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Credit union boards differ from credit union to credit union, yet, when it comes to individual board members, they also have many similarities. They are different because many CU boards reflect the culture of the original sponsor(s) and the initial membership group and also the style and personality of their CEO, especially one that has been in place a long time. But every credit union board also has a sameness to it, especially from the perspective of some typical board member types in place at any one time. Having worked with dozens of credit union boards, I have concluded that every credit union board has, or has had in the past, a board member who fits one of these descriptions: The Giver. These individuals can’t do enough for the credit union. It is their life. They are the first to volunteer for the most thankless jobs. They ask for (and receive) no credit for putting in more time than any of their colleagues. Givers are agreeable and anxious to please. To them credit unions are almost a religion. The Taker. Board members fitting this description really are not too concerned about the big picture. Or the credit union bottom line. Or the impact of board decisions. Or the well-being of the membership. Or the CU staff. Rather, they worry about nice locations to hold meetings. Hotel suites. Five star restaurants. Top shelf wine with gourmet dinners. Travel at CU expense. For spouses/guests too. First class tickets. Free logo wear. They also fret about the size of the board room. The comfort of board chairs. Plaques on the wall. The length of board meetings (too long!). Whereas “The Giver” approaches every decision from the viewpoint of what’s best for the members, “The Taker” concentrates on the most important question of all: “What’s in it for me?” The Zealot. Although these are a dying breed, there are still those board members who regard credit unions as primarily a social institution. They see their role as keeping the CU on a path of social justice. They do not regard the money in the credit union as funds being held in trust for members, but rather as being there to dole out for worthy causes. They feel some members are more worthy than others. The Zealots feel having a black bottom line is overrated. The Politician. These board members have one goal; to be well liked. As the wind blows, so do their views. In a controversy, they hang back until the eventual outcome of deliberations becomes clear. At that point they weigh in with a flurry of compromising language. What is best for members never enters their mind. What does is not ruffling the feathers of either side of a controversy so that their “leadership” can be rewarded with the chairmanship sooner rather than later. They assure the CEO that they fully support his or her proposals, but only in private and only after the meetings, never during. The Power Broker. Just the opposite of the politician. The power broker runs roughshod over board colleagues and especially the CEO and management staff. He insults everyone. He is a bully! He wants things done his way and done now! After all, he is smarter than anyone else on the board. Just ask him. He is universally disliked and not trusted. He never figures out why he never moves up the officer ladder. The Holier Than Thou. Won’t support anything that he or she feels might generate member criticism of him or her. Vote for board members to attend a meeting in Hawaii? On a cruise ship? In an overseas country? Or for a generous CEO bonus? No way! This board member has ethics and has been self appointed to be the conscience of the board. Yet, he or she never hesitates to strong arm the CU staff behind the scenes for preferential treatment, free banquet tickets, CU jackets, hats, golf balls, etc., for himself and for family members and friends. Could also be called, “The Hypocrite.” The Talker. Has a comment on absolutely every agenda item. Talks incessantly while saying little of substance. Constantly interrupts. Brings personal experiences into every conversation. Single handedly makes every board meeting last far longer than necessary. Worse, all the jawing clearly demonstrates he or she never did any homework before the meeting. The Jackass. Every credit union board has one. This board member always has his own agenda. He or she sits quietly through most of the meeting while the really important stuff is being discussed and voted on. Eventually something comes up that apparently he or she was waiting to pounce on. Almost always it is some minor point that is quickly blown out of proportion. Or an accusation against the board or the CEO. Seldom is it anything important to anyone but the Jackass. But he won’t let go until the molehill is a full-fledged mountain. The Jackass is never heard from between meetings. In fact, the best of breed don’t spend a minute thinking about the credit union except at board meetings. And then only regarding ways to toss out a “gotcha.” By the next meeting, he or she has completely forgotten all about what caused the last tirade. The credit union CEO would love to get rid of some of these board members, and others like them. Obviously he or she can’t even attempt to do so if planning to be present to receive a gold watch. The board itself, however, also well aware of certain credit union board members who hurt more than help the credit union, can get rid of the worst of them. But it won’t. After all, these are all good friends and thus they are able to overlook minor personality flaws. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15, or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected]

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Peter Westerman

Credit Union Times

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