I thought of this question this Sunday afternoon. Our church is going through a sermon series designed for the listener to answer two large questions of, “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” Answering these questions are fundamental to finding direction in one’s life.
But what about an organization, specifically, what about your credit union? Who are you? Why do you exist? When this question is asked, we often begin to hear of stories about how the credit union was founded, decades ago. That story tells how you were started and not who are you and why you exist. Many of you are in institutions which look vastly different today than they did at the beginning. The field of membership may be different, the size of the institution, the leadership and team. For many, who you were when the CU was birthed, does not have any implication as to who you are today.
Organizations that achieve success, like people who achieve success, have an answer of who they are and why they are here. Many times, this begins with a mission, vision, and values statements. Many organizations have them; the best ones live the statements. They are defined by them.
Now if your CU has a mission, vision, and values, that is a good start. But can you go to any employee and have them tell you what these are? Often, these ideas are put down on paper and buried in an employee handbook or in a lunchroom on a wall. But the staff does not really, really own these words as a guiding force for their daily actions. Many of these may just be words thought up by the marketing or HR departments and not those of the team as a whole.
To be transparent, at Pactola, we operated the same as many other institutions where there was no ownership of our mission, vision, and values. We had these drafted in our employee handbook, but they were drafted by myself and there was no common vision among the team and board as to what we should be. No one, not even the author of these ideas, could recite them if asked to.
Now this did not mean that we wandered aimlessly from day to day. We had a code of action, vision, and ideas that ruled our work. We just never set down these ideas on paper. I think our situation is similar to many other organizations. Perhaps it is the same as yours.
So, a couple of weekends ago, we held our first retreat with the board and our staff together. Some of the tasks we completed was to form our mission, vision, and values as a group. This is now something that we can own together. Now these ideas are subject to some adjustments as we want every word to be impactful.
Our Mission is to facilitate your success in the commercial and agricultural lending markets. When you think of business lending in your community, you will think of established banks of local, regional, and national size. These banks may have established departments and seasoned lenders. They may have a customer base that is something you wish you would have. Well, our mission in helping your success is to help make you compete with the commercial banks in your area. This competition is not always on the cheapest rate or the highest leverage. Our goal is that you will become a trusted financial advisor in the areas of commercial and agricultural lending in your communities.
This means that you will be spoken of around the table at the local coffee shop when the farmers gather. When the economic development authorities in your town have a new project, they will begin to include the credit union in the mix. We are here to help you shine. Just think of us as the guys in the background who are hooking up the power to your floodlight.
I will write more of our vision and values later. But the important point here is that in your life individually, as well as in your credit union (or whatever other organization you are a part of) knowing why you are here is essential. It is the first step to aligning your team for success.