Momentum Matters When It Comes to Purpose

By Gary Grinnell, NAFCU Board Chair

Gary Grinnell, NAFCU Board Chair

How do you properly articulate your credit union’s purpose to your employees and volunteers? It is a beautiful thing to watch your team firing on all cylinders and working toward a common goal—but that requires constant reiteration of your credit union’s mission and vision to keep that momentum alive.

Many members of your team already understand that the driving force of our industry is to help people. It’s possible that’s what drew them to your organization in the first place—and it’s definitely what drove me to make the jump from working at a bank to a credit union many years ago! Even with that passion for serving others, many employees will often wonder “why?” at different points in their career.

As the leader of your team, you must clearly outline your institution’s purpose, and explain the “why” in why we do what we do. Providing a distinct and authentic answer to what your credit union is working toward is crucial to motivation. Giving meaningful direction helps employees feel inspired to achieve the organization’s goals. Showing the direct impact of your team’s efforts and how you’re improving people’s lives also goes a long way to motivating people, too. Reinforce this messaging constantly.

Talking about your purpose is one thing, but as the leader of your organization you must also ensure that you—and others on your management team—are demonstrating that purpose through your actions. Do the decisions you make daily reflect your purpose? Are they helping achieve your vision? Studies have shown people’s own work reflects that of those around them. This can be a positive form of “peer pressure” and contribute to your employees’ feeling ownership in your credit union’s accomplishments.

Your credit union’s purpose should also drive your culture. As a leader, you are the one steering the ship and motivating your team. Sure, people are motivated by different things, but in the workforce, it typically comes down to feeling appreciated and connected to what you are doing, day in and day out. Building this culture takes intentional effort and requires significant attention from leadership on a daily basis. Your employees must trust where and how you are guiding them, and you must give them space to take initiative to act upon your shared purpose.

You can’t have a strategy unless you know where you want to go, and your organization’s purpose is at the core of the destination. Once you’ve hammered down your credit union’s why, the values and principles that are built off of it will guide your direction easily. Your values are what you care about and often what we care about is what we give our time and effort to.

Only once these items are clearly defined can you properly strategize. The questions about “Why are we doing what we do?” become “What are the things we value most?” and finally turn into “How can we achieve our goals?” 

Gary Grinnell is president and CEO of Corning Credit Union in Corning, NY.