From the final day of the Summer Olympics to the start of the US Open, what can we learn from these world-famous athletes about member service and employee engagement at your credit union? The hard work and athletic pursuits from team and individual sports shows ways to strengthen team building and management within your branches.
Leadership Starts Here
From runners to swimmers to the U.S. Women’s Gymnastic team; the winning athletes at this summer’s Olympics were all quick to acknowledge a role their coaches played. While practice and ability come down to the athletes, coaches are known for their character and motivation. Coaches are held responsible for wins and loses.
Of Ledecky’s record time in the 400-meter freestyle, she said her goal for it came from her coach, Bruce Gemmell, noting, “I always rely on him to help set my goals because you never know what’s possible unless you hear somebody else say it.”1
Just like coaching, as a team leader it’s important to remember you are there to help your team succeed and grow. What you do can make a big impact. From daily interactions to sharing special offers to helping out a more challenging client, your team will notice when you’re there for them.
Practice and Persevere
For any sport, and most things in life, success is not guaranteed, and it most certainly doesn’t happen overnight. Successful athletes work hard, trying again and again to better themselves. Habits come from repetition.
A team of employees likewise will not change overnight, nor should they be expected to know everything at once. For example, you can’t expect your employees to share current offers or bring up auto loans with members if they’ve never been trained on doing these things. When coaches give their players the right tools and training the motions become like second nature. Continuous work and practice will help things go smoothly for your team as well.
Along with this, take note of things that are working better than others and learn from these observances. A smart leader makes sure communication is a two-way street. You share and teach, but you also need to listen and respond to your employees so that everyone is on the same page.
Communication is Key
To have success in team sports players need to work as a group, but they also need to know their individual role within that group. A soccer team wouldn’t be successful if everyone were trying to be the goalie. Communication about who has which role, and who is ready to back them up, is essential to playing together.
This is the same inside a business, especially a business that is highly geared toward member service. Your team needs to know what they can do as individuals, what they need another team member for, and who they can turn to when situations out of their scope arise. Like a coach, the leader of your team needs to recognize strengths and weaknesses as well. This allows the team to work together in the best way possible.
Be Prepared For the Uncontrollable
The winning moment in sports does not come without a few unexpected moments along the way. As an athlete trains to win they are also training in preparation for the things they can’t control. Repetitive training helps basic things become second nature, and training for various scenarios helps them be ready for a variety of situations.
At your credit union it’s useful to train and explain what is expected beforehand in situations. Should every member be asked to open a credit card? Do your tellers know the details of your newest offer? What if a member has a problem with their auto loan or wants to close their account? If these situations are trained for before they happen your employees can feel confident knowing how to handle them.
Respect for Others, Win or Lose
Though some sporting programs exemplify it better than others, one of the big lessons taught early on is respect for others: be it team members, coaches or opponents. Sportsmanship is exemplifying appropriate behavior, playing by the rules and being gracious through wins and losses.
Your team members should portray this same level of respect for everyone they have contact with. There may not be any opponents trying to beat them in a sports game, but we have all met with customers that challenge us from time to time. It’s not always easy to stay positive in these situations, but when respect is communicated the process can go a whole lot smoother.
Set Goals and Recognize Achievements
The big goal of an athlete might be staring in the Olympics or US Open, but to get there they had to set and achieved a myriad of smaller goals. Goals can be a mix of subjective (trying your best) or objective (finishing that last lap faster than yesterday), but they all require hard work and obtainable milestones.
As you train and lead your credit union team, it’s important to not only make goals but to recognize achievements. As with goals, recognition can range from verbal recognition for progress to physical rewards in achieving clearly places mile markers. It’s been proven that ideas like extra time off or lunch on management can go a long way.
This doesn’t mean your team needs to be pandered to at every turn; they are not a little league baseball team. What it does mean is that as clearly as you train, practice and prepare as individuals and as teams, you should also outline what is expected and what employees can expect from leadership and the company in return. Remember, proper communication is a two-way street, and effective leaders are remembered for their ability to motivate and help accomplish a task.
- “Katie Ledecky and her coach set crazy goals for Rio. Or did they?”, Dave Sheinin, Wall Street Journal, 8/10/16.