Exceptional leaders play a critical role in any organization’s success. Effective leadership can help credit unions navigate new challenges, innovate, and get results while creating an environment that aligns with the expectations of modern employees. Without it there is a significant risk to organizations and the broader credit union movement.

Laurie Maddalena, CEO of the consulting company Envision Excellence, returns to the show to share the three pillars of exceptional leadership and how they can help propel the credit union movement forward. Laurie uses her experience as a credit union executive who was conflicted by outdated management approaches to coach organizations on modernizing leadership practices. 

According to Laurie, in a time when staying relevant means staying adaptable, leaders who fail to balance these three critical pillars not only risk their relevance but also the foundation of their organization. Laurie and Doug dive into the three pillars, what makes leaders ineffective or effective, and actionable steps credit union leaders can implement today.

What Makes an Ineffective Leader?

Laurie shares that only some are cut out for the challenging role of being a leader but many managers have been promoted without proper training or preparation. Here are just some of the signs of an ineffective leader:

  • They tend to focus on the technical side or the skill or talent that got them promoted rather than elevating themselves into a more strategic role.
  • They struggle with delegation, releasing control, and staying in the weeds. As a result, they tend to focus on tasks that don’t significantly contribute to the organization’s success.
  • Their management approach is outdated and no longer works within the modern workplace.
  • They don’t communicate enough, which causes disconnection and lack of clarity.
  • They aren’t comfortable having hard conversations or making tough decisions that will benefit the organization or team.

What Are the Three Pillars of Exceptional Leadership?

Leaders who successfully balance Laurie’s three pillars of exceptional leadership can likely avoid toxic situations, achieve results, engage their teams, and adapt to modern shifts. The three pillars are:

  • Creating Clarity: This helps employees know how to focus their time and energy and consistently prioritize and align tasks with the credit union’s overarching goals.
  • Caretaking the Culture: The people side of leadership, this pillar focuses on serving the membership and organization through coaching and development, meaningful feedback, connection, and making decisions that are best for the credit union.
  • Consistency, Accountability, and Results: This involves elevating the role of a leader, delegating, and facilitating results through people instead of micromanaging or taking over tasks.

Stream the episode as Laurie and Doug delve deeper into this topic and share actionable steps leaders can take today, plus:

  • How the pandemic has underscored the importance of modernizing leadership practices
  • Why Laurie says well-being is one of the most critical elements of exceptional leadership—and she doesn’t just mean a wellness program 
  • How effective leadership intersects and affects culture, value alignment, and retention

Hear the show now.

Laurie Maddalena and Envision Excellence are not affiliated with or endorsed by ACT Advisors, LLC. 

Audio Transcription (pulled from the podcast)

Doug English  00:00

My guest returning on today’s podcast is Laurie Maddalena, the CEO of Envision Excellence. She has dedicated her career to empowering the credit union movement to reach its full potential. Laurie educates credit union leaders on exceptional leadership principles and on today’s podcast we talk about the three pillars of exceptional leadership. Listen in to find out how you can use these three pillars to be a driving force in supporting and propelling the credit union movement forward.

Laurie, I’m delighted to have you back on the show today. What have you been up to?

Laurie Maddalena  00:43

Thank you, Doug. It’s great to be back on. Thanks for having me again. Well, personally, I just got back from a nice sabbatical in Italy for a month, which was fun, and with three kids kind of crazy. But getting back into my leadership work and working with clients, a lot of work around teams, and what’s important to be an effective leader in today’s environment, because a lot of that has changed. And certainly, with a pandemic, we’ve seen some evolution and shifts in what employees want at work, what is important to them. And also from a leadership perspective, I mean, even before the pandemic, things have been evolving and changing. So I have been doing a lot of work around that.

Doug English  01:18

Leadership is, I think, defined differently than it used to be. And I know what caused me to reach out to you for this particular episode was your article that really struck me on the three pillars of exceptional leadership. So maybe the idea we try to get to in this podcast is to take sort of cutting-edge content and look for the bold ideas, the things that can strengthen the credit union movement and help it to move forward. So talk to us about the three pillars, and we especially love examples on this podcast. So if you can tell us stories. We love a good story, Laurie.

Laurie Maddalena  01:50

Well, I think you know I notice a lot of what does not work when it comes to leadership is that a lot of leaders struggle making that shift from whether it’s their technical position jumping into a management role, or a management position, not just being task focused but more into a leadership role. And they tend to get really focused on the technical, so the technical parts of their job. And so I’ll use myself as an example of when I first was promoted to a leadership role. I was working in a credit union, and I was in human resources. I was an HR generalist, and my vice president promoted me to an assistant director of HR position, and I’ll never forget three months into that position, she called me into her office and said, “I didn’t promote you to keep doing the things you were doing before. You should not be answering benefit questions, you shouldn’t be fixing payroll issues. I need you to be at a more strategic level; I want you to be focusing on creating learning and development programs for our managers, workshops.” And it really struck me that I was very lucky in many ways to get that type of feedback early in my career because I started to shift my focus right away. I understood what she said and got some examples from her. And I saw how I was getting into the technical, which I had done so long. And for many of us in our technical role, that’s the value we bring. And we are rewarded for that technical ability. When we shift into a management or leadership role, I find many leaders like me struggle to understand what the difference is, we equate our value with our technical expertise, which is often that position we had before, the entry level and then maybe the mid-level when we’re an individual contributor rather than the leadership qualities and abilities that are necessary to be successful in a leadership role. And so I find there are many managers who struggle with this. And part of it is that we’re not training managers and giving them the tools before they get there. For many of us, we’ve received training way later, or we’re waiting in organizations until something goes wrong and then we’re trying to bring in training, and so it’s ideally setting people up for success. So they understand what are the elements I should be working on to be successful, and that’s where those three pillars come in. So the three pillars, the first one is creating clarity. One of our most important roles as leaders is to make sure we’re consistently creating clarity for our employees. So that means they understand where they should be focusing their time and energy, they know what the goals are, we’re reinforcing those goals, we’re making sure they’re in front of them all the time. As leaders,  we say something one time and we move on. And we have to over-communicate. Creating clarity is also creating clarity for ourselves. Do we know what our key result areas are? And this is a really important element of being successful in any role—knowing what your key result areas are. Most of us get caught up in tasks and you can look at a job description and there can be 30 things on there. And that’s not helpful, it muddies the waters, it’s overwhelming to look at all those things. So key result areas are typically the three to five main areas that bring the results to your position. Why was my position created? What is the essence of that position? And from there, we start to compare how I am spending my time compared to those key result areas. And a big piece of that is delegation, being able to delegate to your staff so you’re not fixing the payroll issues and answering the benefit questions like I was—making sure I’m using my team the right way so I have that capacity, I have the energy and the time to focus on the most important elements. So that’s the first one.

Doug English  05:17

You mentioned creating clarity daily, repeating it over and over again. And don’t think the repeating is a bad thing. It’s what’s necessary. So can you think of an example or view if you had credit unions tell you, “Oh, yeah, this is how I implemented that?”

Laurie Maddalena  05:33

Well, I think the main way to do that is through individual and team meetings with your employees. And you know, Gallup has done some research on this, that the employee meeting is one of the most important elements of making sure you’re connecting, you’re communicating, and people are on the same page. And yet I am amazed many times when I go into organizations and I ask a manager how often do you meet with your employees, and they tell me not very often or when I need to, or we kind of catch up with each other. And so there’s no structure in place for having this type of connection and space to talk about clarity and to reinforce what’s important. And before you know it, time has gone on. And I call this really passive leadership. As leaders, we need to be active leaders; it’s much easier to not meet with your employees than it is to have a standing meeting every week or two, right? And sometimes we don’t feel like doing those things. And so we put those things off on the backburner thinking well, when I need to, and before you know it time has gone on and people aren’t on the same page. And this is how silos happen and communication issues happen. We’re not reinforcing the communication. So a simple meeting—having those biweekly or weekly meetings. If you’re in a branch environment it could be team huddles; I’ve seen many credit unions do really well with this where a branch manager or an assistant manager has team huddles every day: here’s what we’re focused on, here are the goals for the quarter, here are the goals for the month, and this week, how it breaks down to today. And not just putting them up there at the beginning of the year and then we forget about it. So consistently reinforcing that clarity, so people know exactly what they should be focusing on. And sometimes at a higher level, if you’re a higher level leader, this might mean making sure your employees know the consistent priorities, and bringing them back to the priorities. So particularly mid-level managers and higher, they don’t maybe have daily tasks that are really easy like a member service representative might have. That’s pretty clear. Right? It’s higher level, it’s more strategic. It’s not as tangible many times and so as leaders, we may need to have those conversations regularly of, okay, here’s our overarching goals for the year. What are we focusing on this week? Oh, I noticed we got off over on this thing over here. But this isn’t contributing to our strategic goals. So we’ve got to get back over here and table that, right? The work of a leader is making sure we’re keeping those things top of mind for ourselves and also for our teams.

Doug English  07:48

Yeah, it’s not just what to focus on. It’s also what not to focus on.

Laurie Maddalena  07:51

Exactly. Because most of us are focusing on things that aren’t contributing to the results we need to get in our position. And so it’s absolutely not just what we are focusing on but what we’re not, what we’re choosing to table or put on the side right now so we’re not taken away from the main goals of the credit union.

Doug English  08:09

And when you work with credit unions to sort of develop this three pillars process, what are the barriers to doing this? Like what sort of objections if you will? What objections do you hear?

Laurie Maddalena  08:20

Well, I think you know, a lot of the issues are that people again, when I go back to how we haven’t trained people, so really, when I go in, and I talk about these three pillars, there are rarely objections. It’s more of, okay, that’s where I should be spending my time, Oh, I get this now, this is how I should be creating my days and my plan for my day and my team. And I find people are embracing it. Because, you know, many times in leadership, as I gave that example for myself, you’re promoted to this role. And then you’re like, well, what does this mean? What should I be doing with my days? You know, what does “strategic” even mean? I mean, I’ve had vice presidents and CEOs say to me, I know I’m told to be strategic and that I should be more strategic. And what does that tangibly mean? And so we use these terms all the time. And we sometimes as leaders, we need to make sure we’re giving examples, we’re providing that feedback so people understand what that is. So that example with me, my vice president said I need you to be at a strategic level. And what that means is creating training programs for our management teams so we can elevate their leadership, that doesn’t mean you’re doing these tactical HR things over here. This is going to benefit the entire credit union, this is going to elevate all the leaders in our credit union; you fixing a payroll issue is taking away from that. And so that was a tangible example of being at that strategic level.

Doug English  09:38

Part of your paper also talks about zooming in and zooming out as part of creating clarity. How does that work? 

Laurie Maddalena  09:43

As leaders, we need to have this ability to zoom out and zoom in. And again, I think where oftentimes we focus is the zooming in part, which is the tasks and the doing piece. The zooming out is being able to see the bigger picture, being able to see outside of your own department. I like to use an analogy of those beach balls that have the different colors—you have blue, you have yellow, you have red—the striped beach ball—and we’re in blue, let’s just say my department is blue. And so when I’m zoomed in, I’m seeing blue, all blue, everything that pertains to blue. When I’m zooming out, I’m seeing the entire beach ball with all those stripes. And these are different departments, different elements of the credit union that are important to moving things forward that maybe aren’t all directly to me in my department. But I need to understand the context of all of that. So being able to zoom out and see the bigger picture, what’s coming down the pike even not just today in this week but what are our goals three months from now, six months from now, a year from now, what are we working on as an organization? And keeping that in mind. Well, then zooming in to today, right? So we can’t live up here looking at the one-year level all day, otherwise we won’t get anything done. So you look out and you see what’s coming up and you’re planning in that way. But then you’re also zooming into, okay, what are the top two things I need to get done today that are in my key result areas that contribute to that bigger plan when I’m zooming out. And so this is a skill. It sounds very simple but I find most people need to learn this skill, it needs to be developed to be able to do that really well and keep the bigger picture in mind as well as the task and the everyday focus. And this is again, the work of leaders. This is a piece of leadership that is important to be successful.

Doug English  11:19

Also, what is the thing you do to change, to build that into the system? How do you become better at zooming in, zooming out?

Laurie Maddalena  11:25

There are things the organization can do better in general, which is when you’re having your strategic planning meetings and you go off as an executive team, coming back and having regular strategic meetings as a team, maybe monthly, to come back and revisit those—not revisit to change but revisit where we are on this. I’m amazed again when many organizations will go off and have these three-day retreats and come up with these great goals and then come back to the office. And it’s like we forgot about it. The next day, we’re over here, we’re over there and scattered all over the place. So again, structures create clarity and accountability. And so the structure of a strategic meeting; I’m not talking about your regular management meetings where everyone’s talking about their projects and updates—I’m talking about having a specific strategic meeting, okay, we set these strategic goals. And now we’re going to get together as a VP team, let’s say every month and go over those, and now the VPs are going to go to their managers and have meetings with them to make sure they’re reinforcing those goals. And it trickles down. Certainly higher level leaders can coach their managers on thinking this way. And this is a great use of coaching, which is so tell me what you have on your plate for the next two weeks? How does that relate to the goals we have for the year? Consistently having those types of discussions in regular individual management meetings.

Doug English  12:47

After you’ve succeeded in doing that, not that that’s a small task—there’s a lot to do to be able to change, especially for some legacy organizations that may have been doing the same thing in a similar way for a very long time—I’ve heard the statement that culture eats strategy for lunch. Do you believe that? 

Laurie Maddalena  13:04

I do. I think culture plays a huge role. And you know, I’ll touch on what you just said, you’re right, this is not easy. And being a leader is not easy. And this is why I believe not everyone’s meant to be a leader. Because leadership has also evolved over the years and the requirements of leadership 10, 20, 30 years ago, there are things you could do or not do and still be fairly effective that don’t work now. So I think we have a lot of leaders in our organizations, credit unions included, who maybe have been leading for a really long time and now they’re starting to say, huh, why is it not working anymore? You know, I’ve been doing this for a long time. And it worked for a while. And now it’s not. Well, we have different generations coming into the workplace. And those generations had more choices, they had more opportunities, they had different expectations. And I think even as a society we’re evolving what work means to us. The pandemic played a role in that, some people have called it the great reflection, right? People reflected on do I enjoy what I’m doing every day and do I want to keep doing this. And so, where I think the more traditional environment, that kind of past leadership, and environment of 10, 20, 30 years ago, was very focused on tenure and loyalty. That’s what was rewarded. I think then people expected their work might be at the expense of their personal life. You go to work to earn money to support yourself and to support your family. And now there’s been a shift in that people don’t want a job that is at the expense of their personal life. I think employees are looking for careers and opportunities that contribute to their personal life, that contribute to fulfillment. And that’s a completely different type of environment. And so where 20 years ago, you could maybe come to work and we didn’t talk a lot about maybe engaging employees and coaching and these things that now are terms we use all the time. Now, if you don’t have that you won’t keep people, people will not be engaged. So if you don’t have engaging leaders you will not engage your employees. And so it’s a different type of leader today to be successful, which is why we have this issue. I think in many companies where we have high turnover or we have leaders who are not effective, they’re not being coached appropriately. They’re not being taught the skills to be effective in today’s environment. And that’s a disservice to our cultures. I think that’s the number one thing CEOs can focus on to elevate their culture is to look at the quality of their management team. And what is needed today, and those three pillars are really the focuses of leaders for them to be successful but what is required and do I have the right people there and if I have someone who perhaps is still leading in that traditional way, how do I coach that person, give them the tools, give them the opportunity. And if they’re not the right fit, we have to be able to make those decisions. And I see time and time again where people are left in management roles who are not effective. And it’s really hurting the culture, it brings down the culture. It’s like a temperature gauge—you can have great people who come in but then the negative managers or toxic managers are bringing everyone back down.

Doug English  16:03

A difficult and unpleasant thing to face. So what’s the method of evaluating the mid-level managers? What tool would you use? 

Laurie Maddalena  16:10

Well, I personally use a talent assessment with my clients. So having them look at the elements that are important, right? So is this person able to coach people, have difficult conversations? Are they able to focus on the right things? And you know, the strategic piece of the role? Do they get results? And so can they build connections? Do they have emotional intelligence? I mean, you can see it’s very complex, it’s not easy to be a leader. And so we have to evaluate that. And many times I don’t think it’s even that hard. We know when someone’s not performing or they’re not effective. There are signs of that, right? So it could be high turnover, it could be they’re not getting results. And so what a manager or an executive can do is start having those conversations. You know, I’ve noticed we’ve missed these goals in the last three months, what’s going on, or digging into when they’re getting exit interview surveys, hearing about a toxic manager, doing pulse surveys and employee engagement surveys, making sure they’re connecting with the employees to know are they feeling supported by their manager? What does that look like at our credit union? What are our values around that? What’s important in being in a management role? And then evaluating people to those values and those competencies. In another example, which is very common, I’ll be working in an organization with a team and they have a list of values. A lot of organizations have values, they’ve gone through this great exercise, it’s wonderful, I believe in values. But many times they are on the wall or they’re in marketing brochures or we tell new employees about them. And we highlight these values but they’re not always practiced, they’re not operational. And so an example is I was working with a client, this is actually a non-credit union client, a client in manufacturing, and one of their values is collaboration. And they have a manager who’s been there over 20 years. And over the course of that 20 years hasn’t really collaborated and now is in a management role not collaborating. Employees are complaining about this manager, peers are complaining about that manager, and people have just created workarounds; they kind of know this person is like that. And so they’ve created these workarounds and yet nothing is done. So we say collaboration is one of our values yet this person is not collaborating. And what we found is their evaluations had nothing about collaboration even in it. So my first recommendation is we’ve got to start building these values into the evaluation so people are measured by them. What happens when someone isn’t collaborative? You might as well not have it on the wall as one of your values if you’re not willing to take action on it. And I see this at the executive level all the time; we don’t want to have those conversations or this fear of confrontation. This may be just conflict avoidance. I think that’s one of the leadership saboteurs— things I found that get in the way of being effective or successful—is this inability to have these conversations with people and to take action when necessary.

Doug English  18:55

Yeah, those long-term relationships make it pretty hard to face difficult things. You’re not collaborating and that’s kind of holding the whole organization back. That’s a pretty hard thing to say to someone who’s become a good friend over 20 years.

Laurie Maddalena  19:07

Absolutely. And that’s the hard part, right? And this is what is challenging about being in a leadership role, because it is hard. That’s not an easy conversation to have. People have built relationships with this person, they care about this person. And you know, what I say is you can care about that person and be respectful and have a respectful conversation. But by not taking action, you’re actually showing you’re not caring about the rest of the employees and the impact on them and caring about the culture, right? And so this is a great example of zooming in and zooming out; you have to make decisions that are best for the organization. And sometimes that may not feel like it’s the best for that individual person. But you have to make choices sometimes that are best for the system, the company, and the culture. I really believe it’s also not doing a good service to an employee who probably knows they’re not being effective, feels like they can’t be successful, and is in a role that doesn’t fit their talents and their abilities. So it is best to be honest with that person and say, at this time where we are in our organization and what’s important to us, this no longer works; maybe it worked for a while but this doesn’t seem like a good fit anymore. I really think most of those employees already know that. And they’re really feeling like this isn’t a great fit either. And so it’s not doing anyone any good by delaying that kind of decision.

Doug English  20:27

If you really believe in the mission of the organization and what service to the members you’re trying to bring, I guess that’s a necessary path you have to walk.

Laurie Maddalena  20:36

I think that’s a really good way to look at it—you are the caretakers of the membership and you’re the caretakers of the culture. That’s actually the second pillar I talked about. Beautiful, right? So the second pillar is caretaking the culture. And this is the coaching piece. So when I talked about passive versus active leadership, passive is I’ve arrived, I’m a leader, I have the title and good for me, I earned it. I don’t really have to do much, I have to kind of put out fires and deal with emergencies. And again, this is where people get into the technical again, because that’s where we’re comfortable. Whereas true leadership is now okay, I’m of service to the membership and the organization. And I’m here to coach and guide employees to develop them to play an active role in that. And so when I say the regular meetings, making that active, right? I think during the pandemic, we saw when a lot of people were working from home, many leaders struggled because they hid behind their laptops and weren’t connecting with their team; it required a lot more energy and effort to connect than it does in the office. In the office, you can stop by, you can walk by, you can go to the watercooler or the coffee bar and just have chats. Whereas when you’re home, you have to make that effort. And so it takes a lot more energy and effort to build those relationships. But that’s really what it is. It’s the coaching, it’s giving meaningful feedback to people, which is another thing many managers are not good at. It’s building connections, it’s making sure you’re making decisions that are best for the team. It’s the people side. And this is part of that evolution. It’s not that people didn’t matter 30 years ago. It’s that we were in a different environment, right? It was very results focused, and we’re here to get a job done. And as things have evolved, our jobs have evolved and making sure we’re caretaking that culture and making those decisions is a huge piece of being effective and successful as a leader and often the most neglected area.

Doug English  22:24

It reminds me of management by walking around. Back in my grad school days, that was a strategy. Were they caretaking the culture and they don’t even know? 

Laurie Maddalena  22:32

I do think that is caretaking the culture and it’s a really simple practice. It’s not the only practice. And I refer to that also in my leadership programs, because I’ll hear from employees who will say I never see my senior leaders. They’re in their offices all the time or they’re in meetings. And I do think that is a very important strategy and obviously becomes more complex the larger your organization. But walking around connecting with people, showing you’re a presence, having a presence as a leader is important. And even at the CEO level, it may not be easy all the time if you have multiple branches and locations to just walk around every day but you can do things. I have several clients that do breakfast with the CEO and they make sure they’re finding these ways and they’re intentional about building ways to connect to caretake the culture but caretaking the culture is also that piece of if someone’s not performing, you’re not waiting. When you notice a pattern, you’re having those conversations and you’re making decisions that may be hard but are best for the company that’s caretaking the culture to not allow a toxic manager to stay in a position that is hurting the overall company.

Doug English  23:38

Is that the transition to accountability and results?

Laurie Maddalena  23:41

Yeah, so consistency, accountability and results—every business is in business to get results, right? I mean, you can have a really nice manager who caretakes the culture and who maybe is coaching their employees and building connections. But maybe it’s overusing that and not getting results, right? And so I’ve seen this happen where managers can derail for a few reasons. There’s one who can be very nice and overly nice and sympathetic with their employees. So they may be doing caretaking the culture well but they’re not getting results. They’re not instilling accountability. So maybe they’re not having those tough conversations or having those regular meetings with people. And they let things slide. The other end of that would be someone who’s so focused on accountability and results that they don’t caretake the culture. And so this is the very task-oriented, bureaucratic top-down type of management that again, was successful or at least worked fairly well for years. It was okay in that type of environment and now doesn’t work. And so you need a balance of all of these. And that’s why they’re all important. So if you can’t focus on the right things, you’ll spin your wheels all the time, you won’t be able to get the key result areas done, you won’t get your team focused on the right things. Typically, those leaders don’t delegate appropriately. So that’s an issue. If you’re not caretaking the culture, your team won’t be engaged, they won’t be productive. That’s an issue, right? And then finally, if you’re not getting results, well, you can be a nice manager. But if you’re not meeting the goals, that’s not effective either. So you really need a balance of all of these but a lot of the accountability and results piece is done through facilitating results through people. And I think a great way to describe this is as leaders today, we need to be facilitators, not fixers. So what this means is we need to coach our employees through issues and help them get results and not jump into the weeds and deal with the emergencies all on our own all the time, which is what a lot of managers do. I think this is one of the things that sabotages great leadership—if you’re constantly in the weeds and you’re not elevating yourself to that more strategic level.

Doug English  25:39

I can see myself in that, I do. I must say the technical details of some of the work and executive comp strategy are super interesting, I just love to get in there and get into those details and find out how to make an impact for a credit union executive. But that is not part of the three pillars, being the geekiest of the leaders in the room is not the outcome. Not technically geeky, right? Maybe leadership geeky, maybe creating the culture geeky, right? That’s a way to reframe that.

Laurie Maddalena  26:07

What you’re describing is so common. And I don’t want to say we don’t experience this. I mean, I think it’s very common for us to experience something we love or enjoy that we tend to navigate toward, right? And I think what successful leaders do is they make sure they’re not consistently staying there. So you know, you’re the CEO of your company, right? So you can get into the details of the things you used to do before you had your company, right? And now you play a different role. And so maybe for some of those interesting things, you have team members who are doing those things. And it can feel really easy to get into that and spend our days there. But then there’s consequences. And so I still have to navigate this sometimes in my own business where I’m like, oh, that’s not something I should be doing. I have a team member who can do that. So it’s a consistent practice. This isn’t like we all arrive there and we never have to worry about it. I mean, even focus is a consistent everyday practice. Am I focusing on the right things? I myself will ask a question if I feel overwhelmed or I feel like I’m getting in the weeds, I’ll say what’s the most important thing I should be working on right now? Maybe it’s not ordering binders for the program I have coming up; that’s a better use of time for someone on my team than mine. Am I avoiding something that’s bigger or more uncomfortable or just takes more time? And so I’m getting into the weeds. We all do it. It’s just a matter of how we discipline ourselves and consistently make sure we’re focusing on the right things that will bring the best results in our role.

Doug English  27:31

There has got to be so much fear stopping this kind of thing from happening. You’re listening to this podcast, and you’re one of the senior leaders. And you’ve been there for a long time and some of this resonates with you. Yeah, that sounds familiar? But opening up this can of potential problems could make you look not so great. Right? You should have done this a while ago. I mean, maybe your board doesn’t think as much of you if you do this, like how do you? How do you face that? Or how do you hear credit union leaders overcome that fear? 

Laurie Maddalena  28:05

Well, I think there absolutely is a fear, one of the fears is losing control. And so that’s one of the biggest reasons why people don’t delegate. I mean, one, they don’t know how, what should I give up, and then again, we associate our technical ability as the value we bring. And I think the first is that mindset shift for me to continue to be successful as a leader but also ensure our credit union can be relevant in this time and age. What do we need to do differently, and this we can be talking five years from now. There could be other things we need to do that you and I aren’t even cognizant of right now as things shift and evolve and change. And so this is why it’s a consistent evolution, that leaders are always learning new techniques and new things have to be deployed to make sure we’re getting the best out of our people. So I think there’s a fear of lack of control many times and understanding that if I continue to operate the way I have been, I’m not going to keep up whether it’s as a CEO as a credit union. We have to consistently shift to make sure we’re relevant for these times, that even comes down to leadership.

Doug English  29:10

Very much. We see the trend of the smaller credit unions disappearing, and merging away and maybe to some degree that’s necessary and effective for the member because there’s some things you just cannot do without scale. But you do lose some, that branch next to the mill, the people at the teller line who’ve been there for 20 years as well, you lose some of that experience. These three pillars are part of that to stay relevant and keep up with modern times and the culture of the employee base we all have the draw from. You have to adapt, you’ve got to change. Your three pillars and the training you’ve done around that I really think is a strategy the credit union movement needs to adapt. So with that, Laurie, any final thoughts for our listeners, especially, as always, around the boldest use of these three pillars and supporting and driving the credit union movement forward?

Laurie Maddalena  30:07

The last thing I would say is that well-being is one of the most important elements of business today. And when I say well-being this is beyond wellness programs. This is not just having an EAP program. That’s great to have those programs underneath more of an umbrella of what is well-being. Well-being is where people feel positive functioning, personally and also at work. And so do they have healthy boundaries? Are leaders modeling those healthy boundaries because work has become more complex? It’s very busy, and there’s a tendency, and I’ve heard this still that there’s many, many credit unions out there where people are so overworked and burnt out because they feel like they don’t have those boundaries that they can’t go on vacation without disconnecting or they have to be connected all the time. And some of this is personal, some of this, I’ve seen credit unions that have excellent cultures really want their employees to create boundaries and the leader is in creating the boundary. So sometimes it’s the leader who needs to instill that and sometimes it’s the culture. Many times the culture is very results focused and not as much people focused. And so that burnout can happen. And this is a theme I’m seeing and will continue to need to be a strategic priority for organizations to be relevant today is make sure you’re focusing on well-being. So again, boundaries, quality of managers, having a toxic manager does not facilitate well-being—employees feeling like they’re valued at work, they can speak their mind, they have psychological safety, meaning they can disagree or say an idea and not feel fear of retribution, feel they can really bring their full and best selves to work every day, they have colleagues who are supportive, it’s not a toxic culture and environment. And so this all goes with what we were talking about today, those three pillars of leadership. If you’re facilitating those, it’s less likely you’re going to have that type of toxic environment and you’re really prioritizing the well-being of your culture and the well-being of your employees.

Doug English  32:05

Laurie Maddalena, thank you for joining us again. I think your content is awesome. I hope the credit union movement listens to your education and uses these ideas to strengthen this great movement for its employees and its members for a long time to come. Thank you so much, Laurie.

Laurie Maddalena  32:22

So great to be here, Doug. Thank you.

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