How To Use Fear As A Credit Union Leader

I often share just how badly fear can hold you and your credit union back from its fullest potential. Fear can lead you to pivot from your credit union’s strategic plan, make poor decisions, or worse: no decision at all.

What if you could channel your fear to your advantage?

A friend of mine recommended a book called, The Gift of Fear, by Gavin De Becker. It was a fascinating book, and nothing like I anticipated it would be. But one line stuck with me that is worth sharing with fellow leaders:

“If you can’t imagine it, you can’t prevent it.”

The ancient philosopher Seneca wrote, “The unexpected blows land heaviest.” This is a thought with which I challenge many of my clients as we work through their credit union’s strategic plan. I use this example:

Let’s say it’s October 2019, and I tell you that you have 24 hours to close your branches completely. At that point in history, you would have called me crazy and given me every reason under the sun why it would take months or years to do such a thing, if even at all. Then COVID struck and most likely you did indeed shut your branches down on a day or two’s notice.

One hot topic of conversation in strategic planning this year is what happens if your fee income goes away. It’s either met with a great discussion on the potential scenarios or, “That will never happen.” Questions like this can be scary and exacerbate fear, but if channeled properly without overreacting (or burying your head in the sand) you can be prepared when the unthinkable comes calling.

I would urge you to debate the heavy topics and expect the unexpected in your next credit union strategic planning session. Position your credit union to avoid the heavy blows by making the big decisions. Seneca was right: Those are the blows that land the heaviest and are the costliest to you personally and to your organization.

Make The Big Decisions

From strat plans to rebrands, YMC President and CEO, Bo, is passionate about helping financial institutions come up with a winning formula. If you’re ready to go beyond the SWOT, you can email him at

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