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A column earlier this year (April 16, 2003), describing different types of credit union directors I have observed over the years, brought a predictable response from both credit union directors and CEOs. Many directors didn’t like it much. One found even the category titles (Givers, Takers, Zealots, Politicians, Power Brokers, Holier Than Thou, Talkers, and Jackasses) to be mean-spirited. One said I was unfair since in his long-time personal experience, 99% of current credit union directors don’t fit any of my unflattering descriptions. Another said maybe these folks exist at other credit unions, but not his. Still another charged me with deliberately trying to foster bad vibes between credit union staffs and elected officials. Not surprisingly, credit union CEOs on the other hand, said nothing, at least on the record. Can you imagine a CEO who wants to remain employed putting his or her name to a letter to the editor for publication that says, “You hit the nail on the head; I have several of these types on my board”? But that’s exactly what several told me in confidence. One long-time reader sent me a brief e-mail that didn’t necessarily dispute my director characterizations, but did challenge me to in all fairness take an equally hard look at the various types of credit union CEOs. He cited some examples of those he has observed during his involvement with credit unions. In a further e-mail exchange, he provided even more examples and described them in more detail. Here’s a summary of some of what he said in our exchange: “I enjoyed the publisher’s column about the different types of board members. It was very amusing, but I think a column on the different types of CEOs should also be done. I have some in mind.” He then put the shoe on the other foot by describing “some” credit union CEOs. For example: “The Traveler.” This is the CEO who never met a conference, meeting, or other chance to travel and be out of the office he didn’t like. And “The CEO Who Is Practicing On The Job Retirement.” CEOs in this category are playing it safe and not making any waves. If only they can make it to the much-anticipated retirement day without ruffling any feathers. And then there is “The Politician.” (CEOs have them too.) Keeping board members (and their spouses) happy is Job Number One. Do a good job at that and the numbers become less important. And “The Blank Check CEO.” This CEO looks for ways to spend credit union money. A budget? What’s that? Also, he says there are these types: “The Builder.” The credit union down the street opens up a new branch? We need two more ASAP. And while we are at it, another new and larger headquarters facility would be nice. And these: “The Examiner-Phobic.” The regulator said it. I believe it. Challenge him? No way! This CEO will do whatever it takes to be on good terms with the examiner and thus keep the examiner away from the board. And “The Hermit.” Low profile is his or her mantra. Doesn’t go anywhere much. Spends most of his or her time in the office buried in paper. Works hard. Accomplishes little. The list goes on: “The Just Do It CEO.” Comes from the “ready, fire, aim” school of management. Make a decision. Now! Even if you don’t have all the facts. Just get it done and off my desk. And “The Head-In-The-Sand CEO.” As the old saying goes, “No man is an island.” That is except this CEO type. He or she operates as though the credit union exists in a vacuum. So what if Greenspan cut rates again? Our rates are staying the same. Competition? What competition? And then there are “The Drama Lovers.” They live on the brink. One that they created by making mountains out of molehills. Everything is in constant turmoil as they stoke the flames of controversy. Speculation is the word of the day, every day. Finally, (at last the good news) here come “The Leaders.” These are the credit union CEOs that articles and columns are and should be written about, lots of them. They are the “Visionaries,” “The Motivators,” “The Team Builders,” “The Team Players,” “The Master Delegators,” “The People People,” “The Hard Workers,” “The Big Picture” types, “The Dedicated,” and “The Successful.” It’s a shame virtually all of these CEO descriptions came from an individual who insists on remaining anonymous. Otherwise I would here and now publicly thank him for practically writing this column for me. Parting thoughts: As pointed out in that previous column on director types, like it or not, they do exist. Do all directors fit my descriptions? Of course not. As I said at the time, there are many more sharp and dedicated directors than those who simply aren’t right for the task. There are thousands of volunteers serving as productive directors who know the difference between management and policy and prove it at every board meeting. As for the CEOs described in this column, although unfortunately they, too, do exist, they as with directors are for the most part the exception. You won’t find any CEOs described above at those credit unions doing an outstanding job for their members, the only true measure of doing a good job. Of course there are CU CEOs who can no longer cut the mustard, or maybe never did. Just like there are CU directors who are no longer contributing to the wellbeing of their credit union, or perhaps never did. But here one of the biggest differences between directors and CEOs comes into play: CEOs not doing the job, for whatever reason, including those listed above, can be fired by the board. Board members not cutting it, like those described in that previous column, cannot be fired by anyone. 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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