According to Devin Selte, a senior relationship manager at Servus Credit Union, any strategic moves regarding the future of credit unions would be incomplete without plans to invest in the next generation of leaders.
“You have to engage them. For my generation it’s about a purpose. They could be in any profession they want, but if credit unions could give young professionals the opportunity to get engaged at some level, even if they are in an entry position, it lets them know they’re important and valued as well,” said Selte.
“Whether it’s creating a young leaders network, mentorship program or even having a simple chat, it shows them that they do matter to the success of the credit union. Do that and you’ll have people who’ll want to make the credit union successful,” he said.
As someone who became energized to do even more for Servus Credit Union after attending the 2009 World Council of Credit Union Conference Young Credit Union People session in Barcelona, Spain, Selte serves as an example of the merits of engagement. For someone who entered the credit union system as a fluke, he has become one the most outspoken, passionate credit union advocate.
“There were 17 of us in the YCUP program, and the coolest part of the experience was getting to know young professionals from other countries. The exchange of ideas,” said Selte.
“Ross Lambrick won the scholarship that year for the emerging leaders program they have in Australia. We kept in touch, and it’s thanks in great part to him that we were able to create the Servus Young Leaders Network,” he said.
Lambrick shared everything from his group’s constitution, mission and vision statement and the two brainstormed how the Servus Young Leaders Network would be set up and work. Selte also reached out to other YCUPs and talked it up to a few peers at the Edmonton, Alberta-based credit union.
“The idea was then sent to a chief operating officer who forwarded it to HR, who gave it to the senior manager of the leadership development,” said Selte. “He said ‘I want you to run with it–hands off from corporate. Set it up in a way that is most relevant to young people.’ He just handed me the keys to the castle. I don’t think the Young Leaders Network would be where it’s at today if not for that opportunity.”
By December 2009, the Young Leaders Network held its first meeting and has since evolved into an organization dedicated to helping young leaders with professional and personal growth while creating a better work environment for employees by engaging through experiences and creating opportunities to connect across the credit union.
According to Selte, it has turned essentially turned into a mini-organization, complete with structure, succession planning, a budget and a dedicated executive team.
“We were still just a newly merged company, so we wanted three representatives from each of the legacy credit unions, Servus, Community Savings and CommonWealth,” Selte said. “It took a while to get on the same page as far as the vision statement and mission statement but that was because at the time we were coming from three different cultures.
"We definitely had our challenges along the way but even that experience has been invaluable. As we got to know one another, spend time as group and learn about each other as people we’ve since come together as a dynamic team," he said.
"We don’t always agree, but we’ve created an open, honest environment with people who are passionate about what we’re doing. It’s all on our own time, but leadership development is what we choose to live and breathe.”
The Servus Young Leaders Network includes a social networking site open to all Servus staffers, a national scholarship program, monthly Servus Young Leader spotlight and a recently launched 35 under 35 leadership retreat. This past May, the Young Leaders Network had several young leaders attend the Credit Union Central of Canada’s national conference in Niagara Falls. In addition, the development of a mentorship program has been in the works at Servus.
The site was designed as a way to help young leaders from across the organization to build their network by sharing what they’ve learned, successes and failures.
“When we first set up the site, we were only going to have it open to those 35 and under, but we realized what a great opportunity for experienced staff and young leaders to learn from one another,” said Selte. “They can set up their profile page, upload photos, videos and to help get everyone even more engaged the site offers links to key leadership blogs or RSS feeds to interesting articles and links to various leadership programs at educational institutions across Canada. It’s grown to 400 members and about 100 are over the age of 35.”
Wanting to take the idea of influencing, impacting and inspiring others to be stronger, more effective leaders to the next level, the Young Leaders Network executive team decided to host a 35 under 35 retreat.
“In my humble opinion, I don’t think you can be a leader without being inspired by other leaders,” said Selte. “We want to help other young leaders become successful because we have helped them realize the maximum potential in their abilities. We want to guide others to hold themselves responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects. When I first started my credit union career, I had a fantastic mentor at that time who believed in me and my potential and the impact of having that kind of leadership available to you is invaluable.”
So for two days in September, 35 young leaders across various positions, departments came together to communicate, collaborate and cooperate at Camp Kuriakos. Topics covered ranged from the credit union system and networking/social networking to internal leadership programs and a leadership readiness assessment.
“We thought if we could get 20 applications that’d be a success. We ended up with 105, and it was so tough to get it down to 35,” said Selte.
“The campsite setting was just fantastic. We wanted everyone to be together for the two days and at a hotel or conference center you lose that," he said. "There, we were in a confined space, so attendees left the two day experience hopefully changed and encouraged to stay in the credit union system and be lifers. Isn’t that the ultimate goal? That young leaders will become as engaged as we are in the continued success of Servus Credit Union and the credit union system?”
Selte added that the cooperative nature of credit unions made the young leaders network possible.
“We could all stand to be more collaborative. Sometimes I think people want to hold their cards tight about key products, information or staff,” said Selte.
“But we’re all in the credit union system so we should focus on making that better overall not just worry about our own credit union. Imagine what more we could accomplish and do if we shared best practices, resources, technology? It would make all credit unions better financial successes as well. At the end of the day we all work for the greater good of our members and the communities we serve.”