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If you’ve ever required the services of a chiropractor, you understand the importance of proper alignment. It doesn’t matter how strong you are or how fit you may be, when your back or neck is out, it impacts every move you make. Your spine may have all the right vertebrae, and you may know how it should line up in theory; but until a trained professional applies precise pressure and moves the individual parts in the correct position, your body is incapable of peak performance. You may look good from the outside and still be able to function, but movement will be painful and frustratingly unproductive. The same holds true for your credit union.

You can have an admirable mission, innovative marketing, and a dynamic team of individuals, but if your strategic alignment is off, your growth will be slow and painful—if it happens at all. What is strategic alignment? It is the ongoing process of communicating your vision in a way that unites leadership, staff, volunteers and members. And just as a chiropractor causes momentary discomfort for the sake of long-term health, achieving strategic alignment may require you to shift perspective and challenge the status quo. The good news is that once everyone is on the same page, your team will be able to work smarter, not harder.

Pinpoint your pain points

So, where do you start? As with any improvement plan, you need to assess the internal health of your credit union thoroughly. Are there obvious pain points within your team? These may include issues like a lack of trust between departments, disrespectful attitudes towards leadership, or a general resistance to change. Whatever the problem, it’s important to know where to make the initial adjustments.

There’s a good chance you already have a solid team in place. Strategic alignment is simply a matter of bringing all their perspectives in line to focus on a common goal. So, how do you get everyone centered and moving towards that goal? It begins with relationships. Take the time to learn what motivates each member of your team. Once you uncover their “why,” you can help them see how shared success is best for everyone.

When each person understands that the success of the organization carries a personal benefit, you’re correctly positioned to help your team cultivate a collaborative mindset. The sense of accomplishment that comes from mutual achievement will make future adjustments much more effective—and far less painful.

Effective adjustments require routine maintenance

As you see the benefits of strategic alignment, it can be tempting to lose sight of the process and focus on the results. That’s why ongoing maintenance is essential. It’s easier to make small adjustments to the process when you notice them quickly. Since execution is the key metric for measuring proper alignment, it is critical to ensure goals and expectations are communicated effectively and tracked consistently. Assigning clear responsibility and accountability to various departments and team members will not only allow you to identify and address breakdowns in the process quickly, but it will also make it easier to recognize and reward those who have executed your strategies.

Remember your members

A sense of ownership is one of the primary benefits that draws people to a credit union in the first place. And while the shared responsibility gives more people a vested interest in your credit union’s success, it also means your vision needs to be effectively communicated not only to internal staff but external members as well. As you clarify your goals, develop your processes, and prepare your action plan, be sure to craft your messaging in a manner that resonates with everyone from your executive team and board to your staff and members. Success is attractive. When your members feel like they’re part of a winning team, they’ll be excited to help you continue the winning tradition.

In the financial services industry, competition is fierce. To distinguish itself from other institutions in your area, your credit union needs to function like a well-oiled machine. When everyone from the CEO to the newest member understands and embraces a shared vision, your credit union’s strategic alignment is in-line. And just like the human body, an organization in proper alignment can demonstrate strength and stability for years to come.

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