Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Don't let distractions cause you to lose focus on member service.

November 10, 2010
KEYWORDS service , training
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I remember when my father started to pursue his dream of having a great baseball player in the family.

The first lesson involved pitching and catching. “Keep your eye on the ball,” he stressed.

As we moved to the batting phase of the game, he’d reinforce the message: “Keep your eye on the ball.”

Later, when he realized he didn’t have a major league prospect on his hands, he taught me to play golf. Again, I learned: If you don’t keep your eye on the ball until the club makes contact, really bad things happen. I also learned that it’s really hard to do this.

Keeping your eye on the ball is valuable advice that transcends sports. Bad things tend to happen when we fail to stay focused on the important things and become distracted by all the noise and clutter. When we take our eye off the ball, we lose sight of our mission and purpose.

For credit union managers and directors, keeping your eye on the ball is much more than a game. It involves managing your credit union in a safe and sound manner while maximizing value and service to your members. That’s easier said than done.

If your board and management team stay focused on that goal, your entire credit union will stay aligned with its mission of member service.

I once examined, and later audited, credit unions. And I remember that whenever managers and directors spent most of their time talking about data processing problems, their focus on member service was temporarily lost.

It’s easy to take your eye off the ball in light of regulatory changes, staffing problems, delinquencies, and weak earnings. It’s difficult to stay focused on member service.

I once overheard a credit union employee say, “I could actually get some work done if these blankety-blank members would ever leave me alone!” Ouch.

Don’t get me wrong—I don’t recommend ignoring urgent operating issues. They all need prompt attention, but it’s important to approach them with the underlying goal of providing the best value to your members.

As a credit union leader, you can’t ignore the distractions, nor can you relegate your primary mission to a secondary task.

The challenge is to delegate responsibility for handling distractions while maintaining your focus on member service. Let your capable staff deal with the distractions. Clearly define your desired results and expected completion dates, and provide resources and training to enable success.

When it comes to training, don’t reinvent the wheel. There are many excellent training programs and tools to help you with regulatory compliance, human resource issues, and other facets of credit union management (visit

Make sure your credit union’s primary functional units—lending, member services, and transactional activities—are able to focus on serving members. Make sure they’re not constantly running around putting out fires.

Your members expect your credit union to focus on their needs, not on back-office issues.

Your members joined your credit union because they want to be owners, not merely customers. They have high service expectations of your credit union—and rightly so.

In golf, many factors affect the quality of your shot—club choice, stance, grip, and swing plane.

But regardless of all those factors and the amount of coaching you receive, you won’t succeed if you don’t keep your eye on the ball.

JOHN FRANKLIN is executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Credit Union National Association in Madison, Wis. Contact him at 608-231-4266.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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