The Agility Imperative: Tune Up for Future Success

The future belongs to the agile.

August 23, 2010
KEYWORDS agility , leaders , teams
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The unprecedented events of the past few years have made all of our jobs even more demanding, forcing us to become harder-working, harder-driving executives.

Yes, gross domestic product is on the rise and many financial markets are once again delivering strong returns. While this would normally bring a sigh of relief among credit union executives, the fact is, we still have quite a few issues to work through.

Many of our members are suffering from unemployment, underemployment, or worries about employment, and the nascent rise in values of the homes that collateralize many of the mortgages on our books seems to have stalled.

Here’s the thing. We’re never going back to the easy, good old days, even if the government successfully manages a graceful end to quantitative easing and other massive government intervention in the financial markets.

We operate in a hyper-competitive, highly regulated industry. Yes, credit unions are more positively portrayed than our bailed-out counterparts in other parts of financial services, but we are under no less pressure to continually improve our products and services in the face of multiple uncertainties.

Members demand more, technology is moving at lightning speed, and pressure to keep down costs is relentless.

I would argue that constantly being prepared to identify and adapt to change—agility in today’s parlance—is what will separate the wheat from the chaff in the months and years ahead.

And perhaps that’s as it should be—those with vision, a strong member focus, and the willingness to see things in new ways will be the leaders, and the operationally effective ones will be those who can bring their organizations along with them.

Next: Changing the game

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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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