Change happens in our credit unions for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. Some of those changes are small, like a policy change, while other are significant, like a core conversion.
When it comes to dealing with change and the uncertainty surrounding it, a good rule of thumb to keep in mind is the Stockdale Paradox. Developed by author Jim Collins in the book, Good to Great, and named after Vietnam Prisoner of War survivor, Admiral James Stockdale, who was tortured over 20 times during his eight years in captivity, the paradox states:
You must maintain unwavering faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, while at the same time, having the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your currently reality, whatever they may be.
Let’s unpack this paradox using the example of consistent staff turnover. Some of the facts in this case might be:
- Because we have turnover, member service suffers.
- More experienced employees end up carrying a larger workload and risk burnout from longer hours and a more harried pace.
- Human resources and training are stuck in a cycle of recruitment and new hire training which prevents them from doing work that can advance the credit union.
- More errors occur as less experienced staff members are learning their job.
- We have to pay higher salaries to new employees, which is seen by tenured employees as unfair.
Based on this, employees’ emotions can range from anxiety and fear to frustration and anger. Which can lead to a “woe is us” narrative in the credit union that serves no one. This is precisely where the Stockdale Paradox becomes useful. As leaders, we cannot allow our team to wallow in self-pity. We need to address the current reality, look for solutions to correct the turnover problem and talk about how we will overcome these obstacles to become a better and more unified institution in the future. This approach creates a much different narrative – one based on solving problems, strength and character.
Don’t ignore the facts or sugarcoat the situation; address the problem while keeping the resolve that, in the end, you will find a solution and be better for it.
Joe Bertotto has more than three decades of experience helping leaders improve their workplace cultures. He is the chief culture officer at Vizo Financial Corporate Credit Union and a Gallup Certified Strengths Coach. In 2014, Joe was named a Credit Union Rock Star by Credit Union Magazine. He also recently published his book, Pick Up the Gum Wrapper: How To Create a Workplace That Increases Performance While Improving Lives, which credit union leaders have been using as a guide to increase the effectiveness of their leadership skills and overall culture.