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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·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:




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.

Data·Ideas·Perception·Professional Development

Key Performance Indicators: How Do You Measure Up?

Does your credit union incorporate the cooperative principles when measuring key performance indicators (KPIs)? In a recent Filene report titled: An Examination of Key Performance Indicators Reported by Credit Unions in North America, Professor Daphne Rixon learned that many credit union managers focus so much on the traditional financial metrics that they often lose sight of measuring the credit union’s values and its value to members.


Financials are important to credit unions. After all, they are financial institutions in a highly regulated environment. Financial KPIs are necessary but there are opportunities to measure how we are doing living the principles. In some cases, credit unions are measuring without realizing it.

Telling our Story

Professor Rixon suggests that credit unions suffer from an identity crisis. We compare ourselves more closely to other financial institutions rather than other cooperatives. Credit unions have a great story to tell and must find a compelling way to differentiate from banks. The majority of members are most interested in the rates and services which are important, but how do we get them more engaged and become advocates of the difference credit union membership offers?

Final Thoughts

Credit unions should start by educating their own employees on the credit union difference. Your front line staff interacts most with your members – how many of them understand what differentiates the credit union cooperative model? If they are able to articulate that difference when working with members, they can help members better understand the special movement they are a part of.

Check out the entire conversation on YouTube here.

Gen Y·Leadership·Mentorship·Perception·Professional Development

The Truth About Gen Y

In June, I co-facilitated a session for HR executives from across the country about engagement of Gen Y workers in the workplace.  While the overall goal of the session was to discuss ways to get Gen Y members to contribute more to their retirement plans, the conversation and statistics clearly uncovered a lack of engagement of Gen Y because of assumptions being made about this demographic.

After a brief exercise to gauge the attendees’ initial perceptions of Gen Y workers, we ended up with the following synopsis of them:

“They are tech savvy, terrible team players, lazy, and entirely disloyal to employers.” 

Ouch.  But then we had some great discussions about those perceptions.

It is because of these perceptions that credit unions – and employers in general – are not investing time and resources into getting younger employees to contribute to their retirement plans.  But this is symptomatic of a larger problem.

Based on pre-workshop surveys of both the panelists and members of the Cooperative Trust, Gen Y workers are planning to stay at their current employer three times as long as what the panelists assumed – a disparity of almost 10 years.  Not only is it causing Gen Y to neglect contributing to their retirement plans, but it is because of these perceptions that Gen Y workers are not being engaged in their jobs and companies.

But the discussion from that point painted a picture of similarities between Gen Y workers and the rest of their coworkers.  Study after study that I read said that workers today want more flexible schedules, the ability to work remotely, a more fun and casual environment, and opportunities for professional advancement.  Interestingly, the biggest difference between Gen Y employees and their predecessors is that they are more willing to ask for things they want while their Gen X and Baby Boomer counterparts (while they, too, want those same things) felt like they needed more time under their belt before making such requests.

You see, it’s all about engagement.  According to a recent study by Kenexa, almost an equal percentage of employees from all Gen Y, Gen X, and Baby Boomers said:

  • They aren’t paid fairly
  • They are excited about their work
  • And, surveyed at the same age over two decades, the same percentage of Gen Xers and Gen Yers said they were considering leaving their job

Another study said that nearly three-quarters of employees aren’t fully engaged at their jobs.  That is across all generations.

So what can we do to increase engagement?

  • Empower employees by challenging them with new projects
  • Provide them with development opportunities
  • Recognize them publicly for outstanding performance
  • Provide opportunities for co-worker interaction and teamwork
  • Encourage supervisors to lead, coach, and mentor employees instead of just managing tasks and projects

While doing these things will engage Gen Y in the workplace, making them more loyal to your organization and better employees, these are smart practices that will benefit all of your workers.  After all, your employees are your company’s greatest asset.



For July we really had to center ourselves and find peace.  That sometimes is easier said than done in this crazy-busy world we all live in.  So here is the Resolution:

“Meditate, pray, relax, exercise, hike, laugh or whatever brings you peace.  Some people say they are just too busy to do these things, but taking time for self-renewal shows self-awareness, not selfishness.”

So what did the Trust family think of this resolution?   Or what did they do to ground themselves:

  • Reading a book – instead of picking up that iPhone or watching TV
  • Going to the gym – working on the body is always a good way to stay “fit” mentally too!
  • Being outside and soaking up the sunshine! – what a great way to get some vitamin D !
  • Listen to Music- actually listening  and letting the music reach your inner soul
  • Summer bucket list! – this is a cool one!…with the family doing things that make memories (bike rides with family, making s’mores, or going to the parade) all things that can be done together, and the memories they are making are amazing!
  • Family Family Family – spending time doing things with family definitely gets you out of that everyday routine!
  •  Walk everyday with a smile – what a great idea to get those positive feelings moving!
  • Enjoy some morning silence – start your morning off with some peace and quiet
  • Let the past go and get some peace – don’t dwell on the past look to the future
  •  Take a long drive – crank the music and just go with the flow and take in your surroundings!

I have been so excited to see these as some of you have every month.  It’s so nice to see that these resolutions are aiding in some Trust members to take care of themselves (physically and mentally).  It really does give us something besides our life/jobs/careers to focus on to change up that routine!

And the interesting quote that Jayson found and created a groovy poster with sums up a lot about us Trust folks:


June Resolution Challenge: Smile & Talk to Strangers

No matter what kind of childhood you had growing up, it’s a safe bet that most of us heard “Don’t talk to strangers” on a regular basis.  I know I did, but lucky for me, I was a little shy so the obeying part came easy (at least for that piece of parental instruction).

Flash forward to adulthood and our lives are made up by who we know.  Whether it’s personal or professional networks, the relationships you build around you are a vital element to who and what you are.

This past month, we continued on the leadership challenge train and had this to run with for the month:

Smile and talk to strangers that you meet. It is amazing how much shorter a long line feels when you are talking to someone versus focusing on how long the line is.

Several of our community members were pumped about the challenge -

Devin had the Servus Young Leaders Network’s 35u35 retreat to take a big stab at meeting new people.

Aimee decided to push her usual smiling self a step further because she has seen the positive effects even a simple smile can bring to strangers.

Despite his love of spreadsheets and introverted personality, Michael was looking forward to testing the waters with smiles and hellos.

And, Miriam shared how befriending strangers can help traveling and get you an inside scoop on delicious eats.

Even though we all have varying personalities, and upbringings, it was a successful month for all 5 of us that gave June’s challenge a whirl.

What would your month look like if you tried the same challenge yourself?


How Do We Become Better Versions of Ourselves?

We view the new year as an opportunity to self-evaluate, look for areas of improvement, and acknowledge flaws that we have long ignored.  The new year brings the opportunity for self-reflection, personal growth, and completion of the things we have not accomplished in the past. We set goals and make resolutions to become better and more attractive versions of ourselves.

The same “fresh start” attitude can be applied within our work environments.  In order to remain competitive, we need to address what attracts members and strong employment candidates; both of which are essential to the future success of the credit union industry.  We need to ask how our organizations are viewed externally, ensuring that we align our outside appearance to match the good intentions that we have inside.

The article “Attracting and Retaining the Best Employees” by Robert Bradford, President and CEO, Center for Simplified Strategic Planning, Inc., published in 2012 through the companys’ e-zine, highlights five steps in hiring employees as a strategic advantage that coincidentally mirror what our members also desire from us.

Bradford’s five steps:

1      Recognize the importance of non-monetary factors

2      Unusual benefits make people feel special

3      Make your hiring criteria consistent with your strategies

4      Have a type of employee in mind when you design a job

5      Implement processes to make your hiring activities more efficient.

By separating employees and members into two groups, we can see how Bradford’s five steps correlate to each group through practical application.

Hiring Competent and Committed Employees:

  • Consider the knowledge, skills and abilities potential candidates must possess in order to succeed.
  • Address the timeline for recruiting, interviewing, and training new employees, taking proactive measures to reduce this time.
  • Utilize social media with traditional recruiting methods during hiring.
  • Offer employees non-monetary compensation such as flex-hours and mentoring programs.
  • Reward employees for their extra efforts with gift cards, thank you notes or through internal communication.

Attracting Engaged Members:

  • Implement technology that allows members control over their finances and access to services.
  • Recognize the nature of the members that currently engage with the credit union, and those you are trying to attract, ensuring products and services are in place to attract these groups.
  • Understand the correct form of media to use when targeting a specific market.
  • Streamline key processes such as account opening, member issue resolution and loan application by looking for ways to speed up each process.
  • Thank members with giveaways as a way to acknowledge their loyalty.

It is through self-evaluation that we allow ourselves to be honest about the changes we should make in order to become more “attractive” organizations.  Bradford’s five steps provide an opportunity to reflect on new strategies that grow membership and attract employees. There are still 10 months remaining in this year, it is not too late to make goals and resolutions to improve your organization.

This article originally published on CU Insight on February 6, 2013.

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