Personal Development Leads to Organizational Success: Women to Watch
Stacy Fillmore doesn't have a problem shifting gears, because she's learned it often leads to greater opportunity and fulfillment.
That belief in unlimited personal development is what sent the former dental hygienist in search of a new career. She found her calling in the credit union industry.
“I think dedication to personal development makes anything possible,” the latest Women to Watch honoree said. “Don't settle for mediocrity.”
The vice president of national sales and service at the $1.8 billion United Federal Credit Union, headquartered in St. Joseph, Mich., also provided two more personal development tips: Learn as much as possible from those around you, and to have the courage to ask for what you want or need.
“There's no harm in asking and you may be surprised by the answer,” she said.
Her most recent ask of the executive team was to invest in new brick and mortar branches.
As United Federal expands its national footprint in Arkansas, Indiana, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio and Michigan, the face-to-face channel remains extremely valuable. Members valued connecting with local communities, so branches in each region were empowered to develop unique strategies to meet each community's needs.
With consistent branch volumes, members demonstrated their need for brick and mortar. Looking ahead, team United Federal continues to focus on bridging the gap between how business is conducted today and future consumer expectations.
“Innovation doesn't have to be a game changer. Building on small changes that resonate can lead to big wins for members, employees and the organization as a whole,” Fillmore said.
“Every obstacle we face presents either a more refined product or an opportunity for fresh ideas or future growth from the experience.”
The evaluation process of successes and failures is where innovative thought surfaces, she said. For example, United Federal was the first federally chartered credit union to purchase the assets of a state-chartered FDIC-insured mutual savings bank, jumpstarting a thrift-to-credit union merger trend others would explore.
With an eye on greater consistency in member experiences across the branch network, the credit union developed a stratified skill-based pay system providing measurable levels of knowledge, skills and abilities for each position and level.
Through the self-paced job learning and advancement program, branch staffers determine their own level of compensation while gaining deeper understanding of United Federal products and services.
The program has not only empowered branch employees and boosted morale, but has helped in talent acquisition as well.
Not to leave its executive team out, the credit union offers executive coaches as an employee benefit.
“Having an executive coach has been an outstanding experience for me,” she said regarding being able to get feedback and guidance on everything from how to better work with her team and peer group to developing a healthy work/life balance.
While she acknowledged that having a formal coach has been a huge new benefit in her career, she encouraged others to seek out mentors.
“As I look at my career path I’ve had many mentors along the way,” she said. “There are mentors everywhere. Identify qualities you admire in others around you and don't be afraid to ask if they can make time to meet with you.”
Fillmore also suggested expanding the scope to include community leaders, experts from outside the credit union industry or even someone who has been inspiring.
What matters most, she said, is the interaction.
“Don't give up. Press on to stand out among your peers, be open to suggestions and feedback. Always keep learning and challenging yourself,” Fillmore said.
The combination of innovation and investment in employee development has paid off.
According to Dec. 31, 2014, NCUA Financial Performance Report Ratio Analysis, United Federal reported annualized loan growth of 16.76%, asset growth of 11.60% and membership growth of 8.29% compared to peer averages of 11.99%, 6.84% and 4.97% respectively.
Fillmore credited the credit union's momentum to creative culture solutions, in which employee input and collaboration are not only welcomed, but expected.
United Federal has also focused on building effective teams and making the most of the expertise on hand when plotting strategic paths.
“We try to build on a positive team atmosphere,” she said.
To encourage the sharing of best practices, channels were created to build engagement and collaboration between departments. Having the freedom to learn from mistakes or failures has fostered a solutions focused team, Fillmore said.
“Our CEO Gary Easterling is quick to remind us as new challenges present themselves, not to hastily react or panic, because it's only awareness,” she said. “With awareness we can develop a plan or find a solution.”
That simple shift in perspective has taught Fillmore what a difference a positive attitude can make in facing challenges.
“What if instead of complaining about regulatory changes, we viewed it as an opportunity to reshape our products and services?” she asked. “How can we take the new rules to deliver new or better options back to the member? We know what the challenges are, but if we take them to reshape what we deliver back to members, we prevail.”
Changing the lens through which industry challenges are filtered through could lead to new ways to evaluate retail deliver and business lending risk and opportunities.
Besides, given evolving consumer needs, what worked two years ago likely won't work two years from now, she said.
“One of the biggest challenges facing leaders today is the balance between short term rewards and investing in future pursuits,” Fillmore said.
“Before you can determine if a risk is worth taking the reward must be understood. Does it benefit the membership collectively and fit your mission and core values?”