Purpose … Flash … Light.

How does your credit union stay relevant? How do you create distinction? How can you separate from the competition? A simple suggestion and starting point: the Flashlight Metaphor. Let me explain.

Consider the following scenario. (You may want to even try this with your team.) Imagine that your entire organization — all your staff — is gathered in a room and each associate has a flashlight. You tell them that this flashlight is powered not by a battery, but instead by their energy, their engagement, and the contribution that they bring to the organization. Some lights are bright and some are dim; the goal, of course, is to brighten employees’ individual and collective beams.

You now point to printed signs posted around the room, sharing different ways the credit union can contribute. The signs say things like, “Convenience leader,” “Low price leader,” “Relationship leader,” “Service leader,” “Knowledge leader,” or the leader in a certain product or service or niche. Now we turn off all the lights in the room and ask every one of your associates to shine their light—their flashlight, however bright—toward the sign that best reflects the organization’s current or most productive purpose. (You can literally do this by posting the different “leader” strategies on a wall and asking team members to “shine their light” by standing under the one they feel is right.)

What would likely happen? Lights would most likely shine in many different directions. Some on different leadership objectives. Some would wander, vacillating, indecisively, from sign to sign. Some might even shine on the floor or exit, in search of a way out.

In the real world, the vast majority of organizations in this exercise would demonstrate a significant lack of focus — an absence of purpose. Lights poorly aligned, and dialogue, maybe argument, over which direction was best. Dim bulbs everywhere. The resulting factions would pull the organization in different directions. And the credit union would head nowhere fast.

The goal? Increase focus, engagement and success by aligning and brightening your collective corporate beams, and as a result, further igniting individual beams.

Now imagine a different scenario. One in which a clarified corporate “why” has been vetted and the team is on board. One in which a cause, calling, or quest is clearly defined.

This time, when the lights go out, everyone shines their light in the same direction, focusing on the same objective, and the resulting, combined beam is brighter. Perhaps even more importantly, the individual beams are also brighter, because team members now can contribute to a collective goal bigger than themselves. Individual beams become brighter, because there is nothing more engaging or powerful than winning together.

Let’s take this metaphor one final step further. An inspired team on a focused mission will amplify that light even more, and in the process, create a laser that brightly pinpoints the organization’s direction, and even burns a hole through its destination, demonstrating the power of focus and clearing a path for overall success.

As thought-leader Nikos Mourkogiannis noted, “Purpose is the engine of a company, and the source of its energy.” Corporate governance guru John Carver agreed: “The most important work of any governing board is to create and re-create the reason for organizational existence.” And highly successful businessman and philanthropist W. Clement Stone asserted: “Definiteness of purpose is the starting point of all achievement.”

The world has changed. Have you changed with it? Today’s evolving normal is significantly different than yesterday’s, but some lessons remain over time . Where are your flashlights pointing today? Is it time to revisit your organizations’ purpose? The Flashlight Metaphor can help.

About the Author:

Neil Goldman, Ed.D. is President of Goldman Consulting & Strategy (GCS), Inc., focusing on organizational development, research, speaking, and planning services. He can be reached at (310) 968-2007 or by email at ngoldman@GCSfirst.com.

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