Lessons from a Loss...
Posted by Mr. Dean Borland, SCMS, CUDE, Unknown, Unknown on 12/18/2013

Suzy Brinkman-Doughty, NAFT’s long-time president and CEO, passed away unexpectedly on October 21, 2013. I liked, respected, and will miss Suzy, as will those who knew and relied on her in her capacity of leading the Credit Union.

This is undoubtedly a strange way to introduce a Blog post, but I feel compelled to share a story and a lesson-learned.  For the past few years, it has been my honor and pleasure to facilitate the strategic planning process for NAFT Federal Credit Union.

As part of the strategic planning process, we routinely review the “Top Insights” from the CUNA Environmental Scan. CEO succession planning is one of the top insights from the 2013-2014 EScan. We did not spend much time discussing CEO succession during the last NAFT planning session. Everyone admitted that it was probably a good idea to have a plan but the group quickly reached consensus that Suzy was not going anywhere. I joked that Suzy might meet a man and run away, leaving the Credit Union high and dry. Suzy immediately (and forcefully) proclaimed that no man could pull her away from her credit union, but she put the group on notice that the day she won the lottery would be the first day of her retirement. Everyone got a good chuckle and we pressed on with other planning issues. The planning workshop was July 27, 2013, four months before Suzy’s passing.

Life happens. Things change. The NAFT board had to take action to “keep the wheels on” the Credit Union while grieving the loss of their CEO and friend. The task would have been different if there had been a plan that they could pull out and look to for guidance.

The unexpected and sudden loss of a CEO, whether due to tragedy or by the joy that would surely come from a lottery win, can have a significant impact on the culture and operational stability of a credit union – likewise the loss of a key director or a member of the credit union senior leadership team. Make no mistake, your credit union needs succession plans for directors, the CEO, and critical staff…

Fondly remembering Suzy Brinkman-Doughty,

Dean Borland

Categories: Succession Planning
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