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A Direct Line Blog

Three Ways Boards Can Help Their CEOs

May 1, 2019 7:30 am

By Jeff Rendel, Certified Speaking Professional

The relationship between a board and its CEO is best described as a partnership. CEOs depend upon their boards for guidance and support, while boards rely upon their CEOs for focus and execution. How can your board continue to help your CEO deliver strategic results for your credit union and its members? Through focus, action, and being a voice for members.

  • Focus on the long-term. As your credit union grows, governance and long-term strategic focus become more important. While board meetings need updates of financial status and noteworthy operational matters; of greater significance, your board can help the CEO work “on” the business, rather than be “in” the business. By investing more time on “white board” items of direction, legacy, and value, your board helps your CEO lead a credit union that delivers the kind of results that keep your credit union relevant for decades to come.
  • Action over unanimity. Often, after much deliberation, board members are unanimous in their votes on strategic direction and major operational decisions. However, from time to time, dissenting votes are present. It’s easy to table an issue, hoping for unity, but opportunities can be lost. “A 5-2 vote gives me direction,” said one CEO. “And, often, I can address the dissenting board members’ concerns during the management phase.”
  • Be the voice of the member. In the most significant sense, your board represents the collective interests of your members; the members are the owners, after all. Though the credit union model is not-for-profit, it should read “for value.” Often, that value is financial and experiential. “Our board has made a practice of asking ‘What’s in it for the members?’ as our CEO discusses business plans and courses of action,” shared a large credit union’s board chair. “When we recognize the well-defined benefit our members will receive, we acknowledge that our board is rightly representing their ownership interests in the credit union.”

Overseeing safety, soundness, and strategy frequently describes where boards devote the bulk of their time. Though the design and execution of strategy and plans are, chiefly, the CEO’s role; boards can increase the odds of success for their CEO and her or his execution of plans. With a long-term focus, commitment to action, and justly representing members; your board can help your CEO deliver valuable results to current members and those destined to help drive future growth.

Jeff Rendel is president of Rising Above Enterprises. He works with credit unions that want entrepreneurial results in sales, service, and strategy. Each year, he addresses and facilitates for more than 100 credit union and their business partners. He will be speaking at our Power Up Conference in Butte in a few weeks on the topic of CECL and what every director needs to know about it!

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