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Not All Change is the Same – Credit Union Edition

Originally published on CUInsight.com

How often do you hear advice suggesting you “make a change” or “step out of your comfort zone”? There’s a reason…consistency might be easier, safer, and reliable, but it doesn’t promote growth. Making a change is good, if it’s in the right direction, for the right reasons.

Yet not all change is the same. And that’s ok. So how do we make sure our diligent effort produces the best (or any) results? By understanding the kind of change you need.

Away Means Different Things

Joe Standing on Rocks
Joe following a 30 year tradition of climbing rocks.

Regular readers know I love to travel, especially to see friends who happen to live in really cool places. They’re no longer off-limits (thank you thank you thank you vaccine researchers and nurses!). Far off places, daring sword fights, magic spells, a prince in disguise!

My last post came from the seaside deck of a Rhode Island home. I had a lot to say about creativity being driven by a change of scenery. Perhaps after all our time stuck in the same environments, variety is a hot topic. Consider this, “change stuff, part 2.”

Since that trip, I’ve done more traveling! Crazy, I know. When in RI, I can count on connecting with kids, participating in impromptu art projects, and riding around in Teslas. Really, it’s a tough life. And the inspiration I get from the experiences are unique.

Last month, I reconnected with one of my best friends. She lives with her boyfriend and foster rabbit north of Atlanta. They’re child-free, big on hiking, RVing across the country, kayaking, boating, and cars that go fast while making satisfying noises.

Young Deer
As seen on one of our trails.

It’s a vastly different environment. Their neighbor even built a Miata race car! (I was able to ride along, which was a blast) We also had the chance to go on longer hikes through nearby National Park sites, see deer, and jet boat around on big lakes. More change, totally different.

You Get What You Experience

Each of these trips provided a separate set of insights. For the former, well, you saw my writeup. From the latter, I had less “downtime”. Whether playing complex and awesome board games or learning how to engineer a solar system into an RV, we were always active.

Turns out, I needed a bit of this, too. Sure, I didn’t sit down on my computer and draft out posts as much (maybe not exactly ideal), but we were tending to bonds built over many years. Had I gone with the same expectations of seeing nephews, I’d have been really disappointed.

It’s a bit like traveling to Disney (which I also did in this span). No one goes there to “relax and settle down for a while”, as much as their marketing might imply you can. Many know the feeling of needing a vacation from that vacation. Still fun, just totally different.

Joe and X-Wing
Stay on target.

Be open to getting the most out of every experience while pushing expectations aside. Now I’m starting to sound like my Tai Chi instructor. Maybe that’s not a bad thing.

Right Change. Right Place. Right Time.

Each day, I read articles about credit union evolution, digital transformation, and emerging competition. Most of these pieces miss the point, which I touched upon way back in 2016. Exponential change means these ideas are already outdated.

It would be like me traveling to visit my nephews expecting to engage with them as they were during my last visit…18 months earlier. Or planning to do the same things with friends, even though they moved from one side of the country to the other.

Or, what any Disney person can understand: Planning to do a theme park with a set schedule for every attraction, show, and food stop. I point and laugh at those people. That’s too stressful, and it’s just not going to happen. Things will change, and you’ll have to adapt.

Start With Your Need

The best industry articles encourage leaders to focus on the mission, understand their staff and members, and recognize the needs. Individual product choices, marketing decisions, and strategy plans follow from this analysis. (We do the same with potential and existing clients.)

Passionflower and Bee
Keep your goal in focus.

What’s the change you need to serve your need? Sure, credit unions are evolving. So is everything else. How can you best evolve to meet the needs of your members today, tomorrow, and maybe next year (looking ahead really is hard with exponential change)?

For example, tackling your digital transformation is essential. But, deciding to add a chatbot because it makes your service better for “young people” or “on the go” is the wrong approach. Just ask Anne Legg of THRIVE, who specializes in that data side of things.

Looking at your services lineup and coming to the conclusion, “there’s just not enough member choice”…well, that’s likely not a great formula, either. Rick Leander at LFB Holdings understands that more progress can come from subtraction, not addition.

Find the change that gets your institution on the path it needs. Is that from insights gained while watching the sea roll by in the Northeast? Or more literally, found on a trail in a National Park? Maybe the bustle of Disney provides the right kind of change.

Next time you’re looking to make changes at your credit union, approach them from a range of perspectives to ensure they’re both the right things and for the right reasons. Because goodness knows change is only going to continue.

That might seem a bit outside your comfort zone. Perfect, you’re already on the right road.

Get Up & Change Your View

Originally published on CU Insight.

This is one of those articles that make little sense if you don’t consider the publication date.

2019? “Huh, I mean, obviously.”

2025? “Oh, they’re talking about those dark times. Things are so fantastic now, it’s almost hard to remember!” (Hopefully)

2020? “Go out? Ha! You Zoom-hack our meeting with many clever jokes!”

Here in mid-2021, I hope the topic will land on understanding minds.

2020 Was Unique for Everyone

Each of us had a different experience through the pandemic. Some made radical changes to lifestyle, with stressors increasing, family dynamics strained, and finances depleted. Others had the “pleasure” of adapting to work from home (hi Zoom!) with social lives crushed.

In my case, little changed. I’ve been WFH for nearly a decade, and 98% of business interactions are over the phone or Zoom. Yes, we were the ones explaining the system to credit union staff before you had to do the same with your parents.

Sharing the Sameness

Cat on Sofa
Do you ever really “share” a sofa with a cat?

So I’m used to my immediate environment being constant. Which was both a gift and a, well, you know the rest. At first, the realization that others were facing what I considered normal spurred a creative rush. It was a perfect time to share how I’ve made it work for me.

Remember all those videos and articles? My Jedi robes? Creative they were, mmm? Mmmm?

Something was Happening

During the year, a change slowly progressed, consciously unnoticed. My creativity was lagging. We still put together interesting ideas for business, and I continued to get a few more articles out. But most of it was tweaking existing material to fit changed norms.

While this was all necessary, it shouldn’t have been the bulk of my effort. Why the shift? I’d attribute it to all of 2020. With a wealth of stressors, political insanity, health scares, and a restricted social circle, it’s the excuse to beat all excuses.

When you’re operating in crisis mode all the time, you’re not at your best.

No one should ever have to apologize for how they made it through 2020. You’re still here? Congratulations. And encourage everyone you know to get vaccinated.

It wasn’t until this week that I recognized the change. Why?

Other Humans!

Joe Winn Pulling Child on Board Through Surf
As hard as it looks. As fun for the smaller person as it looks.

Long-time readers will recall my visits to nephews. They love space, science, the ocean, and calling me “Uncle Joe”…a lot. (I’m not complaining!)

For the first time in forever, I’ve visited them again. Sure, I’ve been to Disney and Universal since the pandemic started, but that’s an exercise in schedules, wait times, and distancing from other people. A relaxed connection with others it is absolutely not.

This was a full-on life with a beloved family. A change of people and scenery from when you wake up to fall asleep. For someone who loves traveling and visiting friends as much as me, not having this for over a year was rough.

And the waterfront home doesn’t hurt. These sentences were written to the sight and sound of waves gently flowing against rock walls and wooden docks. Songbirds are celebrating the flowering trees, and destructive yet adorable rabbits bound about the yard.

In the realm of “changing your environment”, this is about the best you can do.

“Oh, hello unique thoughts.”

Person Writing in Notebook in Park
Let the pen (or keyboard) flow!

When you’ve sat in the same home, using the same desk (or sofa, or futon, or bed, or kitchen table) to complete your work, it’s easy to get mentally stuck. And we all know that innovation comes out of change. Which is really difficult to create when nothing changes.

The first day of working here (in a spinning round couch with a view to the water), I finished an entire Learning Library article. That’s unheard-of speed for me. And that’s between when the kids left for and returned from school.

Then there’s this tale, which I only began about an hour ago. It’s no core conversion, but I’ll take the progress!

Lessons from the Beach House

Sunrise Over Water
That’s a sunrise. A very-early annular eclipse sunrise, to be precise!

You’ve dealt with a lot. I don’t know your specifics, but it’s only now returning to some sense of, hopefully, better normal. To me, the trip was a delightful wake-up call (or was that the kids?). Maybe there’s some realizations you can glean from my experience:

  • Acknowledge your compromise
    • In some way, you’ve been off the 100% best version of yourself. It’s ok. Now’s when we can help get it back.
  • Get up
    • Yes, right now. Stand up. Do some stretches and breathing exercises. Walk around. It’s not just your watch telling you the value of movement. It really does help “get your juices flowing.”
  • Change your environment
    • If you can sit in front of a body of water, do that. If not, find something different to make your brain go, “oh, that’s neat; haven’t seen it in a while…or ever.”
  • Disconnect
    • Just for a bit, get away from your phone (you can keep your watch on for critical notifications), and let your mind wander. Free dissociation isn’t being “spaced out”, but rather, “connected to the world.” Take that as you will.

In a recovery run, you aim to reclaim what was lost. During your slow journey to “normal”, live in a state of open recovery. And be kind to yourself and others.

Let Your New Ideas Flow

Crayon Box with Child Drawing
Give a kid crayons, paper, cardboard, scissors, tape, etc. And then just watch.

For me, interacting outside my “pandemic bubble” was a welcome shock. Part of what makes a recovery run so interesting is that you often don’t realize what you’ve lost until you get it back. This is about running and also not about running.

Connecting with others helped me connect with myself. And getting up to change my view made all the difference.

How will you unleash your great new ideas?

Featured image credit: My nephew, after he took his mom’s iPhone.

Living In Airplane Mode

“No, it was 1963, I’m sure of it!” “It’s 1964, really.” “Oh just Google it.” “Hmm, it says here 196…WHAT IS THAT?!”

Pointing out the monster on the wing is way better than being proven wrong by the omniscient Google. It wasn’t always this simple to drop a knowledge bomb, though.

How quickly we forget. In 2007, Apple ushered in the modern smartphone era. Before the iPhone, we either had “smart” phones or Blackberry’s. Neither category was particularly good at browsing the Internet. No Siri or Cortana in those days, either. Unless it was essential, you waited to research when back at a computer. But the web still had hold.

Let’s go back even further, before the Internet, like, the 80s. Big hair, boomboxes, leg warmers, neon clothing…got it? If you didn’t know something, you asked another person. Or, crazy as it sounds today, drove to the library. Society operated without all the answers at our fingertips and Def Leppard had no idea how much reverb they used.

Last month, I met a group of friends in Peru to hike the Inca Trail. 5 days, 4 nights of grueling steps, towering mountains, and no wi-fi. We used our phones solely as cameras and flashlights. Roughing it, I know. The separation from our always-on culture began on the flight to Lima. “Please switch all cellular phones to airplane mode.” My phone remained in this state until landing again in Florida. Have you seen roaming charges?

A number of times during our trek, a question was posed. Nothing too substantial, just, “hey, what song has the line?” or “how long is that other trail?” Yet we couldn’t look it up! Being disconnected caught us all off-guard. And it was wonderful.

When instant answers are available, conversations falter. With no reason to think, debate, or discuss, you move on to the next topic. No depth, no connection. Call me old-fashioned, but I enjoy a chat wherein we don’t have every fact at our immediate disposal. Imagine a debate about sports stats…done with a Siri request. Sure, now we all know, but where was the fun, the light-hearted arguments, the silly bets, and the social bonds?

Lifestyle guidance sites sometimes recommend disconnect periods, full separation from technology, to get back with yourself. Whether it’s an hour a day or a week per year, the effect is the same; active thought coupled with in-person communication.

It’s tempting to want every new technology for your members, and I’m not suggesting abandoning any of these efforts. Millennials and other generations alike seek the simplicity of modern conveniences. However, once you have these things, everyone is the same. Whether you’re a $5B national credit union, a $25M community charter, or a bank with America in its name, the experience is similar. If your member turns on Airplane Mode, do you stand out?

Image credit: https://support.apple.com/en-us/ht204234

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