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What Drives You?

February 2011 – Vol: 34 No. 2
by Jamie McMahon

CUES’ Next Top Credit Union Exec challenge winner Tina K. Hall believes the secret to a more passionate and vibrant CU industry lies in the answerto meaningful questions.

Tina HallTina K. Hall wants to have a conversation.

Not about the weather, or sports, or what was on TV last night. When she asks you what you do for a living and how you like it, she’s looking for more than the automatic response you’ve given to the last 10 people who’ve asked you the question.

You’re a credit union employee. Hall wants to know what drives you. It’s OK to say “money.”

Hall, who in November was named CUES’ Next Top Credit Union Exec, used the idea of that conversation as the basis for her entry and blog and video posts for the NTCUE challenge. She also used it to guide her management style at Seattle’s $380 million Verity Credit Union, Seattle, where she was VP/organizational development until mid-December.

With her training programs at Verity CU, Hall’s goal was to make the light bulb click on for every employee. Whether in everyday conversation or one-on-one coaching, she wants to experience a deeper dialogue—a conversation that gets to the heart of why we’re here and what makes us happy.

Talk About Sharing and Learning

In accepting the Next Top Credit Union Exec honor at CUES’ CEO/Executive Team Network in November, Tina Hall talked about the challenge as an opportunity to learn more about herself and her passion for the credit union movement. In keeping with that, she offered to share half of her prize of $20,000 in CUES education credits with another finalist—and suggested that if each conference attendee contributed $50, another finalist could attend.

Calling it “a terrific idea,” CUES President/CEO Fred Johnson accepted Hall’s generous offer and called Ronaldo Hardy, who had scored second highest in the voting, to the stage to share in the prize.

By the end of the next conference session, Johnson had received numerous texts offering contributions. CUES will match those contributions, plus provide $2,500 toward each finalist’s attendance.

At press time, $18,300 had been raised, or $4,575 for each finalist. In addition to Hardy, branch coordinator for La Capitol Federal Credit Union, Baton Rouge, La., finalists included Kelsey Balcaitis, community education specialist, A+ Federal Credit Union, Austin, Texas; Jodi Chambers, director of business excellence, Assiniboine Credit Union, Winnipeg, Manitoba; Amy Grothaus, AVP/retail branch sales, CommunityAmerica Credit Union, Kansas City, Mo.; and Amy Stanton, AVP/marketing for Connex Credit Union, North Haven, Conn.

To make a non-tax deductible donation via check, credit card or ACH/wire, contact CUES at 800.252.2664, ext. 3400.

Learn more about the Next Top Credit Union Exec challenge and access Hall’s (and the other entrants’) project and blog posts at NextTopCreditUnionExec.com.

Hall’s work with training at Verity CU was featured in our January magazine. Read the article at cues.org/0111helpingemployeessucceed.

All the participants in the Next Top Credit Union Executive challenge are CUES NextGen members. For $99, you can be too, if you are less than 36 years old or have worked less than two years in the financial services industry. Learn more at cues.org/nextgenmembership.

Learn more about CUES’ recognition programs toward the bottom of cues.org/Member_Resources.

“I wanted to create training programs that are value driven and based on vision, passion and purpose,” says Hall, a CUES member. “People are hungry for a kind of conversation that’s different, that is more personal, and that brings deeper meaning into what they’re doing.”

So if you were a Verity CU employee participating in one of the CU’s training programs, it was fine to tell Hall that you work because you like to make money. But expect a few follow-up questions. In her first NTCUE blog post, Hall paraphrased a conversation she has with many employees. It goes like this:

Tina: Why do you want to be a manager?

Employee: So I can make more money.

Tina: Why is that important?

Employee: So I can do the things I really want to do.

Tina: Like what?

Employee: Travel.

Tina: Why is that important?

Employee: Because I like adventure. And travel makes me feel free.

Tina: Why are adventure and freedom important?

Employee: That’s why I’m working.

Tina: Why?

Employee: Because then I will be happy.

Hall relates to this conversation because she also feels happy when she does something adventurous. She has summited Washington’s tallest mountain, Mount Rainier, and says she loves to “jump out and off of things, run, swim, travel … anything adventure.”

But she doesn’t work so she can do those things. Instead, Hall tries to experience that same feeling of adventure at work. At Verity CU, she tried to help herself and her co-workers generate the same feeling people get from jumping out of airplanes without ever leaving the building.

Work/Life Transcendence

This goes beyond the idea of “doing what you love” for a living. It means achieving what Hall calls “work/life transcendence,” which involves looking at the values you stand for personally and understanding how your work promotes those values.

Institutionalizing this outlook in any corporate setting, according to Hall, requires more than just working harder. It requires sincerity, as in the way managers compliment employees, or in the way employees discuss the meaning of their work. In one of her NTCUE posts, Hall says most people crave not only recognition, but also intrinsic meaning at their job.

“I’ve had enough of ‘the people here are really nice’ comments in exit interviews,” Hall writes. “Let’s go big. I want people to be so acknowledged, so cherished, so valued, that they complain about it.”

Hall says diving into work means stretching everyone’s comfort zone. Specifically, she wants to encourage difficult conversations—including those that take a look at why certain conversations
are difficult in the first place. Hall says that if she’s learned two things in her life, it’s that “1) people will go to great lengths to avoid tough conversations, and 2) one of the greatest human desires is to be understood.”

“I think a lot of us are so afraid of getting a tougher conversation wrong we become unwilling to try,” she says. “I’ve observed a tremendous amount of pain and suffering that comes from waiting to have an important conversation. The biggest consequence: resentment. Resentment is like swallowing poison
and waiting for the other person to die.”

Next Steps

True to her teachings, Hall has tried to be as open as possible with Verity CU about her future plans, telling everyone she planned to step down from her position even when she still walked the halls.

Fourteen years after a student focus group at the University of Washington’s local credit union “totally rocked her world,” and nine years after she joined Verity CU, Hall is ready to take the next step in her career.

Not exactly sure of the direction in which she’ll head, she says “2011 is about exploration.”

It might involve writing a book, taking a class, or accepting a new job, but Hall hopes to make her NTCUE project a reality. Hall believes her vision of corporate coaches, personally meaningful training, and honest dialogue can instill a revitalized sense of purpose in credit unions and their employees everywhere.

And it’s more than a feel-good, reach-for-the-sky-type vision, even though Hall says some listen and assume her plan couldn’t have much of a return on investment.

“I really want to demonstrate that what we do with our staffs is most important,” she says. “They’re executing our (CUs’) visions, and if we don’t tap into what they want, they’re not going to tap into what we want.”

In the coming year, Hall plans to further research and refine her ideas. Eventually she hopes to share them with other credit unions.

That might involve collaborating along the way with other up-and-comers, such as her fellow NTCUE finalists. Hall says the process hardly felt like a competition because “everyone was coming from a different angle.” She gave half of her prize, $20,000 in CUES education credits, to NTCUE runner-up, CUES member Ronaldo Hardy, branch coordinator of $391 million La Capitol Federal Credit Union, Baton Rouge, La. (See sidebar at right.)

“After doing this project, that’s something else I want to look at—our whole paradigm of competition and winning,” Hall says. “Here we had six people who were really passionate and engaged. Let’s help each other out.”

Hall says the journey—the conversations—through which the NTCUE challenge led her turned out to be even more meaningful than the competition anyway.

“It was amazing helping employees get a clear understanding of their values and what their work means to them,” she says. “I’m trying to create a job where I can do that all the time.”

Jamie McMahon is a former CUES editorial intern.

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