Over the past several years, very quietly, a new breed of creditunion CEOs have come on the scene. They are running many of theindustry's largest, most innovative, most highly ranked, and mostsuccessful credit unions. They made them that way. In no small partthey are also responsible for the tremendous growth of the creditunion industry itself even though the majority of them tend to shunleadership positions, at least for any length of time, in thepotpourri of credit union groups dependent on volunteer leadership.Who are these men and women? Where did they come from? What do theyhave in common? What are some of the secrets of their successes?What makes them different? For starters, they are well educated andseasoned executives who bring to their current CU CEO posts solidmanagement experience and impressive track records. They know howto manage: their staffs, their board, members, vendors, and most ofall their time. They are mostly men but the number of women intheir ranks has grown significantly in the past 10 years. Some arein the peak years of their careers while others are still charginghard as they begin to face the reality of someday soon turning overthe reins. They look different. They act different. They aredifferent. But it is those things they have in common that countmost. Such as the fact that many of today's brightest CEO starshave come to credit unions from the banking industry. Like it ornot (and many old timers don't), it is a fact. At a recent meetingof about 35 CEOs of large credit unions, I asked how many in theroom had a banking background. About half the hands went up. Theother half either worked their way up through the ranks at theirexisting credit union, or more likely, hop scotched their way tothe top by switching credit unions maybe as much as half a dozentimes until they landed the job they had set their sights on. Moreimportant than their career paths to the top is what they have incommon, the secrets of their current success, and what makes themdifferent than the typical CU CEO of yesteryear. Every one of thisnew breed of CEOs understands the importance of building atop-notch team to help him or her meet personal as well as creditunion goals and objectives. In fact, to help set them. By team,they mean a strong senior management structure of course, but theyalso consider the volunteers, especially their board of directors,an integral part of any successful credit union team. These CEOslearned long ago, even those who came from banking, that the onlyway to move forward is for the CEO and his or her staff to workclosely with the chairman and his board, not be adversaries. Andunlike many old time CEOs, they keep every team member completelyinformed. (Not like one longtime CU CEO who had Credit Union Timesdelivered to his home so his board and staff wouldn't see it.) Withthis kind of a team structure in place, these CEOs are wellpositioned to set priorities, their own, their staffs, and theirboards, and thus the overall priorities for the credit unionitself. This allows the CEO to stay focused on what is really thebest use of his or her time.at all times. It goes without sayingthat these CEOs never micromanage or allow anyone else to do so,including their boards. Consequently the board agendas at thesecredit unions look far different than those credit unions with moretraditional CEOs. And the board meetings are more productive andmuch shorter. There is less talk and more action. As part of theirstrict adherence to making the best possible use of their valuabletime, you seldom find these CEOs at some of the more generic orlowest-common-denominator-programs credit union meetings. They muchprefer to go where other CEOs like them go even if the meeting ofchoice is not put on by any credit union organization. Networkingsessions rate number one with them. They also are risk takers anddon't hesitate to put their jobs on the line if that's what ittakes. They are big picture CEOs. They do not live in an ivorytower. They stay aware and connected to everything credit union.Also, to everything being done by competitors. And being offered byleading edge vendors. They stay unbelievably well informed. Beprepared to be shot on the spot by one of these CEOs if ever thewords, "Because we have always done it that way" is uttered in hisor her presence. What else? They encourage candid feedback from allsources and they act on it sooner rather than later. They embraceall the traditional credit union functions such as marketing, butmuch prefer that their marketers come up with non-traditionalapproaches. And they measure its success, or lack thereof. Justwinning awards doesn't cut it with them. Only results count! Theyare in love with new ways of doing things that are more memberfriendly, less expensive, more efficient, or can be accomplishedbecause of some newly developed technology. They are masterdelegators, open-minded, always asking questions, good listeners,eager to embrace change, constantly seeking new challenges,fair-minded, empathetic, ethical, and flexible. And yes, a blackbottom line is second nature to them. Another thing they have incommon is that they all promise big results on a consistent basis.And they deliver them. But, they are not bashful about making itclear that they expect to be well compensated for their way aboveaverage performance. They also want all this spelled out in anemployment agreement with a termination clause. In today's market,the very best of this new credit union CEO breed won't consideraccepting a position without such an employment agreement. Watchfor more and more credit unions to hire this new breed of CEOwithin the next five years. Comments? Call 1-800-345-9936, Ext. 15,or Fax 561-683-8514, or E-mail [email protected].

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