Recently I had the distinct pleasure to be the closing speaker during a credit union roundtable. I hope the crowd had as much fun as I did during the program and during my session. One of the benefits of being the last speaker but also attending the entire event is not only do you get to network with everyone but also hear a number of comments from the attendees. The conference was jam packed with information, trends, and tips for credit union executives. So much so I heard more than one comment to the effect of “I must be a terrible CEO since I don’t do anything the speakers are telling us to do.”
By the time I got up to speak I could see the level of collective overwhelm on the faces of the attendees. I shared with them my eavesdropping activities but also gave them a reason to smile. That reason: There isn’t one good small business owner or entrepreneur that I have known or worked with that hasn’t felt overwhelmed on multiple occasions including myself. The reason all of us feel that way in a small organization is usually because we are actively growing the business…because we are doing a number of things right and not because we are bad leaders. The CEOs and small business owners I have met that haven’t felt at least a degree of overwhelm are those that are heading the org-chart of a stagnant business.
I often explain that a credit union actually has more in common with the local neighborhood Ma & Pa coffee shop or the three-person massage therapy office around the corner from them than they do with Chase or Wells Fargo. To me all credit unions are small businesses. Even when I worked for SchoolsFirst FCU at $8 billion in assets it felt much more like working in a small business than like working for Citibank who was my primary employer during college.
So if we think small business rather than small credit union, as I encouraged us to do in my very first CU Business Magazine article in January 2016, we quickly begin to realize we can’t possibly do everything. However, as the business grows it begins to scream out for what it needs, whether we as leaders are ready for it or not. So we need to pinpoint the top two or three needs and shelve the rest at least for now. It’s almost always best to focus on tackling the biggest problem or concentrating on the largest opportunity to exploit than to try to plug every little hole in the dam at once. That is what helps the best small business owners to keep moving forward.
Here are a few additional tips I’ve learned from successful entrepreneurs on how to overcome overwhelm:
Get everyone involved. When I started to help businesses enhance their corporate cultures over a decade ago, one of the common problems I encountered was an executive not offering enough support to his or her team in one way, shape, or form. Today I see a lot more of the exact opposite problem – leaders who overly support their employees to the point where they take every problem and put it on their backs. A business heading upstream needs everyone rowing in the same direction. Make sure every employee has an oar. Allow them to fix their own problems whenever they can. Ask them for their recommendations on how to overcome an issue rather than trying to always be the hero and come up with the answer. Not only does that build bench strength among your staff but also helps your sanity as a CEO.
Use the whole animal. Just like many times the answer to a problem is within the talents of our employees, solutions lie in systems and resources we already have. I heard a successful entrepreneur speak about the phrase “Use the whole animal” about 12 years ago. She explained how many Indian tribes would honor the animal they killed by not only using all of the meat for food but also using other parts for clothes or tools. They felt that nothing should be wasted if an animal was to give its life for the tribe. She extrapolated that to modern times suggesting that before we jump to the next quick fix or bright shiny object we should make sure we are maximizing our current resources. Many times our existing systems can offer data to allow us to see opportunities among our current membership or even be used as an onboarding program for new members. When we utilize our resources to their fullest potential many times that takes a weight off of our shoulders as well.
Think WIN (What’s Important Now). A Millennial entrepreneur who has started two businesses shared this philosophy with me a few years ago. Running one organization can be maddening enough much less two. Although he has hired good people to help him manage both businesses he said there isn’t a day that he doesn’t feel overwhelmed with everything that should be done or could be done. In those moments he thinks “WIN” and asks himself “What’s important now?” Asking that simple question almost always provides him with instant focus as his mind draws him to the best place to concentrate his energy right then and there.
So if you are feeling overwhelmed I congratulate you. It’s highly likely that you feel that way because you are running a successful organization. Take a deep breath, be proud of yourself and your team, and know that you are not alone.
Ken Bator is the author of The Formula for Business Success = B+C+S and the founder of Bator Training & Consulting, Inc. (BTC) Ken helps credit unions create environments where employees actually want to come to work and members want to keep coming back. BTC accomplishes this through a combination of Branding, Culture building, and Strategic planning. This is the unique B+C+S Formula created by Bator and featured in his latest book. To have BTC assist your credit union in creating a differentiating and engaging experience, contact Ken directly at 714-681-2821 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about BTC’s training and strategic planning sessions at www.btcinc.net or www.speakermatch.com/profile/kenbator/.