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Careers·Change·Collaboration·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Crash the GAC·Creativity·CUNA·Filene·Gen Y·Governmental Affairs·Ideas·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·News Release·Perception·Professional Development

Say Yes.

Let’s get up around 6am daily and potentially stay up until 2am nightly.  On a daily average let’s do 13,000 steps and burn 3,500 calories without hitting the gym.  But it doesn’t stop there, let’s push through the joint pain, muscle aches and any other bodily issue that may fall to fatigue or soreness because trust me, places that you didn’t know could ache will show themselves during this timeframe.

High-fiving Crash Facilitator, CUNA’s Ariel Bilskey!

However, let’s not forget conditions that require emotional and mental preparation.  Although these conditions may vary, they could include but aren’t limited to: being alert every waking hour, managing hunger or the feeling of being hangry (hungry +angry), dehydration or over hydration, seeing every moment to make an impression for future follow ups, photo opts, converting strangers to friends or family, massive social media updates, patience of a grade school teacher, stamina of long distance runner, and smiles and handshakes, oh yes many many smiles and handshakes for everyone.  Lastly, let’s make sure we are equipped with two very important skills, the electric slide and a new or current dance.  For this example let’s say the Whip and Nae Nae but, it’s ok to only prepare for one or the other, this is a judgment free zone.  Who fills this role and what calls for this type of conditions?  Is it a professional athlete, a politician, or movie star?  Is it a sporting event, campaign, or an awards show?

No, it’s a Crasher at the CUNA GAC (Government Affairs Conference) 2016 and I’m proud to be one.

I can still remember the stages of excitement vividly as the days changed throughout the week.  Although originally nervous, I was at ease entering into this conference thanks to the preparation, structure and leadership of James Marshall, the Crasher team captains, and The Cooperative Trust.  It didn’t take long before the nerves fell by the waste side and were replaced with adrenalin.  Looking back, I am thankful for memories that will last a lifetime.

Carrying my flag at the opening ceremony, in front of almost 5000 people.

I can recall how exciting it was to meet my fellow crashers after many weeks of discussions and online activities.  I’ll never forget my heart pounding as I walked with my association president carrying our state flag surrounded by the claps, shouts and positive energy to kick off the conference.  I’ll recall the unity while everyone bowed their heads in prayer for a divine blessing for the conference and each attendee.

Although 5000 people were estimated to participate, it was the consistent message and unity that I felt throughout the conference.  I remember other defining moments such as the feeling of honor and admiration to meet some of the current leaders of the movement from NCUA, CUNA, and NAFCU, to mention a few.  Knowing that individuals such as Jim Nussle, Rich Meade, Gigi Hyland, Ryan Donovan, and Monica Davy would take their time to invest in us was unbelievable.  To be able to hear their personal stories was a highlight of the conference.  It’s not every day that anyone can get personal time with so many leaders of the movement.  All of this can transpire in one day at the GAC and its worth every moment.  It seems overwhelming, and it is.  Yet in this environment I found the culture had a way of keeping me energized and wanting more.

My experience at the GAC made me even more proud to be a credit union professional.  The feeling that I can effectively create change through advocacy or community reinvestments, to increase financial wellness is incredible. But it was at the GAC where I saw the credit union culture at its best.  The GAC served as a platform to hear the stories across the nation of kindness and courage to fight for what’s right.  From conversations with representatives in congress to random conversations at social events, it was easy to see how the culture of people helping people was contagious.  Information sharing wasn’t frowned upon, in fact it was the norm.  The culture of every individual I came into contact with broadened my understanding of the impact our not for profit cooperative has on the nation.  Every moment was invaluable at the GAC.

For future crashers, it’s important to know that a crasher isn’t one person who is selected to get shipped to Washington DC to meet 51 other strangers from across the nation.  We aren’t just gung-ho credit union advocates under the age of 35 with time on their hands to travel.  A crasher is a person who has said yes and believes in it. That’s it!

But this yes has probably been said a millions times in the mind of a crasher even after several no’s.  This yes is also a readiness.  The GAC is the

Saying YES to singing our National Anthem on day 1.

largest credit union advocacy event of the year with a duration of 5 days, but what about the other 360 days.  That yes is a consistent drive in the movement of a crasher from day to day.  That yes makes them get up early to tend to the needs of members and coworkers a like that isn’t in their job description.  That yes enables the mind of a crasher to innovate, create and establish new ideas that may disrupt the way we used to do things to be relevant to the new needs of a changing society.  That yes understands the social and economic needs of tomorrow and works to get them in place today.  That yes transfers the mind of a crasher to seek out mentors while being a mentor. That yes says I understand the call to action and I am available.  That yes represents the credit union difference.

That, is the heart of a crasher.

Future crashers of the world are the successors that will join hands with the current leaders now.  That is why the GAC is so important.  That is why you are so important.  It is at the GAC where that transfer can begin to take place.  Crashers go through an incubation process in a safe environment and it has the potential to change both your professional and personal lives forever.  Crashing the GAC was a defining moment in my life and it can be the same for you.  All it takes is a yes in your spirit and the rest can make history.

Careers·Community Development·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Crash the GAC·Creativity·CUNA·CUNA Mutual Group·Filene·Gen Y·Governmental Affairs·Innovation·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·News Release·Professional Development

Crash Course in Crashing

(1) Selfie with Jim Nussle. (2) Meeting with my representatives. (3) Group shot with my fellow crashers!

When you sign up to be a crasher, you create these expectations in your head. You might think “Oh, I’m just going to meet a few credit union people, learn some cooperative stuff and not embarrass my CEO at Thunderpunch.” Ok, we did all these things (maybe not that last one), but it’s just hitting the surface of this amazing experience.

Crashing personifies our feelings as young professionals. We are the future of the industry, and it gives us the opportunity to learn how to be ambassadors of our cooperative brand. When you Crash, you can expect to:

LEARN.

Being a lifetime learner is the cornerstone principle of the “Young Professional.” I think we pride ourselves on this quality because it’s admitting that we don’t know everything but we WANT to know more.  Crashing is like an extreme professional apprenticeship. You take in volumes of information in a short amount of time, but you leave with a new appreciation for your job. Yes credit unions help people, but crashing teaches us that we actually help each other too.

CONNECT.

This experience was full of starstruck moments. It is totally intimidating to rub shoulders with people like Jim Nussle, Gigi Hyland and Stan Hollen. But any insecurities you may have had wash away because you are surrounded by bright like-minded individuals ready to hold you up and make you feel included. I compare this feeling to going away to college for the first time: everyone is a stranger at first, but the bonds you create are life-long.

GROW.

I left DC with a spark *queue “this girl is on fire” by Alicia Keys*. I didn’t just come home with knowledge, I brought ideas. Crashing will do that. Blame it on the group dynamics, but I am motivated to share my experiences, encourage others to Crash and build an advocacy program at my credit union. Crashing has opened doors that maybe didn’t even exist, but now I feel empowered to create them.

As I sit here reflecting on these experiences, my phone continues to blow up with messages from fellow crashers. It reminds me to hold on to that excitement, stay motivated to learn more and continue to share the #CUdifference! Thank you for this amazing opportunity. The energy is real, and together we are going to do amazing things.

Change·Collaboration·Community Development·Conferences·Crash Event·Crash the GAC·CUNA·Filene·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·Professional Development

Dear Future Crashers…

Me outside the exhibit hall for the CUNA GAC!

It is just hours after my final event of Crash the GAC 2016 and I am already thinking about the next group of Crashers for the 2017 session. I have gone from being surrounded by inspiring and motivated peers to being alone in a hotel room, unable to stop replaying the extraordinary events from the past 5 days. I’m definitely feeling all the feels. Yes, the schedule was packed, and yes, I’m super tired, but it has been an experience like none other and I can’t help feeling grateful to have been part of it.

Let me start by addressing a few of your potential questions:

  1. Did you get much sleep? Nope, but neither did anyone else, and it is easier to be awake and happy when you have 51 friends who are going through it with you. (Plus, as James aptly reminded us, you can sleep next week.)
  2. Did you like your roommate? Yes! In fact, connecting with my roommate Tara Efird (South Carolina) was one of the top highlights of the entire experience.
  3. Is James Marshall as British as he seems? Even more so.
  4. What happened at Thunderpunch 2016? Not telling. (Yes, this party is that awesome.)
  5. Who makes this Crash happen? So many people! I’d like to send a huge THANK YOU to CUNA and Filene, who support Crash the GAC and the Crashers. We couldn’t attend without CUNA’s generosity, and wouldn’t have our extra sessions without Filene putting together an awesome schedule. (Note: An extra shoutout to CUNA CEO Jim Nussle who has been incredibly supportive!) Everywhere you go you will meet people that shape your experience – take a minute to thank each and every one of them.
  6. Why should I apply to be a Crasher? Because the experience will change your life, if you let it. You will walk away with close friends, valuable connections, and enthusiasm about the credit union movement.

I would like to call out an important topic: engagement. The old saying “you get out of it what you put into it” is so true. While you can’t help but be inspired by the excellent speakers and in awe of Capital Hill, it is your Crasher duty to engage fully and deeply with the people around you. I know there is often aversion to it, but “networking” is not a dirty word – it is simply the term for connecting with others and exchanging information. How could that be bad? If you put yourself out there, be genuinely interested in others, and keep a smile on your face during the late nights and early mornings, you will reap the rewards.

With my roommate, Tara!

I am privileged to have had conversations with amazing people in the credit union movement and they were all so generous with their time and advice. I took copious notes (often on my iPhone in the corner of a bar so I didn’t miss capturing the wisdom of new friends) and I have a handful of business cards that I will definitely be putting to use when I have a question or need guidance in the future. There are so many great photos and quotes on Twitter under #CrashTheGAC16 and #CUNAGAC that will give you a good idea about what to expect from the sessions, and I already know that I will be revisiting those threads regularly.

As I prepare to head back into the real world, motivated and focused, I leave you with this: Credit unions need you to Crash the GAC. This movement, founded on the idea of people helping people, wants and needs talented young professionals that can carry the torch into the future. If we step up and take these development opportunities seriously, we put ourselves in the position to be credit union leaders that protect members and serve communities. The Crashers have the fire – bring on the torch.

CFO·Crash·Crash Event·CUNA·CUNA Councils·Filene·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·News Release

Future CFO’s Heading to New Orleans!

Once again, we are working with the CUNA CFO Council and Twenty Twenty Analytics to bring you Crash the CUNA CFO Council Conference.

Last year, we took a bright group to Las Vegas, this year we’re taking a bright group to New Orleans. Our Crashers this year will be put through their paces using business model generation theory to help build something, something that will help in developing a whole new generation of credit union CFO’s.

After scouring the country, we found a group of 10 incredible young credit union professional. And here they are:

Alyssa LaLonde, Limestone Federal Credit Union

Amber Ball, St. Lawrence Federal Credit Union

AnnMarie Buglione, Community Choice Credit Union

Ibrahim Fall, New York University Federal Credit Union

Jordan Kowalkowski, Filer Credit Union

Lindsey McMillen, ORNL Federal Credit Union

Luke Soper, San Diego County Credit Union

Matt Fuller, Affinity Plus FCU

Patrick Gross, Sioux Empire Federal Credit Union

Ricky Hasan, West Community Credit Union

Change·Collaboration·Community Development·Conferences·Crash·Crash Event·Creativity·CU Water Cooler·CUNA·CUNA Mutual Group·Filene·Gen Y·Ideas·Innovation·Interviews·Leadership·Meetups·Mentorship·Professional Development

#CrashCUWCS – a recap

A hurricane just flew through Austin, TX. No, not what you’re thinking – it was our Crashers!

We’ve just this moment finished an incredible 5 days. I’m sitting in a coffee shop, taking advantage of their free wifi, trying to note and account for everything that we learned and to give you something to learn too! Where to start… I have no idea. But let’s try this…

So, arriving the day before the symposium kicked off we got our Crashers together and really set out some goals which they decided on themselves. We asked them: “what makes Crash the CU Water Cooler Symposium a success at the end?”. As you can imagine, the conversation took off! When the dust settled though, we decided on 3 key things that our Crashers wanted from their experience:

  1. To network and make real connections.
  2. Find an idea or innovation which they can take back to their credit union and implement. 
  3. Build a support network for themselves.

So – if we achieve these things, Crash CUWCS is a success. What happened next I hear you say (through my secret spy equipment currently positioned conveniently near to your current location….).

The symposium kicked off with a cool networking event at a local arcade / bar. You could feel the energy straight away and we couldn’t wait to get things started. I would love to give you a full overview of every speaker and every session but let’s be honest you don’t have the time to read that and I don’t have the time to write it. So I’m going to leave you with some themes and takeaways from the sessions in a short a form as possible:

Symposium Day 1:

  • The man who invented Pringles was so proud of his creation he was buried in a Pringles can. What will you do to make you that proud? – Matt Davis.
  • We have fantastic tellers who we then ask to become sales people. You don’t say congratulations to your dog for being a great dog and then ask them to become a cat! – Shari Storm.
  • Save water, drink beer. – Linda Bodie.
  • Savour the time you have now, enjoy life’s moments. Look at life through 30 year goggles. When you look back, what will be those moments you remember? – Andy Janning.

Symposium Day 2:

  • No one ever started a cooperative who wasn’t pissed off! – William Azaroff.
  • Take every chance, drop every fear. – Ronaldo Hardy.
  • Children have the freedom to just ‘do’. Adults seek instruction, let’s rediscover the freedom to be creative. – Brent Dixon.
  • Mistakes allow us to make our most beautiful creations. – Charlie Trotter.
  • An idea is nothing unless you get up and do something about it. – Jimmy Marks.

And as quickly as it had started, the CU Water Cooler Symposium was over. But not for us! For those of you that don’t know Crash events – throughout whichever conference we are attending, we run our own separate track alongside to bring something a little extra.

On that note I’d like to thank our guests: Brett and Corlinda Wooden, CUNA Mutual Group, Currency Marketing / It’s a Money Thing, Andy Janning, Larky, Jimmy Marks, Matt Davis, Charlie Trotter, William Azaroff, Gene Blishen and Brent Dixon.

Saturday morning we came back together to talk about whether or not Crash the CU Water Cooler was a success. The answer, a resounding YES! We made connections, we found innovations and within our own group built a support network that will last a life time. I would love to tell you how the conversations on that day went, but I want to throw that challenge to our Crashers – go out. Tell the world what you learned. Make a difference. Share your success, recognise your failures… But most of all, above anything else – don’t forget how lucky you are to be a part of this wonderful thing that we call the Credit Union System, love what you do.

Finally, thanks must go out to Credit Union National Association to making all that we do at The Cooperative Trust possible, to CUNA Mutual Group for supporting the Crash the CU Water Cooler event and to CU Water Cooler themselves for having us.

Until next time, check out our storify to catch up on all things #CrashCUWCS:

Careers·Community Development·Creativity·Ideas·Leadership·Mentorship·Perception·Professional Development

3 things I learned about being a young professional from a heavy rock festival!

So, for those of you that know me well… You may know I like my music on the… Well… Heavier side of things. For those of you that don’t know me that well, you now also hold this information! Now we can begin.

I recently spent 5 nights camping in a field at one of Europe’s biggest ‘heavy rock’ festivals, Download. It’s an experience I shall never forget. The joy people held for hearing their favourite bands play their favourite songs louder than they’ve ever been played, it was almost magical. I could go on for days about what I saw there but instead, I want to tell you about 3 things I learned there which will affect my professional life.

These 3 things aren’t new ideas, they aren’t revolutionary and they aren’t difficult! So, I know what you’re thinking, tell us already:

1. Don’t be scared to ask for help.

Day 1, my friend and I arrive at a campsite surrounded by hundreds if not thousands of already pitched tents. I have to be honest… I had never pitched a tent before which wasn’t a pop up. After struggling for about 25 minutes and most likely being laughed at by our camping neighbours, I asked for help. Within 5 minutes and to my surprise, an army of people where helping us build our tent and not 5 minutes later, we were housed for the week.

It seems like such a simple thing, but how often do you feel swamped in the office? In your branch? On a road show? With the Call Report? With a new marketing campaign?

Sadly, I’m going to guess that it’s been all too often. When you are lost or have a lot on your plate, ASK for help. It seems so simple. However, we’re often too afraid to ask in case we seem inadequate. No one will be upset if you ask for help. Just make sure you repay their kindness with willingness to learn and experience new things.

An army of people will be there to support you if you let them.

2. Be yourself.

I can promise you, you have never seen a more eclectic group of people than you’ve seen at Download Festival. Men in wedding dresses, woman dressed up as giraffes and children… Well… I have no idea what they were doing.

Actually, what they were all doing was having a good time and being themselves.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself in the workplace. Remember, once upon a time, someone hired you for who you are. Don’t lose that. Don’t lose your passion, your drive, your fire. In the end, that’s what will make a difference in your credit union, in your community.

A great example of this is Mazuma Credit Union in Kansas City. Go and check them out: they love what they do, love doing it and love themselves in the process. An inspirational credit union and a testament to being yourself.

3. Don’t fear the unknown.

Now, some of you by this point are probably thinking: “I’m not learning anything new here”. You’re right, you’re not. But if you remember, I didn’t promise you anything new? I promised wins which would help make your life better as a young professional.

However, this last point is a bit more difficult than the rest. Fearing what we don’t know is inherently human. Is it not? Fear of the unknown is what makes us afraid of the dark when we’re kids, what makes us nervous on that first day of high school or kicks our adrenaline into overdrive when we’re at the top of a roller coaster.

The unknown, in fact, faces us every day when we wake up. No one knows exactly what is going to happen each day of their lives. How could they?

So, to try and counter this, this is what I do and do meticulously. I plan everything. At Download, I planned every band we would see. Our movements between camp sites. Bathrooms breaks. Food stops. Everything. Much to my friends’ annoyance. But no hiccups were happening on my watch. No-sir-ee-bob.

So imagine my surprise and disdain when we arrive, purchase a program and see:

Sunday

3.40pm

?????

WHAT??? An unknown act? An unknown band? This is not part of the schedule. Not part of the plan. This isn’t allowed! Alas, the festival organisers didn’t agree with me and thought it was very much allowed that they could do whatever they liked at their festival.

My friend convinced me, much to my dismay, to see the surprise act. (All the while I thought to myself, this is unplanned. Unplanned fun should not be happening here, at a festival of all places. Disgusting).

BEST LIVE SHOW OF THE WHOLE WEEKEND. A band called Black Stone Cherry tore to the stage with their melodic rock riffs, sing along choruses and all round pizzaz! Incredible set.

Apparently unscheduled fun is the order of the day.  My fear of the unknown almost curtailed this incredible experience. Now, I’ve rambled on enough about the festival, but how often does this happen in your credit union? How often do you not try something new because you’ve never tried it before? Is fear of the unknown holding you back? Or are you convincing yourself that it’s keeping you safe?

I’d argue that we all take calculated leaps of faith into unknown territory, but whilst the banks are out there doing their thing to attract your members, why not try something unknown to show them how much they mean to you and your credit union. Show your members that credit unions shouldn’t be their preferred financial partner, but their only financial partner.

Careers·Conferences·Crash Event·Leadership·Mentorship·Professional Development

Conferences, Seminars, and Training, Oh My!!! Creating Results and Value

You’ve attending the latest and greatest conference, seminar, or training session.  You’re filled with great ideas, insights, and overall excitement.  So what’s next?  Indecision, death by committee, the recycle bin, back to the grind, or apathy?  Try these 5 action steps to help get results and value from every conference, seminar, and training session.

  1. Come with an open mind.  If you “know” you “already know” what is being discussed you won’t get any value from the event.  Allowing for openness without a preconceived bias will only add to your session.  For example, I recently attended a management training session and when I saw another Myers Briggs evaluation I almost lost all my hair.  Taking a step back I allowed myself to give the presenter and the other participants a fair chance which led to a day of learning.  You’ve already paid to be there.  Learn and share.
  2. Listen for cross industry correlations.  So what if you’re listening to a mechanical engineer from another continent.  Business is business and people are people which mean we can share successes from across industry lines.  Also, hearing folks in different industries addressing some of the same challenges we face (awareness, communication, market share- sound familiar?) allows us to see the problems from a different point of view.  Many solutions are easy to find but just need to be refocused from another angle.
  3. Start small and work big Conferences, seminars, and training sessions often focus on big sweeping changes.  “How might we collectively brand the credit union industry?”  Big task, right?  To leverage these big ideas start small by taking one or two pieces that can quickly be ideated, prototyped, and tested.  “How do we communicate our credit union’s brand?”  Prove the concept by using the Minimum Viable Product methodology.  Need more info on this?  Ask an i3er!!!
  4. Find a win.  Segway from #3.  Proving those small pieces in prototypes give you ammunition to ask for more access to capital, freedom to develop, and street credit with senior leaders.  Remember, we are all working with limited resources and a proven prototype will improve the chances of obtaining what’s needed for your projects.  Trust, verify, and back-up your projects with results.
  5. Share the good news.  “So Rob, how was your week in Montreal?  I’m still trying to wrap my head around all of the insights and information.  I’m on information overload.”  If you can’t tell the story of the event and its impacts, how can you expect others to buy into the changes you propose?  You can’t.  Start by creating a 30 second elevator pitch that will give a general recap, provide a teaser, and show your excitement.  “So Rob, how was your week in Montreal?  It was awesome!!!  I know how we can improve our bottom line, connect with our communities, and better serve our members.  Let me show you how.”  A great unsold idea is similar to the idea that you don’t share.  They both go nowhere.

So try them out and share your thoughts.  I’m here with an open min, listening to how your business does things, willing to start small, celebrating every win, and always ready to hear the next great elevator pitch.  Let’s do this!

 

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