Owning something brings about a sense of responsibility. Just think of the last time you bought a big-dollar purchase—a car, a new phone, a house, etc. When we own something, we want to care for it, keep it running, and improve it. We put waterproof, shockproof, scratch resistant cases on our phones. We drive our cars through car washes to keep the winter salt from ruining the paint. We add new bulbs to the flower gardens in our yards and wait for spring to see them grow. As owners, members and employees should be putting the same care into their cooperatives, but this is not always the case.
Today’s members certainly do not think of themselves as credit union owners in the same manner as the pioneers that build the credit union movement once did. In fact, many members might not even be aware they are owners. As Melissa Fulgenzi discussed in her article, to get members invested in the credit union, the first step is to get your employees invested and active in educating your members. But do your employees know their place in the cooperative? How can we learn a new way of communicating with cooperative employees (and in turn the members they serve) in a way that inspires them to be invested in the credit union?
Step up as an owner
Take cooperative CUSO CU*Answers for example. Many CU*Answers employees are also members of the very credit unions that own their CUSO. They are, by proxy, encouraged to think of themselves as owners of their place of work. This influences the way they approach their jobs and allows them to take charge of their careers and goals.
“The marque on the wall in the lobby says it all, ‘The Power of Ownership,'” says Bob Frizzle, Chief Financial Officer at CU*Answers. “Our view on ownership is that it’s not just for credit unions that own us, it’s as much for the employees. We truly believe and behave as if we are as much self-employed as employed by CU*Answers. What I mean by this is that you have the opportunity to do not just the core tasks you have assigned in your job description, but to follow your passions related to that.”
But how often do we, as cooperative employees, act in the role of an owner? When is the last time you took the reins and put this “power of ownership” to work? Geoff Johnson, Chief Executive Officer at CU*Answers recently said to his employees, “Every day you have the opportunity to really expand and define what your job role is for yourself, for your family, for your future, and ultimately the organization.” How do you define success? How does that definition of the “power of ownership” feel to you?
Lead by example
See how different you feel about your career with this fresh perspective on your ownership of the path of your career. Learn to be drivers in the development of your careers and build things you can be proud of. What you do does not always need to be a big step into ownership; even small things can really impact the success of the credit union where you work. As you build that comfort in the incremental tasks that develop that sense of responsibility, it’ll make taking the bigger steps for a bigger mark on your credit union that much easier. Either way, you are driving forward your credit union and contributing to its success.
Keep this fresh look of the “power of ownership” in mind the next time you assist a member-owner at your credit union. The next time you roll out a new marketing campaign, think of all the fellow members who benefitted from your goal of creating a new product at the credit union you “own” together. Their success builds your success and vice versa. When you are assisting them, you are also achieving your goal to provide excellent service and are creating more successful owners of your credit union.
Randy Karnes, former CEO of CU*Answers once said, “There is a simple idea around credit unions and cooperatives: participate and you own. Take ownership, assume ownership. Drive it. Participate in it.”