"We did regular pulse checks to see where our staff and our members were on the change. Were they feeling positive? Were they feeling benign to the change or were they feeling negative?”  -Frank Chisholm

Emotions, like fear and worry, can have a devastating impact on your staff during times of major transition. Transformation is an emotional experience, so leaders must find a way to nurture their teams through periods of change.

This is a top priority for Frank Chisholm, the director of brand and marketing at Kindred Credit Union. He shares the secrets behind digging down to the emotions behind transformation.

The Cultural Aspect of Transformation

Culture plays a major role in an organization’s appetite for transformation. In the financial world, many company cultures were originally built around brick-and-mortar buildings where people physically came together to serve their customers.

Today, we live in an increasingly digital and disconnected landscape. Connection takes effort. This makes it more important than ever to invite people into transformative journeys and ensure they’re feeling like part of the experience.

Frank Chisholm and his team at Kindred Credit Union have plenty of experience with successful transformations. For years, the Kindred Credit Union team has been tackling cutting-edge issues like automation, AI, and digital growth. They’ve gained a reputation in the industry for their ability to work together as a team to accomplish significant digital growth.

What’s the secret to their success?

Frank says it's about positioning and ensuring everyone feels like “we’re all in this together.”

When Frank gave a marketing automation presentation to his operations leadership team, he told them this:

"Let's talk about the growth team. Let's not talk about marketing. Let's not talk about sales. Let's not talk about service. Let's talk about the growth team, which is all of those things. We're all growing in the same direction with the same end goal in mind, which is really to figure out how to best help our members and serve them as best we can."

Internal Roles: Marketing, Sales, and Service

Kindred Credit Union has also redefined the brand and marketing team’s role to focus more on lead generation than it used to. Branding is an important part of what they do, but it’s just one prong in a two-pronged approach that includes both branding and lead generation.

Historically, financial services have had internal conflicts over the dynamics and relationships between marketing, sales, and customer service. While they’re all interconnected, there’s often a level of misunderstanding that ultimately destructive to transformation.

Frank believes some of the conflicts come from a lack of value for the work of marketing. Brand awareness, campaigns, and promotional pieces are driving value for the organization, but a company’s other departments don’t always have a clear view of it. 

Related Content: Bridge the Gap Between Marketing and Sales

It’s essential to paint a picture of marketing’s role for your entire organization. Help them understand how marketing generates leads for the sales team, then the sales team moves them along through the consideration stage, then customer service gets involved to make the experience even better. When your people can see the complete picture, they feel much more motivated to serve their role within it.

When Kindred Credit Union approached a renaming and rebranding in 2016, Frank knew there would be so much emotion tied in, and it would require their culture and members to embrace it. 

To introduce the new name and brand, Frank and the executive team focused on painting a picture of two potential futures for the organization. In one picture, the credit union was sustainable and built a positive future for the current members’ children and grandchildren. The other picture was what would happen if they resisted change and couldn't create a sustainable future.

As they introduced the new brand, they did “pulse checks,” which are emotional check-ins to determine how people are feeling. This provided the opportunity to address feelings and fears that might be barriers to transformation.

Learning to be Vulnerable to Change

Frank is currently reading Brené Brown's book, Dare to Lead. One of the major themes in the book is vulnerability, particularly being vulnerable to change within organizations.

Brown mentions how financial institutions and insurance companies tend to be highly structured and full of highly analytical people. This means they don’t always view emotion as something you bring to the office. 

Yet emotional vulnerability is essential to organizational transformation. People must have the emotional wherewithal to face up to new possibilities and stay open to new information.

Bringing emotions and expectations into a business situation isn’t a sign of weakness. In fact, it’s the exact opposite and can be an incredible strength.

Within your organization, remove the stigma from having emotions. Instead, focus on acknowledging emotions, embracing them, and using them as fuel for transformation. 

Personal Fears About Transformation

People come into transformative processes with personal fears, too. They’re worried about things like being embarrassed, making mistakes, and losing their jobs. They’re worried about their families.

Acknowledge these fears and encourage people to share them. Reassure them that making changes isn’t about eliminating jobs or reducing their individual role in the organization. Show the potential the future holds.

Directly answer questions like, “How is this going to impact me? How will it impact my family and my livelihood?” These are reasonable questions from the human beings who are part of your digital transformation.

Frank suggests making time for reflective thinking. Think through the emotional experiences associated with change and how your interpersonal interactions have evolved.

What’s working? What’s not working? What can you personally do better?

Engage in agile thinking and form a retrospective approach. Take time to pause and reflect. It’s a technique popularized by the Stoics 2,000 years ago but even in today’s digital world, it remains just as relevant.