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Catalysts for Change

Don't wait for the temperature to rise before you take action

July 01, 2012
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It’s been mighty hot around here the past few days, and I’m grateful to have an air conditioner.

We never had air conditioning when I was a kid, and the upstairs of our old farmhouse would get hot. My three brothers and I would sweat and complain—loud and often, but in vain.  

Shortly after the last of us moved to college, Mom and Dear Old Dad acquired an adorable Bernese Mountain dog. Evidently, this breed can’t tolerate heat. So when the temperatures rose, the puppy whimpered. And soon it was lounging in air-conditioned comfort.

My brothers and I still smart about that. The dogs continue to stay cool.

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Bray is research librarian at CUNA.

What motivates you to act? What external influences, new people, exciting technology, community event, or other occurrences have served as change catalysts for you, your staff, or your credit union?

Consider changes made and the process. Was anyone offended during transition periods? What were the effects? Who benefitted, and how? Do circumstances get really “hot” before you act, or are you forward thinking enough to anticipate evolutionary needs?

Is there anything in the research this week that might serve as a catalyst?

An Economic Warm-Up

The State of the Nation’s Housing 2012,” published by Harvard, reports mortgage payments are more affordable, relative to rentals, and sales of new and existing homes are on the uptick. But this good news is tempered because “sustained employment growth remains key, proving the stimulus for stronger household growth,” and, “the persistent weakness in home building has in itself hindered a strong rebound in hiring.” 

Take a look at “The 2012 Long-Term Budget Outlook” by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO projects “by the end of this year, the federal debt will reach roughly 70% of gross domestic product.” That would be the highest percentage since shortly after World War II. Spending on health care due to an aging population and rising costs of care itself will greatly affect the U.S. economy. The report analyzes several policy scenarios and budgetary outcomes.

Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book reports hiring was steady or showed a modest increase and price inflation was modest across most areas of the country. Most federal reserve districts reported slightly stronger loan demand, as well.

What do consumers think?  Consider this: “Americans Upbeat About Local Economy, Down on the World,” according to Gallup. The fact that Americans believe the U.S. is in better shape than Europe, “may provide some comfort to those worried about the impact of a struggling U.S. economy on consumer confidence.”

Optimism is a good thing, and here’s why: “A Child Born in 2011 Will Cost $234,900 to Raise.” This comes from a USDA report. Housing costs are the largest expenditure in child rearing, while child care and education, and food were the next two largest expenses. The cost of raising a child is up 3.5% from 2010.

Do choices you make in service offerings--or failures to offer such--have economic benefits or detrimental consequences? How does the economy itself affect service to your members?

Back at the Office

Paying it Forward Pays Back for Business Leaders,” according to a Catalyst study. Effective leaders aren’t only good decision makers and strong managers, but also focus on development. Mentoring others has an economic impact in addition to the philanthropic benefits. Those helping others received $25,075 in additional compensation between 2008 and 2010 because “developing other talent creates more visibility and a following within the organization for the high-potentials who are doing the developing…” Mentors and coaches are proactive and, therefore, more often employed at senior executive or managerial levels.

Can you be the change catalyst for an employee at your credit union to benefit both of you?

Finally, let’s take a glimpse at what the military has to offer in leadership development in “Improving the Decision Making Abilities of Small Unit Leaders.”Civilians can apply some lessons reported by the U.S. Marine Corps. “The pace of change and inability to assess and predict in a timely manner the situations that Marines will face have intensified,” the report says. “Moreover, facing an agile, adaptive enemy means Marines themselves must continually observe, learn, and adapt if they’re to succeed.” How can you apply some of the leadership development tactics and strategies this report presents?

Enjoy these summer days, but realize that change is inevitable and can come about in various ways. Sometimes it’s an unexpected catalyst, or on occasion, doing nothing has an impact. But we also can affect change by thinking proactively and focusing on leadership development and other strategic tactics. 

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.

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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 (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) 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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