Running the Gauntlet - 1If you’ve ever tried implementing change at your credit union or bank, you know how difficult it can be. In fact, it is a lot like Running the Gauntlet, the title of Jeffrey Hayzlett’s recent book. Hayzlett is a global business celebrity and former Fortune 1000 c-suite executive. You may recognize the name from his appearance on Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump.

Many things need to change within our financial institutions. If you are an executive, manager, employee or board member driving change, then Running the Gauntlet is an excellent read. Hayzlett’s writing style is charming and folksy, yet the content contains nuggets of information. The
book’s subtitle is “Essential Business Lessons to Lead, Drive Change and Grow Profits.” Running the Gauntlet delivers just what that subtitle offers.

Below are some of the key points Hayzlett makes and how we can apply them.

(1) Change in business works best when it is both tough and thoughtful. Hayzlett argues that your business should always be doing some type of change. He says, “Small or big business is bad only if you are not changing and thinking big to grow bigger.” But don’t change just to change. His point is that you need to think through what you want to change.

  • Application: Make a list of things you think need changing within your credit union or bank. Then discuss those items at your next meeting. See if others agree. If they don't, then have a spirited discussion around the question, “What do we need to change around here?”

(2) Repeat after me: no one is going to die from the changes you make in business. This is one of Hayzlett’s best lines in the entire book. He elaborates by saying, “remember: no one is going to die when running the gauntlet. Not you. Not your employees. No one. Little sick maybe, but not die. Your business might die. But that’s probably because it already was not breathing well.”

  • Application: People hate change. Your employees (and some of your executives) hate it. But to properly implement change you need their buy-in. So clearly communicate to your entire team that while change is hard, it’s necessary—and they aren’t going to die. In other words, no one is going to die if you change your name; no one is going to die if you change a loan policy; no one is going to die if you change your strategic plan. You get the idea.

(3)    Watch growing numb. Success is actually a trap. When you have success it’s harder to change. If all your numbers look great, be careful: you still might need to change. Consider what Hayzlett says: “The truth is, we get used to  what we have and grow numb to our processes, procedures and ways of doing things (especially if the profits are still good). Essentially we resign ourselves to mediocrity.”

  • Application: Examine areas in which you are numb (and yes, you have them). What are you settling for at your financial institution? For more information about if you are heading into mediocrity, check out the Credit Union Insight piece, “Five Signs Your Credit Union is Heading Into Mediocrity.”

(4)    Some things cannot be measured with numbers. ROI is an important measurement tool and one we should use. However, Hayzlett argues that ROI sometimes gets overused. His thoughts: “Everything today seems to come back to ROI. Some things cannot be measured with numbers. You can try, but you will end up spending more time and money trying than you get out of the result.”

  • Application: Calculate ROI on your individual marketing promotions. But don’t get hung up on it and don’t try to calculate the ROI of everything. Every now and then, put the CFO in the closet.

(5)    Your branding goals should be as important as your financial goals. Your brand is just about the most important asset you have (even if it isn’t capitalized at all). The less you invest in your brand, the less long-term success you will have. As Hayzlett puts it, “You must consider the cost of not doing it.”

  • Application: Examine the amount of resources you are putting into your brand. Is it enough? Remember, your logo and look are not your brand. Your brand is about who you are and what the user experience is like. Is the importance of your brand reflected in any of your organizational goals?

Those are five points Hayzlett touches on that help financial institutions—there are many more that will help you learn how to navigate your credit union or bank through a time of change (which should be all the time). Are you a change agent in your credit union or bank? If you are, then Hayzlett says you are always asking the question, “What’s next?”

If that is a question is keeping you up at night, then pick up a copy of Running the Gauntlet for many ideas on implementing change.

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