I can imagine what you’re thinking while reading the title to this article: either I’m twisted or there’s an obvious oxymoron here. We’ve all been uncomfortable before, but when have any of us loved it? I’ve been caught in the rain and gotten my clothes soaked; a clearly uncomfortable situation, but I didn’t love it by any stretch. I’ve gotten called out in a meeting or college class; that was uncomfortable and I didn’t love that either. So, what is up with this?
I recently found myself in my comfort zone, doing my day-to-day work day in and day out. I was comfortable, but I certainly wasn’t challenged. I also found I was learning little, stagnating, and getting closer to obsolete every day. What I also realized was that often uncomfortable equals learning, growth, and most importantly, rewards. So, I raised my hand, spoke with my managers, and said, “I want to do more, challenge me,” and challenge me they did. As a result, I’m learning, growing, and being rewarded in kind. Do you know what else I realized? I’m happier for it.
How can we apply this to credit unions?
That’s terrific, you say, but what does that have to do with credit unions? A lot! First, credit unions are people, I submit no different than me. So, I would encourage everyone reading this to think about pushing themselves to be uncomfortable. It’s not a bad thing–just the opposite. If you are finding yourself getting complacent and falling into a routine, then it’s time for some change, time to grow.
Never stop! Never let yourself get comfortable. Don’t avoid the thing you don’t understand; jump in and roll up your sleeves. If you catch yourself saying, “I don’t know anything about that,” then that’s the on ramp to learn and get uncomfortable. Try it, you will be amazed at how good you can get at being uncomfortable and more amazed at the rewards. Before you know it, you will be an “uncomfortable” junkie!
Now as for the organization itself, lose the mentality of “that’s how we’ve always done it.” Get uncomfortable. See a new idea, product, or concept? Give it a try, push your credit union to at least do some research on it. Consider electronic documents. I’ve seen plenty of credit unions “go electronic” only to keep the paper as well. I get it is uncomfortable throwing away old ways that have served you well, but twice the work is no answer.
While we’re on the topic, is your retention schedule up to date or are you still hanging on to documents past your retention schedule just in case? Pack rats don’t just hang on to things because they’re addicted to junk, they hang on because one day they believe they will save the day with what they kept. Or the idea of needing it and not having it scares them, so it’s uncomfortable to throw it away. Don’t fall into that mindset. Rather be realistic about your “what if” scenarios. What’s the worst that would happen? Would you survive? If not, keep it and change your retention schedule. If so, get uncomfortable and ditch it!
How about remote eSignatures on a phone? Credit unions worry about not being able to collect on a loan, etc. I get asked quite often if that’s legal? I typically respond, “well it’s not illegal!” Talk to your counsel, your peers, and the experts. Do your homework, but get outside that comfort zone! Start small, build it and your confidence.
Remote deposit capture is another example. We can post checks nearly in real time and we offer that service at a fraction of the cost for posting batches of checks. Yet we have credit unions paying to have us batch post their items periodically while members wait for their funds because they are afraid of what might happen in an automated process–it’s just not comfortable. Meanwhile, their peers and peers’ members are enjoying the posting of their checks and getting credit for them in near real time.
Be smart, not afraid
I’m not advocating you to go crazy or throw away money and common sense, but lose the mindset of talking yourself out of new ideas because it could be a lot of work or you don’t know anything about it and are not sure you could succeed at that. Get going and get in the game. Avoid paralysis by analysis. Try a prove it to improve it strategy. Create a lab to try things and promote these things that work. You should be constantly floating balloons and pushing the credit union to learn, experiment, and challenge the old ways.
The bottom line here is: don’t just do what you’ve always done. While it feels comfortable, it leads to you becoming what you’ve always been. So, reflect on your day to day, ask yourself if it’s uncomfortable enough or if you are simply inviting the day the “uncomfortables” go right by you.