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Not since being a teller have I had validation of my greatness. That was 1981. It was called “Being in Balance.” Ahhhhh. My brain was aligned. I would lock up my cash drawer, place it in the vault, hand my perfect paper to my boss and head home. Not a care in the world.

Being in management you rarely have tangible evidence that you’ve completed something. Anything. It’s the nature of the beast. We are paid to think, and meet and strategize. Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do. But now and again I need a sense of completion. I need to stand back and look at evidence of my accomplishment.

This week-end I achieved just that. I built a steel pergula in my backyard. It took me about 10 hours but I did it. The stupid directions said you could put it together in 30 minutes. Some dude on Lowes.com said he did it in 3 hours. Whatever. They probably didn’t live in the high desert where they had to dig 18 inch holes in rock in 103 degree weather. I”m just sayin’….

It’s square, and sturdy and gorgeous and I can’t wait to finish laying my flagstone so Dexter and I can enjoy the stars.

Now I can get back to thinking.

This week I was honored to speak to the Crashers at the Washington Credit Union League’s Annual Convention. I spoke after Dan Mica. Now former CEO of the Credit Union National Association. That’s a pretty big deal. He arrived in his Brooks Brothers suit, french monogrammed cuffs, perfect hair. He is one put-together dude.

He asked the under 30 crowd where they wanted to be in 10 years. His answer “Alive.” Not a bad goal. But seriously, he had a 10 year “up or out” plan that he broke with CUNA because he enjoyed the job so much. In 10 years on any job he feels you should be up the ladder or out. When I look back on my 30 year career, I definitely followed that – which meant I worked for 6 different credit unions and now two trade associations. So was he encouraging kids to “job hop?” Hmmmm…..because I was accused of that before it was popular.

So here I am. In front of 15 dedicated young professionals to present in a mentor-like fashion. No presentations please. No power points. Just chat. What was I to say?

So I told my story. About how I came to be in the movement. Purely by accident, like most of us. But once I figured out what a credit union really was – and that I could do work that mattered – I dedicated my life to furthering the cause.

My one big message to the group of subversives (Mica’s word for them). Your resume’ and your reputation are not the same thing.

Your resume’ is your brochure. It’s a marketing description of your features and benefits. But your reputation -the word on the street, on Google searches, your history, your stories – that’s your brand. You can’t market your way out of it. I also explained how the credit union industry is one big family. Kind of like a friendly mafia. If you do right by the movement, they will take care of you. You don’t do right by them- they will never forget.

I went on to encourage them to question everything but never burn a bridge if you don’t have to. Pick your battles and when you’re dedicated to one, fight like there’s no tomorrow.

My promise to these kids – credit unions will not go down on my watch. These are tough times, which means opportunity abounds. They can see it – it’s our job to get out of their way and remove the obstacles that are in their way.

I’m just sayin’

Thanks to Matt Vance for the invitation and introduction.

My hand is raised. I began my credit union career in 1980 as a teller for Pacific NW Federal Credit Union. Tom Sargent was the CEO. I kicked ass as a teller. Not only in the balancing area – I also had a “following.” Members who would wait for me, on their lunch hour, because I was their teller. I’m damn proud of that.

The other day I heard someone disparage their tellers. The conversation went something like this:

ME: Well, why don’t you let your tellers take care of that?

THEM: Oh, our tellers are not smart enough to figure that out?

ME: Why did you hire idiots? (okay, I didn’t actually say that but I wanted to).

I don’t know the exact number, but I would venture to say that at least 50% of our sitting CEOs started on the teller line. Like me, they moved their way up the food chain, and I believe have a better understanding of the true operations of a credit union. The ground truth, as it were.

Is it possible that our next batch of CEOs are in your lobby right now –  on their feet all day, barely making a livable wage, dealing with the most regulation in history, under the constant threat of robbery?

They say that in the next 5 years, a humungous chunk of sitting CU CEOs will retire (many were supposed to be gone already but the economy delayed departure). Too often I hear the cop-out phrase “Well I won’t be around to worry about it…” or “I retire in a year, it’s not my problem.”

My challenge to you: Mr. or Ms. CEO (formerly overworked, underpaid, bottom of the food chain teller) – we need to groom this next generation of CEOs.

Give them the same opportunity you had. It is your problem, you need to own it.

I was just on iTunes getting my Glee soundtrack fix when I came upon this review, written by a 16 year-old:

“Obviously the original “Don’t Stop Believin'” can never be topped, but that’s not the point of this song. The point of this song, and of the show Glee, is to reinvent old classics for a younger audience, which is a good thing because then people in my generation can be exposed to really great music they otherwise wouldn’t know.”

It got me thinking about our Crasher friends and their latest adventure. You remember those kids that Crashed the GAC? Well, they’re back at it again, only this time in Vegas. And stuff is going to happen.

They are reinventing old classics for a younger audience. They have hijacked the credit union brand. And it makes my heart sing.

BRAND HIJACKING: is about allowing consumers (and other stakeholders) to shape brand meaning and endorse the brand to others. Its a way to establish true loyalty, as opposed to mere retention. We’re not just talking about creating hype here. We’re talking about a new template of going to market. We’re talking about a complex orchestration of many carefully though-out activities. And above all else, we’re talking about being willing to collaborate with a group of people you’re not used to collaborating with: Gen Y.

I’ll try to use it in a sentence.

There is a dearth of options for true professional development in the credit union industry.

We have tons of training sessions on “stuff” like how to lend, comply, collect, review, document, comply, calculate, project, dissect, analyze, comply…..but how to be a good person to work with – you know – a real team player that will eventually make a great leader? Not so much.

Why is that?

Am I missing something?

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