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Leadership in Unprecedented Times: A Message From Todd Mason

The 19th century Prussian military leader Helmuth von Moltke the Elder said, “no plan survives first contact with the enemy.” When the COVID-19 enemy hit, we all had our pandemic and business continuity plans ready. I hope you will agree, these strategies were helpful, but how much of your time over the past three weeks was written into your plans?

Crises move fast and unpredictably. They push us off kilter with challenges from every direction. They are harrowing and exhausting. Those who emerge as leaders take action to do what needs to be done, whether those actions are in an emergency plan or not.

A recent article from McKinsey on leading through COVID-19 suggests that while experience is important when leading during a crisis, character is more important. There is a strong need to approach difficult situations with “bounded optimism” and “deliberate calm.” Leadership regularly looks above the dust of battle to learn from the situation, anticipate what is needed, then acts with resolve.

Think about what we have done collectively as the credit union network in such a short period of time. Branch operations have been transformed. Products have been modified and created. Streams of critical communications emerged. New Statewide Awareness ads were produced. Public and private partnerships were forged. New regulatory guidance was issued from the NCUA and BOFI. New state and federal emergency legislation were enacted. Maine’s financial services stayed strong and accessible—and still are—even as risks from COVID-19 grew and continue to increase. We also delivered kindness and compassion when our members and communities needed it the most. I am not at all surprised by what we accomplished. We take our role as community leaders seriously.

Unfortunately, our fight against COVID-19 challenges is far from over. As we lift our heads above the dust, we can anticipate stay-at-home orders will increase, more of our own staff and volunteers will be impacted, and financial hardships will grow as employment is impacted. It is unknown when any semblance of normalcy will return. We also can anticipate that surprises, good and bad, will crop up.

While it won’t be easy, we will be okay. To persevere, we must stick together. We have to do everything we can to keep service and access as normal for members as possible. That’s why I’m asking you to do three things:

  1. Continue to support shared branching transactions at your drive-up or strongly consider doing so if you’re not doing that now.
  2. Consider making a donation to the Campaign for Ending Hunger, Good Shepherd Food Bank, and Full Plates Full Potential’s Emergency Fund to help ensure Mainers have access to the food they need.
  3. Share your challenges so that we can help where we can and your successes so we can all learn from and celebrate them.

“Bounded optimism” and “deliberate calm” are part of the character of credit unions.  It is why we have emerged as leaders in this crisis and will continue making a positive impact on our members, communities, and the state.