I recently had the great pleasure of reconnecting with a good friend and credit union leader, Preston Meline. We got together for lunch to catch up on life and family, but mostly to talk about credit union sales. Which, as you know, is one of my favorite subjects.

Preston has significant executive experience in sales and service leadership of retail and contact center sales teams for banks, credit unions, and small business.

As we talked, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to ask him about the problems I often see in credit unions which keep them from achieving consistent sales success and results. Specifically, I wanted his insights into how leaders can support a dynamic sales and service culture which fosters employee loyalty and production while also creating experiences with members that they rave about. What he shared with me stretched my mind.

I left that lunch full of ideas and inspiration and I knew I needed to share what he taught me in this editions article. But rather than try to present this myself, I invited Preston to co-author the article with me.

The Goal

What differentiates credit unions from other organizations is the value they place on being wise stewards of their members’ money and putting their interests first. To accomplish these goals, credit union leaders must continually look for ways to run the credit union more efficiently and effectively. Such vigilance has recently led them to new initiatives such as AI, the internet of things, FINTEC, core conversions, and many other critical pieces which will keep the credit union profitable, competitive, and providing access to relevant products and services. But as leaders funnel resources into these areas of innovation, they must not lose focus of their costliest and highest producing resource, the people.

Maximizing human capital is always the greatest challenge because it comes with the most change. Constant turnover and the prospect of hiring, training, and retaining key talent in a very competitive environment is not an easy task. Last year the labor department reported that people were quitting their jobs at the fastest rate since 2003. Additionally, according to a staffing and search firm, the Addison Group, a survey of 1000 employees found that 8 out of 10 were “likely or very likely” to start job searching after one bad day at work. It is clearly an employee’s job market. 

As a result of these issues, companies are putting significant resources into hiring practices to make sure they get the best talent they can to excel in sales and service. All leaders know the immense cost of losing and trying to replace key talent. Therefore, it is equally important to enhance and maximize the talents of these employees and retain them. So, how do we retain key talent? It is not just strategy, training, and process, it is culture.

It is well-known that culture eats strategy for breakfast every day of the week. The real question is how to create a dynamic sales and service culture that fosters loyalty in team members, produces game changing results, and experiences about which members rave. Recent thought leaders in human behavior and performance are talking about three key factors which, in my experience, are the biggest game changers in creating a culture and producing results. They are:  autonomy, value, and mastery. Let’s discuss each briefly.

Execution

Autonomy is fast out pacing money as the key to happiness at work. According to a study on human motivation in the Harvard Business Review, “Autonomy is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions. The way managers and leaders frame information and situations either promotes the likelihood that a person will perceive autonomy or undermines it.”[i]

To create a culture of autonomy and empowerment, leaders need to increase their ability to influence their teams. “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”[ii]  This saying illustrates how leaders can effectively communicate goals and the “why” of them, so that people are inspired to want to understand the “how” and their part in it. When this is done effectively, teams will far surpass expectations in sales and service and goals will become an inspiration.

Of course, structure must be in place. However, creating an environment where team members can experience a level of control over their destiny is a significant expression of trust and empowerment. Leaders should regularly solicit feedback from their teams and include them in structuring a work environment that allows for their teams to control their results. Autonomy is a catalyst that drives healthy accountability. When the vision and goals are clearly expressed with the why and how, and team members feel like they are the voice of the goal, that is when magic happens. Employees become more demanding of themselves. Accountability is not a negative word, but becomes exciting. Sales is not a burden, but a desire.

Value is in the eye of the beholder. Yes, this is a play on a common saying, but is nevertheless true. The perception of value is controlled by the one evaluating it. In this discussion, it is the employee who holds these cards. Of course, value is extended by total compensation. Yet, the greatest compensation will grow old if work is not tied to deeply-held personal core values. The greatest joy and sense of fulfilment comes from feeling like you are part of something bigger than yourself. Tying the work your employees do, and their attainment of sales and service goals, directly to the life-changing experiences they create for members is a recipe for high employee satisfaction and record results. It is the basis of intrinsic motivation, which is the longest lasting and the most satisfying type of motivation.

Value and validation cannot be separated. Every human has a foundational need to be listened to and understood. When leaders actively solicit and implement ideas for creating success, employee loyalty skyrockets. What better foundation than sales and service on which to build a value and validation centric culture with both qualitative and quantitative results to highlight, celebrate, and learn from?

Unfortunately for many organizations, leaders tend to run their sales and service cultures punitively, addressing only the results and not providing sufficient developmental coaching and positive recognition. According to Dr. David Rock, President of the NeuroLeadership Institute, “People who feel betrayed or unrecognized at work, experience it as a neural impulse, as powerful and painful as a blow to the head,” and “they become purely transactional employees, reluctant to give more of themselves to the company, because the social context stands in their way.”[iii] This means that employees tend to limit their commitment and engagement if they feel undervalued. In essence, mediocrity becomes the status quo.

Leaders must work to provide meaningful, frequent, and specific recognition to be most successful at creating a culture of value and validation. Team members need a dopamine hit! “When people don’t get enough recognition, they ask themselves, ‘What am I doing this for? Nobody cares.’”[iv] Leaders need to be highly aware that the work place is a social experience and how they can influence it in a positive way.

Mastery – “You must understand the following: In order to master a field, you must love the subject and feel a profound connection to it. Your interest must transcend the field itself and border on the religious.”[v] When the work we do becomes a “calling”, the pursuit of mastery of our efforts is both the most challenging and rewarding of life’s experiences. For leaders to create masters of their teams, they must provide a clear path. Learning roadmaps, coaching, mentorship, and certifications followed by mentoring and coach the coach assignments are all essential for credibility and mastery. Without these, leaders have no measurements to qualify mastery and are less effective at maximizing their best talent. A clear path to mastery is the catalyst to eliminate mediocrity and achieve “what is possible”. 

Conclusion

Creating a culture of autonomy, value, and mastery takes focused effort, deliberate action, and investment of credit union resources and leadership’s time. It may also require the engagement of a partner which will objectively help identify problems within the culture and practices and suggest actionable solutions. This may represent a significant investment. But when appropriately executed, it will always pay greater dividends. And what better resource and asset to invest in than the employee?

Your credit union can build cultures which achieve excellence, retain the best talent, and reach sales and member experiences that shatter records and foster generational relationships. With the right focus, investment, and commitment from leaders, the results your credit union achieves in these areas will certainly become the envy of all.

We are currently taking new clients for next year. You can schedule an appointment with Nick to start the conversation on how we can help your credit union.


[i] Susan Fowler, “What Maslow’s Hierarchy Won’t Tell You about Motivation,”Harvard Business Review, Nov. 2014.

[ii] 1999 November 30, Usenet Discussion Message, Newsgroups: alt.callahans, From: ben- fu…@AnythingButGeocities.com (Benjamin A. Okopnik), Subject: Re: Quaking on the edge of a dream, (Google Groups; Accessed August 26, 2015)

[iii] David Rock, Josh Davis, and Beth Jones, “Kill Your Performance Ratings,” Strategy+business, Aug. 2014.

[iv] Jennifer Robison, https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236951/praise-praising-employees.aspx , Nov. 2006

[v] Robert Greene. Mastery. 2012

Who is Preston Meline?

Preston Meline is a thought leader and transformational catalyst in financial services and small business. He has extensive experience and documented success in operations, member experience, strategic planning, forecasting, sales and service enablement, performance management and cultural transformation. His leadership is focused on creating raving fans of members and employees by leveraging fun and engaged leadership with data backed reasoning and meaningful accountability that empowers people to achieve “what is possible!”