questions in writing and in the monthly Board meeting.
Get to know your board members.
Creating a lasting relationship with board members will improve the trust both inside and outside the credit union. As you get to know your board members on a personal level, you will start to understand their motivations, areas of concern, and personal style. While dinners out are a thing of the past (at least for the time being) there are ways to share leisure time, arrange for a happy hour get together with 2 or 3 board members or participate in charitable drives where you learn about their outside passions.
Once you understand what drives the board members, you can be better prepared to cater to their needs during meetings. Learning which board members need to see numbers and who wants the big picture overview; who prefers to communicate over email and who over text is one way you can create stronger bonds with your board members 1:1. While some of these things may seem simple, understanding your board members on a personal level will help to create that coveted seamless relationship.
Frame your conversations with the mindset “the board member’s opinion is always valid” and you’ll set yourself up for a successful conversation.
Take a tip from customer service representatives everywhere, and approach every interaction as “the customer is always right.” While they may not, in fact, always be right, it’s important to cater to their needs when they are feeling unsure. When you respect and value their position on the board, they will respect and value your input more.
Work to field board member’s questions in an affirming way. The board member should feel that they have posed a valid question, and you, as the CEO, can demonstrate your robust knowledge on the topic. Board members signed on to be a meaningful member, allow them to be one.
Lastly, avoid making assumptions.
Making assumptions without performing your due diligence can increase problems later on. While your decisions may very well be correct, if it has not been communicated to the board, they can feel blindsided. As a CEO, it is your job to fully educate the board on the project before expecting a full buy-in to move forward. Work to understand the views of the members and address their concerns with every interaction.
At Newcleus Credit Union Advisors, we pride ourselves on our expertise in the credit union space. We are available to answer those challenging board questions and delighted to offer in-depth overviews of all of the options for you to share with them at your convenience. Reach out to us, if you haven’t talked with Newcleus you haven’t gotten to the core of what can be done.