By Donya Parrish, MCU VP- Risk Management
You’ve been successfully appointed or voted onto the credit union board. Congratulations! Now what?
If your credit union has a board orientation program, that’s fantastic. If not, here are a few suggestions for how you can get up to speed. Either way, it will take a while to feel comfortable in your role of providing strategic direction to a financial institution.
Be Curious — A good rule of thumb is to “learn, study, ask” about the things you need to know, are curious about, or might not fully understand. It doesn’t have to be during board meeting time. You can schedule time with the CEO or board chair to ask questions on current initiatives, strategic direction, or general questions about the credit union.
Put on Your Governance Hat — No matter your position in your community, job, or business, you need to set that aside and wear your director’s hat. That means making decisions that are in the best interest of your credit union and the members. It might not be what every member wants, including yourself, but looking to what helps a majority of them achieve financial goals is an honorable goal.
Find a Mentor — Ask to be paired with someone who has served a number of terms for an easy “go-to” who can answer questions and help you with the learning curve. The mentor and mentee should set up time outside actual board meetings to review things like the history of board decisions, the credit union’s strategic plan, and how they can make the most of their role as director. They might also find value in discussing ways to keep up and resources that the mentor finds useful.
Rely on Resources — Speaking of resources, there are a number of them available at no cost to you. We host a website that includes the A Direct Line blog archive, several on-demand webinars and training links, some of our favorite resources, and more. Also, CUNA’s Credit Union Board of Directors Handbook is one of the best go-to resources you can rely on in learning your new role.
Go in Prepared – Showing up to the meeting ready to be engaged is crucial. That might include reviewing your meeting packet ahead of time, writing down questions, researching terms you don’t understand, looking at former board minutes to see how it was discussed in the past, and, in general, coming to the meeting prepared to listen to presentations and ready to contribute to the discussion.