Article

Leadership Matters: What’s Your Score?

smiling male and female coworkers brainstorm together at desk
Zachary Churchill Photo
VP/Finance
USF Federal Credit Union

6 minutes

Gauge your Leadership NPS and create a plan to turn your workplace detractors into promoters.

Did you know that you have a secret rating that can massively enable (or inhibit) your ability to achieve your desired results? Worse yet, other people know the score, but you are probably blissfully unaware of its existence. The Leadership Net Promoter Score, or L-NPS, is a concept I accidentally developed to describe the strength or weakness of relationships across the credit union. Time and time again, I have seen individuals with a low L-NPS become frustrated and passed over for promotions and advancement, while the careers of those with high L-NPS scores soar.

What is Leadership NPS?

For those who are not familiar with the traditional Net Promoter Score, the concept is straightforward: Members respond to the survey question, “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend our business to a friend or colleague?” Responses are categorized into Promoters (a score of nine or 10), Neutrals (a score of seven or eight) and Detractors (a score of six or below). You gain one point for Promoters, none for Neutrals, and lose one point for Detractors.

The reality is that every person in your credit union is either a Promoter, Neutral or Detractor for you personally. Imagine if others across your organization were asked “How likely are you to recommend and support the work and goals of <your name here> to a friend or colleague?” Those scores would be the measure of your individual L-NPS.

Your reputation is well known to others. I refer to this as the things people “say behind my back.” I’m happy for people to talk about me when I’m not present—the goal, however, is for those discussions to be largely positive rather than negative.

How does L-NPS affect my ability to achieve influence and my desired results?

One day I accidentally stumbled across the L-NPS concept while conducting an employee coaching session. The manager I was coaching was an incredibly bright and ambitious individual. She was a quick learner and hard working. However, she struggled to empathize and meet others where they were at. This meant she sometimes found it difficult to see things from the vantage point of her peers and even her own team members, which led to poor team engagement. We had just completed our annual member relationship survey at the time, and during this coaching conversation, I realized that the NPS principle applies to our relationships not only with our members but also with one another in the credit union.

We all have team or department goals, but you need the support of others in the organization to achieve them. Some people will drop everything to help you; others will drag their feet for days or even weeks. This is the difference between a Promoter and a Detractor/Neutral relationship. I know who my Promoters are at the credit union, because if I make a call for help, they are instantly by my side (and they know I would do the same for them). Ideally, you want to earn this kind of enthusiastic support from as many people as possible in your organization. Over time, you can go from struggling while trying to swim upstream to having the current at your back. In this situation, your career growth is accelerated.

What can I do to improve my L-NPS score?

First, identify key relationships with others in your organization. Take some time to think about who you need to have strong partnerships with to achieve your goals. As a finance leader in my organization, having strong partnerships with my retail and lending leadership teams has been critical. Their work greatly impacts the financial results for which I am accountable. I suggest initially selecting three specific either neutral or detractor relationships to focus your time and energy on improving. Choose people who you really need support from to be successful.

After selecting your three key relationships, the next step is developing your plan of action. How will you improve those relationships?

Neutral

I suggest starting by scheduling a “partnership” meeting where you talk about the type of relationship you would like to build with that person and how you see that being mutually beneficial. Express a genuine appreciation for the importance of their work and show that you want to be supportive so that the other person can be successful in their role as well. A past example of this is when I worked in lending. Our credit union had hired a new leader in the risk area. I knew that having an adversarial relationship between lending and risk was very common, but I wanted a relationship where we could both share perspectives and find win-win outcomes. I scheduled a meeting to talk about common goals like protecting the credit union and doing things in a smart and safe way. This really helped start the relationship off on the right footing.

Detractor

Back in 2015, our credit union acquired a smaller organization. That was a challenging time—two different cultures coming together inevitably creates some friction. I’m not proud of it, but at first, I created a not-so-great relationship with the incoming IT leader, who shared some ideas that I didn’t agree with. Looking back, it wasn’t so much what I said. Instead, I made the classic mistake of not making the environment safe to express different perspectives. This put him on the defensive, and little good comes out of making someone feel like they have to justify their past actions.

To turn the relationship around, I scheduled a “reset” meeting. I had to humble myself and apologize for the errors I had made in getting our relationship off on the wrong foot. Although he may have made some mistakes as well, I chose to take 100% responsibility. That changed everything. I said that I realized at the end of the day, we were pursuing the same goal: a great member and employee experience. I also spoke about the kind of relationship I want to establish—one that is open and collaborative, where we both feel valued and respected.

From that day forward, we were on the same team instead of becoming rivals in the newly merged organization. You too can turn around your detractor relationships. The key is to identify the kind of relationship you want to have and to accept responsibility (without blaming the other person) for the current state of things. Humbling yourself is scary because it makes you vulnerable. However, humility is a secret weapon for leadership and transforming relationships. It breaks down the walls and barriers and can act as a Control + Alt + Delete and restart on a relationship that has gone sideways.

There is no substitute for face time, so I believe that a monthly meeting (either in person or via Microsoft Teams/Zoom) is most effective. First, ask for a chance to turn the relationship around. Share the personal and professional behaviors that you are committed to improving. Then, focus on engaging in the new, healthier behaviors. This is tough, and change doesn’t happen overnight. However, people will grant you a lot of grace if they can see that you are earnestly trying to make the right changes and that you have common goals.

Make your list of key relationships today and give them a 1-10 rating. Start working on your plan to turn them around over the next three months. At the end of the three months, see if you end up with three new Promoters!

CUES member Zachary Churchill is VP/finance at $1 billion USF Federal Credit Union, Tampa, Florida, and a member of the 2022 CUES Emerge Final Five.

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