Play Nice! How Senior Leadership and the Board Should Cooperate

Shawn Temple

Your credit union needs results.

You need to accomplish your strategic initiatives. You need to increase loan volume. And most of all, you need to grow.

But the truth is, you’re not going to do any of these things if your leadership team and board get along as well as Tom and Jerry…that is to say, poorly.

That’s because good leadership isn’t a cat-and-mouse game of who can fool the other. It’s about building a cohesive team and achieving alignment. And aligned teams get results.

Let’s Be Honest

Honesty is the bedrock of any relationship, and it’s the best place to start building a good relationship between senior leadership and the board. If senior leadership hides the truth from the board (or vice versa), it’s difficult to find the right solutions.

But what does building trust look like?

First, share your views about the credit union’s outlook. And yes, I mean all your views – good and bad. Discovering a problem doesn’t necessarily mean it’s your fault, and it’s hard to fix problems you don’t recognize.

Next, you must define the relationship. Lay out your strengths, your weaknesses, your boundaries. What are you willing to do? What won’t you do?

The sooner senior leadership and the board understand the relationship’s features, the better it’ll be.

Give Each Other Breathing Room

Everyone has a job to do, and no one likes it when others get in the way of that job. So, look at how much your senior leadership and board encroach on each other’s jobs.

Does the board micromanage senior leadership? If so, this is a major problem. The board hired experienced leaders to steer the credit union’s day-to-day activities, and the board should trust them in this role.

What about senior leaders? Do they disrespect the board? You can’t have that, either. The board guides the credit union’s broader vision, and senior leaders should follow it.

Give each other the respect and room you need to do your jobs. Trust me, the whole credit union will be better off because of it.

One Approves, The Other Executes

On a broad level, the board approves the credit union’s overarching goals and the senior leadership achieves those goals in real time.

Now, I’ll be honest – there’s some give and take here. Senior leaders’ experience almost always informs initiatives, and board influence might change daily policy. But on the whole, the board approves recommended changes; the senior leaders execute those changes.

So, the board to senior leader workflow looks something like this:

  • Board approves recommended core conversion -> Senior Leaders execute conversion
  • Board approves recommended name change -> Senior Leaders do heavy lifting
  • Board approves rate hike -> Senior Leaders put this into effect across credit union

Of course, organizational alignment comes down to more than senior leaders and the board. On The Mark Strategies organizational alignment sessions help your whole team act cohesively and achieve the results you want. Book a free consultation now!


Shawn Temple
Strategy Director
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