Mediocrity - 1In a recent post, I offered Five Ways to Avoid Becoming A Mediocre financial institution. The tips and suggestions offered stemmed from a Credit Union Insight piece regarding Five Signs Your Credit Union is Heading Into Mediocrity. While it’s great to know what the signs of mediocrity are, it is even more important to understand how to avoid getting there in the first place.

As Jim Collins says in Good to Great, “good is the enemy of great.” Good is an easy trap in which banks and credit unions can fall. We do one thing well and then we have a misstep. One strategy works and another one fails. Before we realize it, we’re just a mediocre financial institution: just average and just like every other bank or credit union.

There are 10 ways to avoid that slide to mediocre. Below are five of the 10:

(1)   Kill a product or project—There are many strategic initiatives you can take at your credit union or bank. But the bigger question is should you take them? As I wrote a few years ago, there are several things you should stop doing. There are probably products you’re offering or services you’re providing that you are doing just out of routine. Stop adding and start cutting.

(2)   Examine your staff’s passions—Displaying passion is critical at all levels of the organization. If you are not passionate about what you are doing, get out. If your employees are not passionate about what they’re doing, get them out. A lack of passion breeds mediocrity. Remember to hire for passion and train for skills.

(3)   Dialogue with consumers—While surveys and focus groups can yield empirical data, some of the best research you can do is to simply have an informal chat with consumers about what they like/dislike about banking or your particular financial institution. Discover their pain points. A simple cup of coffee with a consumer can yield powerful data.

(4)   Develop and maintain a strong culture—Spend time examining your values. Don’t think values are all that important? Then check out Zappos and how they’ve grown their business at a phenomenal rate primarily with an insanely contagious culture. Review your DNA. What you stand for should never change while how you do things should always change. A strong culture avoids mediocrity.

(5)   Focus your staff on learning—The more your learn, the more you earn. And the more your employees learn, the more your bank or credit union earns. As the late John Wooden once said, “A leader who is through learning is through. You must never become satisfied with your ability or level of knowledge.” Make an investment in your employees’ training. If you are satisfied with your staff’s knowledge, then you’re done: you’re already mediocre.

Those are just five of 10 suggestions for ways to avoid that slippery slope slide into mediocrity. Too often we just “settle” for things at our banks or credit unions. We accept mediocrity. Stop being okay with just being average. Avoid mediocrity by taking these proactive steps.