Shining A Light On Your CU's Purpose

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How does our credit union stay relevant? How do we create distinction? How can we separate our CU from the competition? A simple suggestion and starting point: PURPOSE.

Consider the following scenario. (You may want to even try this in some form with your team.) Imagine that your entire organization-all your staff-is gathered in a room and each associate has a flashlight. You tell them that this flashlight represents their energy, their engagement, and the contribution that they bring to the credit union. Some lights are bright and some are dim, depending on their ability and desire to contribute.

You now point to printed signs posted around the room, sharing different ways the credit union can contribute. The signs say things like, "Convenience leader," "Low price leader," "Relationship leader," "Service leader," "Knowledge leader," or the leader in a certain product or service or niche. Now we turn off all the lights and ask every one to shine their lights toward the sign that best reflects the credit union's current or most productive purpose.

What would likely happen? Lights would most likely shine in many different directions. Some on different leadership objectives. Some would wander, vacillating, indecisively, from sign to sign. Some might even shine on the floor or exit, in search of a way out. In the real world, the vast majority of organizations in this exercise would demonstrate a significant lack of focus-an absence of purpose. The resulting factions would pull the organization in different directions. And the credit union would head nowhere fast.

Now imagine a focused, different scenario. This time, when the lights go out, everyone shines their light in the same direction, focusing on the same objective. The resulting beam is brighter-in fact the individual beams are brighter, because everyone is contributing to a collective goal bigger than themselves. To take this metaphor one final step further, if we could amplify that light even more, we can create a laser that brightly pinpoints our direction, and even burns a hole in its destination, demonstrating the power of focus and clearing a path for our success. That focus is, and must be, driven by purpose.

As thought-leader Nikos Mourkogiannis noted, "Purpose is the engine of a company, and the source of its energy." Corporate governance guru John Carver agrees: "The most important work of any governing board is to create and re-create the reason for organizational existence." Our "perpetual obligation" is to reflect on, and clearly define, our purpose. Viktor Frankl, the Auschwitz prisoner and author of" Man's Search for Meaning" noted two powerful benefits of purpose: the presence of a clear purpose is what he attributed to enabling himself and others to survive, and purpose changes with time, and is situational.

Although the situations are infinitely different, the lessons still apply. Today's new normal is significantly different than yesterday's. The world has changed. Have you changed with it? Where are our flashlights pointing today? Is it time to revisit your credit union's purpose?

The secret of success is constancy to purpose.-Benjamin Disraeli

True to a worthy purpose.-Helen Keller

Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.-W. Clement Stone

Neil Goldman. is CEO of Goldman Consulting & Strategy (GCS). He can be reached at (310) 643-5910 or at 

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