Leadership Matters: 5 Things COVID-19 Taught Us to Make Us Better Leaders

blue origami paper boat leads fleet of smaller white paper boats
By Mike Squire

4 minutes

Crises pose both risks to credit unions and opportunities to become more agile and zero in on what really matters.

It was John F. Kennedy who once said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters. One represents danger and the other represents opportunity.”

The same can be said for the COVID-19 pandemic, which has devastated the economy, taken lives and challenged organizations to maintain business while also protecting their customers and employees. Being tossed in the fire, however, has taught us valuable lessons that have strengthened us as leaders. Here are five lessons we’ve learned from the COVID-19 crisis.

No. 1: Agility

When faced with an uncertain, complicated and rapidly changing crisis such as COVID-19, having agility and being able to move quickly has shown to be of the upmost importance to protect employees and prevent spread of the virus. When news of the pandemic broke, Kinecta Federal Credit Union executives met and decided to immediately implement a mandatory work-from-home program for non-member-facing roles, postpone all events and in-person meetings, discontinue gym activities and provide daily updates to employees. Additionally, to administer the Paycheck Protection Program, our bankers and financial experts had to quickly learn how the PPP business loan program works and how to navigate the website. We also made changes to accommodate and protect our most vulnerable members. For instance, we opened an hour early to service only senior citizens and high-risk individuals.

No. 2: Being Open-Minded

Another important takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic is the value of being open-minded. For instance, this experience has made me more open to employees working remotely. My team is very metric-driven, so it is easy to measure productivity. Overall, allowing for employees to work from home has been positive for the organization. A recent survey of our employees shows they enjoy less commute time, higher productivity and saving money by telecommuting. Also, employees feel they are working in a safer environment during the crisis.

No. 3: What Truly Matters

The devastating impact the pandemic has had on the community has made us realize that what truly matters is the safety and the wellbeing of our staff and community members. Serving the community is at the heart of everything Kinecta FCU does, but since the pandemic, our community service efforts have been amplified. In response to increased need, Kinecta Community Foundation, the charitable entity of Kinecta FCU, mobilized to support local organizations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, Kinecta Community Foundation has donated a total of $60,000 to various community organizations including $40,000 to local Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals to support their respective COVID-19 relief efforts. Funds provide financial aid, food and child-care assistance to financially stressed employees and resources for patients.

Additionally, in April, Kinecta Community Foundation gave a total of $20,000 in emergency funds to nonprofit partners Food Finders, Food Bank of Santa Monica, Midnight Mission, Second Harvest Food bank, Thomas House Family Shelter, LA Regional Food Bank, Community’s Child and Warrior Student Food Pantry. Kinecta FCU also proudly provided free meals to more than 200 first responders.

No. 4: The Power of Collaboration

The fourth lesson the novel coronavirus has taught us is the power of collaboration. The crisis has inspired an unprecedented sense of community and collaboration. We’ve learned that we have to come together with compassion and humility. As business leaders, we do not know it all and have to rely on guidance from people such as our government leaders here in California to make decisions that best serve our staff and community.

No. 5: Transparency is Essential

Openly sharing issues and challenges with your team so they understand the situation and decisions made helps develop trust and confidence in leadership. At Kinecta FCU, our leadership sends out daily communications to staff and allows staff to ask questions and share comments during town hall meetings. We believe this sends them the message that their opinions and ideas matter to the organization and leadership team.

Every day, we strive to engage staff and thrive as a business during uncertain times. In the process, by learning from current successes and applying them to our everyday workflows, we are not only maximizing our full potential but discovering innovative ways that help to soften the impact of COVID-19 and allow our credit union to prepare for challenges ahead.

CUES member Mike Squire is SVP/chief lending officer at Kinecta Federal Credit Union, Manhattan Beach, California, with approximately $4.5 billion in assets, 22 branches, two retail mortgage centers and more than 255,000 members nationwide.

CUES Learning Portal