Nothing is certain (maybe)

They say nothing is certain; there are no sure things. The expectation then is that you can’t count on anything. This can be good or bad, but what people lose sight of is that it’s not about that expectation; it’s how you react when expectations are, or are not, met.

At Freedom, we do our best to set the right budget, hire the right people, approve the good loan, cash the safe check, but as the Scottish Poet Robert Burns wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley” (the best laid plans often go wrong). Foresight, planning, the best of intentions can all work perfectly or, at times, be in vain and not reap the intended benefit. However, it’s these little hiccups that can also bring out the best in us.

When things don’t go as planned we must have the ability to regroup; to objectively listen to other points of view, heed advice and, as necessary, change opinions, shift priorities or start over. Obviously no one likes to get it wrong, but that does present an opportunity. That’s the key. It’s not about making a mistake, it’s about learning from it and not repeating it.

Monitoring products and processes, evaluating performance, listening to valid feedback isn’t about finding fault. Those things let us build on the positives and isolate the negatives in hopes of becoming better. We will all have occasion to be a mentor and a student, to lead and to follow. We count on each other every day. It is, therefore, the mindset of the individual, the willingness to focus on the good, the desire to improve and motivation to serve others that will drive the ability to switch between such roles and successfully adapt to a changing world. That’s certain.

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” — Charles Swindoll

Those Days.

We all have them; one of those days. You think everything is fine and suddenly….WHAM! You’re blindsided. What you thought you knew is turned upside down and you find yourself in unfamiliar territory. You may be confused, angry, hurt; you may feel lost and alone; who knows what else. At that moment, in an emotional and chaotic time, you have to make a critical decision about what to do next; how to react. There is nothing easy about that and the transition can take time. In fact, the impact of that sudden course correction may never leave you, but the longer it takes to deal with the more damage can be done. This is true for us as individuals or as a company; it can happen in our personal or professional lives; it doesn’t matter which. What matters is the next step.

Dealing with adversity is something we all must do, but if it affects you on an emotional level the challenge is much greater. If we change a policy or implement a new system, we explain why and we move on. It takes a period of adjustment, but the transition isn’t so bad and emotions aren’t much of a concern. If someone leaves unexpectedly, we might not always understand, but the reasons become clear in time and, again, we move on even if there was an emotional component. If, however, trust is betrayed, that has a more profound effect and can be deeply emotional. We may move on, but it never leaves us entirely. When we talk about building relationships with members, when we talk about being a team, we are, in essence, opening ourselves up and trusting each other; we become vulnerable. To some extent we depend on others every day to be successful and get through the day. A team works together in a common purpose and there is a huge level of trust involved that cannot be overlooked or overstated. We trust each other, we trust our equipment, we trust our strategies, we trust our members, etc. and that trust helps us flourish or fight through challenges.

Therefore, when there’s a bump in the road, a misunderstanding, a change in direction, a difference of opinion, it’s important to trust and communicate using a balance of open-mindedness, strategic focus, objectivity and empathy. Honest discourse is lacking in today’s society and sometimes rather than discussing and listening when trust is seemingly broken, our first reaction is to go nuclear, inflict maximum damage, and really get our point across. Social media may give us the opportunity to rant, criticize and judge with anonymity, but as a credit union, as a cooperative, as a team, we can’t do that. Mistakes will happen, disappointment will occur, but these pale in comparison to what we can achieve when we stand together, work together, fight to together. There is strength in numbers; strength of heart, of mind and of purpose. All it takes is less bravado, less pride and the admission to oneself that we need each other; maybe more than we realize. There have been a number of acronyms created around the word “team”, but here’s one I came up with because being a team applies to more than just a business:

Trust – If you trust, you won’t start by assuming the worst. Make your feelings known and talk. That doesn’t mean things will go your way, but that’s not really the point.

Empathy – You have to empathize. Put yourself in the other person’s position. Allow yourself to understand their thoughts and feelings; they’re just as important as yours.

Appreciation – Take a minute to appreciate what other people do, or have done, for you; what they may deal with on a daily basis, and what they have to offer.

Meaningful – Make each interaction meaningful on some level. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Just make people feel like they matter.

The Freedom team is going strong even when we’ve had to make course corrections. It takes understanding and acceptance of change, focus on goals, a conviction in our mission and trust in each other which allows us to implement the necessary strategies and achieve the desired results. We will always have challenges, but if we continue to communicate, develop relationships, plan and adapt, we will continue to serve our members, create better experiences and build a strong team in and with our community.


A Dream Within A Dream

Did you ever have one of those dreams that screws up your mood and has the potential to ruin your whole day? Not a scary dream; those are easy because you wake up and see there is no clown at the foot of your bed holding a chainsaw and an artichoke. You get scared, realize you’re safe and move on. Sure your heart is pounding, but it’s over.  No, I mean the ones where you wake up heart broken, feeling like you got punched in the gut and wishing you could get back into the dream because it was so much better than reality. Those are tougher to shake off because at the core they are more real; conjured by an experience, a thought, something that triggers a memory or unfulfilled desire. There is a part of you that exits in that dream and in real life making the separation of the two more difficult and the options for dealing with it more challenging. When something upsets you, real or imagined, it can be difficult to get past right away until you can isolate the cause and find the right way to respond.

In life, in business, we don’t always have the luxury of reacting the way we want when something troubles us. We have to temper our feelings, maybe even push them aside and measure our response as we try to understand the why so we can cope, move on and accomplish our objectives. I choose to believe most people’s intentions are good and their goal isn’t to upset, but just like we don’t go to bed expecting to have a dream that makes us feel bad, that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. We can be unpredictable and unaware sometimes of how our actions or words are perceived. We insinuate or say things that fail to properly clarify our intent and can have multiple interpretations. This can be a result of poor communication skills or an overzealous nature to accomplish a goal. There may be times when an individual need becomes the priority clouding the judgment and closing the ears to different perspectives and needs. Likewise, problems can be the result of our own preconceived ideas or a past experience that we, or someone we know, had. The important thing is to simply recognize these possibilities and realize that each conversation, contact, communication, is a chance to build, or rebuild, relationships and create an environment of mutual respect.

So, before we send an email, have a conversation, or post on social media, we need to consider our intent, ultimate objective and how the message will be received. A daunting task I know, but let me put it into context. When I put together an article like this I start days in advance with an idea. I start writing, trying to convey a thought, but all the way up until I hit “send” I’m editing, changing, rewording, etc. in hopes that the real meaning comes across and not something unintended. I try to craft something impactful, but broad enough to show that the ideas expressed apply to us all from time to time. It may not always work, but as long as the effort is there, I am content.  I’m not saying it should take days to send someone an email or to write out a script before making a call. All I’m saying is be cognizant about the impact your words and their delivery can have. Make sure the why is clear and that all aspects, especially when you’re part of a group with varying backgrounds, are considered with equal weight. This doesn’t mean every decision reached or action taken will be loved by all, but if the communication is clear, if other points of view are considered and if the why is explained, we reduce the potential negativity that can otherwise result and hold us back from reaching our potential.