I was blessed at a fairly young age with my first leadership role at Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union. I was there for 18 years, and the CEO I worked for — Randy Smith — believed in moving people around to give us opportunities. Four of us competed for Randy’s job when he retired. We all had excellent training, which was a great problem for the credit union.
I became CEO of Texas Trust Credit Union seven years ago. When I wake up in the morning, my first thought is, “How many people are we going to help today?” It’s different from what the CEO of a big bank likely wakes up thinking, but it fits me and I’m happy.
On leadership style …
One of the hardest things you can do is delegate effectively and trust people to make good decisions that align with your vision. The balance of delegating and maintaining a light management style — to ensure things keep heading in the right direction — is a difficult thing. I can’t claim I’m great at it, but I have pushed myself to build relationships and trust the people around me.
CU QUICK FACTS
Texas Trust Credit Union
HQ: Arlington, TX
Data as of 09.30.18
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 22.8%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 14.4%
If you look at great leaders and the people around them, you see the entire team feels ownership of the business. It’s difficult to let go and not control everything, but delegation is how the people around you grow in their careers and the credit union grows and thrives.
On finding the right team …
I’ve been fortunate in that the majority of the senior leadership team that was here when I took over as CEO is still here today. We have great people who have a positive attitude. I want my team to care about who we are as an organization and what we’re doing everyday — that’s the baseline to me. The difference we make in members’ lives is why we’re all here.
As for my leadership team, we’re just regular folks. We’re part of the team. Life’s too short to have a big ego. As an organization, we’re trying to get a little bit from a lot of members for a long time.
On finding inspiration …
I started running nearly 10 years ago, and there’s something magical about it. I do a longer run of six to 10 miles most weekends that helps me focus and recharges my batteries. Afterward, I feel much more balanced and able to focus on priorities.
I also like to work with my hands. The process of woodworking or doing a home improvement project helps me see something tangible that’s not related to my day job. If you see something beautiful, there’s a craftsman behind that.
Everyone finds their own source of inspiration. These are the two I’ve found later in life and really enjoy.
Life’s too short to have a big ego. As an organization, we’re trying to get a little bit from a lot of members for a long time.
On accomplishments and difficult decisions …
I’m proud our folks have taken advantage of opportunities to move up within the credit union. I had a great mentor who taught me that true success is about how successful you make the people around you — it’s not how big the organization gets, it’s watching the people around you thrive and prosper. I find the most professional joy in giving people opportunities and watching them blossom. When I retire, I want the board to have a hard decision to make with at least three or four qualified candidates ready to move up.
One of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever had to make was after a merger five years ago. It was the first merger of any size that I’d done and the first merger the credit union had done in some time. I learned a lot from it. We were trying to do 100 different things at the same time and we let the organization grow too much, too fast. As a result, we had to offer an early retirement package, make a small reduction in our workforce, and go on an expense diet.
It was a tough decision for me. I’d never been through anything like that in my career, and it taught me a lot of lessons. As a result, I think I do a better job today of saying “no” because I’m responsible for our employees, their families, and their livelihood. Sometimes saying no to requests — or adding them to our “someday” list — is the most responsible thing we can do.
On what the industry needs more, or less, of …
Part of our magic is cooperation. As an industry, there are a lot of examples of credit unions sharing and making one another better. However, I think there are opportunities for more partnerships. For example, a larger credit union could easily help five or six smaller ones reduce their overhead through an umbrella relationship or shared operations model.
I see a lot of opportunity there, especially as scale in our industry keeps changing. I don’t feel like a $1 billion credit union is necessarily a big credit union anymore — the number to achieve true scale advantages keeps moving north. We must find ways to help one another so we can all succeed and break down the barriers to collaborate more through partnerships.
Get In The Strategic Mindset
Collaborating across departments requires a strategic mindset, but making time to talk about strategy is difficult. Callahan & Associates is here to help your leadership team focus on what’s important.
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