Winning Leadership in March and Beyond

Shawn Temple
Winning Leadership in March and Beyond

It’s the best time of the year! College basketball and March Madness© bring us the greatest tournament in the world! The highs, the lows, the peaks, the valleys, the triumph and the heart-wrenching agony of it all.

Just like the financial services industry, the framework of the game itself is standardized. Every court is 94 feet long and 50 feet wide. The height of the goal is 10 feet and teams get points in increments based on the difficulty of the attempt. The rules encourage freedom of movement and you get penalized for blocking another’s movement. On the other hand, one cannot simply run over a competitor with reckless abandon just because one is able to do so.

Every game, and every industry, needs rules by which to play so that everyone understands how to win.

Let’s take a look beyond the 94X50 to see what else is happening and how it applies to how we play, lead, coach, and win in our credit unions and community banks.

It’s not enough to know the rules and send five players onto the court and hope for the best. Each team, at the coaching and leadership level, settled on a plan long before they played the first game. During the early-season practices and strength training, they decided what their strategy was going to be for the season, how they would differentiate themselves from the competition and what the “DNA” of their team would be. They set their North Star back then, so that when things weren’t going well on the court or they found themselves struggling in the moment…they could look up and find that core purpose, rally around it and execute.

That is winning leadership.

When it comes to March Madness,© these are the best players in the country. They are talented and passionate. Coaches send them onto the court, and sometimes, they do not execute. They miss a defensive assignment. Turn the ball over. Take an average shot rather that passing to a teammate for the better shot.

We experience this in our credit unions and community banks. But watch what happens during a college basketball game. The coach is constantly nearby, standing on the sidelines. He or she obviously cannot play because that isn’t his or her role anymore. But, the coach is also not a passive spectator. The coach is calling out plays, and during each and every timeout, that coach is “coaching” players—both collectively and one-on-one—about how to execute better. Again, these are the best players in the country; yet, they need coaching and reminding all the time.

As managers, how good are we at being winning leaders and coaches?

Often, our default position is:  “I told them the rules and what to do, and they didn’t do it…the next step is disciplinary action, performance improvement plans or termination." But did we do our job as coaches? When we saw the less-than-ideal execution, did we step in right away and remind our team how to perform? And more importantly, did we remind our team why the performance matters? Do we remind our teams enough of our North Star?

Winning leadership connects people to purpose. We cannot continue to send a team onto the court unprepared and poorly coached in the hope that we will win simply because all teams are required to play by the same ‘rules’ and within the same confines.

We need clarity and alignment within our teams (from the very top to the very bottom). We need a plan for winning. We need better coaching and leadership. And if we have those anchors, we put ourselves in a great position to win.

Unlike an actual basketball game though, there is no time limit. This game will not end. We must constantly remind our teams of our North Star, we must continually review the market and adjust our game plan, and we must consistently coach our team members. Those organizations that choose to drift will lose and go home. Those organizations that prepare, play, and lead will win and advance.

There’s one other huge difference between college basketball and your credit union or community bank:  this is not a game.

Shawn Temple
Strategy Director