The most successful leaders I know understand and live by fundamental leadership principles with both discipline and focus.  They commit to continuous learning and strive to have their behaviors serve as a reflection of their values —  setting  the standard and expectations for others in their organization.

Companies are once again focused on increasing the capacity of their people and investing in providing them with the tools and skills to learn and grow in their jobs and prepare for succession planning.  As young professionals begin their careers and seasoned professionals strive to become more effective, provided below is a summary of many of the fundamental rules and principles that I have shared to increase their capacity for success:

  • Know how you add value to your credit union and your members;
  • Focus on developing yourself, but also your team – and acquiring the right talent to surround yourself with;
  • Create a dashboard with your boss to know what you are going to be held accountable for and what’s important to them;
  • Understand the burn rate of key resources – start meetings on time and end them on time.  Your actions as a leader create the culture of your organization.
  • Communicate relentlessly in lieu of increasing distractions every day;
  • Spend time to make your communications crisp and clear – the onus is on you;
  • Listening and sharing data in the right way increases efficiency, learning from one another and innovation;
  • Establish communication standards;  In healthcare, there are 100,000 preventable deaths each year and 80% are due to breakdowns in communication.  Embedded in this are communication standards; view your communication with this kind of intensity.
  • Deliver and follow-through on promises;
  • Conduct your personal and professional life in a way that makes you proud – everyone has a brand name that stays with you for your career.  Corporations spend billions of dollars building their brands, so make sure you focus on yours.
  • Have muscle memory.  Remember the people who helped you along the way.
  • Identify your values and beliefs.  Build your team based upon shared values that will create common bonds so people know what you stand for; it will also increase your ability to challenge your team based upon the right intellectual, not personal, issues.  Mission, vision and values are not buzz words – when developed correctly, these mean something and provide the foundation for all strategic decision-making;
  • Innovation comes through listening.  One of our major clients explained that our disciplined processes “provided them with the time to hear and think.”
  • Seek out the people who give you energy;
  • Master the 10-minute meeting;
  • Avoid toxic people or limit your exposure to them as much as possible;
  • Find ways to gain perspective.  After working hard all day and week, know how you relax, whether it’s a glass of wine, dinner with a friend, a long bicycle ride or planting in your garden.  Understand what gives you purpose and joy outside your job.  We are all part of a human ecosystem.
  • Assess yourself along the way. Know how you are doing, increase your self-awareness and make sure you live up to your own standards;
  • Become an asset to your credit union by thinking clearly, acting effectively and communicating directly;
  • Every day, know what the top six things are that you need to accomplish and focus on them;
  • Remove yourself from meetings and phone calls where you are not needed;
  • Create respectful standards of behavior and get agreement on these standards;
  • Articulate the purpose of your meetings in clear terms so that objectives can be achieved;
  • Treat people with respect.  You can tell how strong a culture is by this factor;
  • Watch employee turnover numbers;  understand what the data is showing you;
  • Value feedback;
  • Challenge yourself to do things differently – hold debrief meetings to understand what you can do better next time and then don’t repeat mistakes;
  • Encourage people to tell you the truth – one on one, not in front of 100 people;  try to cultivate one or two people in your life who will tell you the truth.

It takes work and commitment because we are all human to follow through on these fundamentals – and we can make mistakes based on pressure and exhaustion.  But I highly recommend stepping back to re-think and review what has taken you this far in your current success.   As the economy continues to be bumpy, we in the credit union movement had an opportunity to differentiate ourselves by continuing to focus on serving our members and strengthening our teams leadership capacity.

Stuart R. Levine is Chairman and CEO of Stuart Levine & Associates LLC, a strategy, leadership and governance consulting firm.