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The Secret Weapon for Success in These Transitional Times: Evolutionaries
Friday, August 23, 2013 6:35 AM

Credit unions are emerging from the long and difficult Great Recession only to be faced with a new and equally challenging environment, marked by razor-thin margins, consumer demands for the latest technology and a critical need to attract younger members.

Since 2008, the number of credit unions nationwide has dropped from more than 7,800 to approximately 6,750 today, many a direct result of the Great Recession. More credit unions will falter through this new difficult period.

Business consultant, author and well-regarded keynote speaker Randy Harrington has a suggestion for credit union leaders who want to increase their chances of surviving these transitional times: identify “evolutionaries” within your credit union and allow them to help your organization evolve.

Harrington, CEO of Extreme Arts and Sciences, an Oregon-based financial industry consulting firm, will be the opening speaker at the 36th annual Economic Forum, hosted by Catalyst Corporate FCU. The Economic Forum will be held Oct. 22-23 at the Embassy Suites Hotel/Convention Center in Frisco, Texas.

“You need evolutionaries to help you lead your organization in times of transition. They are the secret weapon of organizations that transform quickly. They are able to adapt and innovate and rise to any challenge, no matter how unexpected,” Harrington said.

Harrington said credit unions are often faced with dynamic tensions that pull on opposite ends of logic, such as, “providing warm and personal customer service” and “being efficient.” There is no single answer to the perplexing challenges; however, evolutionaries can help develop effective strategies that uniquely fit each credit union. Harrington said evolutionaries are emotionally committed to the cause they pursue. “They are comfortable with who they are, they know why they do what they do. They have committed a piece of themselves to their work and are willing to tie their hearts, as well as their minds, to the outcomes of their teams and organizations,” he said.

In his book, “Evolutionaries: The Missing Link in Your Organizational Chart,” Harrington explains how to identify and engage these staff members so they can most effectively contribute to the credit union’s success. The book, co-authored with Carmen Voilleque, weaves together a series of exercises with insights from “evolutionaries” Harrington has encountered in his business consulting practice. Among those is former leader of a Navy SEAL team, Captain Steve Ahlberg, who points out: “Good leadership is about assigning a clear mission. Give a team a mission and let them develop a plan as to how to complete the mission. They need to develop it to own it.”

Harrington emphasizes the need for leaders to lead with strategic intent.  “Task saturation does not allow for you to look down the road,” Harrington said. “You’ll lose the ability to be strategic if all you do is do.”

“To transform,” Harrington points out, “you have to already live in the future.”

Copies of Harrington’s book, “Evolutionaries” will be provided to all Economic Forum attendees.

In addition to Harrington, this year’s Economic Forum offers a strong line-up of economists and financial industry experts. Details, including registration information, are being mailed to all Catalyst Corporate members this week and are also available at