When thinking about what drives an organization, the top tier of leaders comes to mind. Along with a credit union’s board of directors, which sets the broad policy, the CEO and senior leadership team are ultimately held responsible for a credit union’s success or failure.
However, these people can’t do it alone. Through my work at Callahan & Associates, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with many senior teams over the years and, more recently, several mid-management teams. One thing I’ve noticed is, even when discussing the same materials and going through standard group exercises, mid-management teams walk away from consulting engagements with different key learnings from the senior teams.
The A-Ha Moment
Middle managers typically oversee a specific area within the credit union — for example, the call center, a branch, accounting, IT, or marketing. Although each manager is well-versed in their area of responsibility, for many, thinking about the credit union as a whole is a brand-new experience.
There are several reasons for this:
Day-to-day responsibilities make it difficult to step back and think in a strategic way.
Most middle managers have risen through the ranks in a single area.
It’s not their role to set strategy, and there is a natural fear that providing strategic input might not be welcomed.
Why Mid-Managers Should Talk About Strategy
Middle managers play a vital role in every organization. They are charged with executing the strategy that senior teams and CEOs pass down. They are also challenged with keeping front-line staff engaged to deliver on that strategy. This is a difficult role under any circumstances, but it’s even more so if leaders don’t clearly understand the vision or strategy being passed down. Without this context, how can managers communicate strategy effectively and motivate their staff to deliver?
Mid-managers need to clearly understand the credit union’s strategy to execute on it, but their input can also mean the difference between success and failure. Front-line staff know members’ concerns better than anyone because they hear them directly. They also know what works and what doesn’t in terms of the credit union’s technology, processes, etc. Mid-managers are working closely with front-line staff daily and best understand the opportunities and challenges of meeting member needs. But how do they pass this feedback along? And what feedback is worthy of making it to the C-suite?
These are questions that only strategic discussions can answer.
When mid-management teams learn how to think and engage strategically, they’ll have the knowledge and ability to help the senior team make better decisions. After all, who is more qualified to provide counsel than the managers who are working with members and front-line staff every day? But simply saying “I want to know what you think” is different from taking the time to build a middle-management team who can effectively communicate with one another on a strategic level.
How To Build A Common Language
Callahan & Associates has helped credit union teams at both the executive and mid-management levels adopt a common language for framing strategic challenges and creating lasting solutions.
Our first Leadership Team Development offering, Disruptive Strategy with Clayton Christensen, is a groundbreaking course offered in collaboration with HBX, Harvard Business School’s innovative online learning initiative.
Are You Ready For Strategic Planning?
The most effective planning sessions require prep work, sharp focus, and a true understanding of your credit union’s place in the market.
Use this set of essential performance ratios for strategic planning to make the most of your team’s time together.