CEO Presents On Creating Win-Win

CEO Presents On Creating Win-Win

DebLoopCredit Union Association of the Dakotas, Shawn Brummer (June 20, 2016) – When we began planning the 2016 Summit months ago, we were discussing possible speakers for our event.  Knowing that Credit Union Business Magazine had published a feature article about her, and that she had served as a panelist at the Credit Union Directors & CEO Conference, I immediately thought of Deb Gallagher and her amazing story.  On a side note, I also knew Deb from her years on the Board at Midwest Corporate Federal Credit Union, where I worked for 11 years before starting at the Association.  I knew and respected her work experience.  So in a staff meeting, I suggested that we ask Deb to tell her story, and she graciously accepted.

Whether you are starting your career, in the middle of your career, or a director, 42 years of credit union experience can certainly give you some ideas and inspiration.  Deb started her journey to CEO when she became part of a high school Cooperative Office Education program, which placed students in office jobs in the city of Bismarck.  Through this program, she first spent about 15 hours per week in an office at Capital Credit Union performing mundane office jobs.  Then, during her senior year she again participated in the program, and was again placed at Capital CU.  Her strength was in clerical skills and she became a part time teller and secretary.  She later attended Bismarck Junior College and was promoted to head teller, which encouraged her to continue on.  Deb continued her education, and her rise through the ranks followed; various positions she held over a period of 20 years include head teller, visa coordinator, operations manager, vice president, and then president/CEO.

Deb thought at the beginning of her career that she would like to sit in the CEO chair, and positioned herself to take on responsibility and experience that would help that goal – which she achieved at the age of 36!  So, what was the environment that kept a young professional engaged and motivated through the years?

Deb reached out to other CEOs in our network and asked what their experience was, to see if was similar to her experience and to learn what can be done to attract and nurture young talent.  From her presentation, here are some key aspects that impacted her career, and that she found were common among other credit union CEOs who rose through the ranks in the credit union industry.

Education & Training – On the job training, college, and other outlets, including CUNA management school and CUES institutes.

Opportunities to Advance – This means taking on those “other duties as assigned” – for Deb this included shoveling snow, shredding, doing whatever it takes to get the job done.  These things open doors and create opportunities.  Employers want people who say YES.

Mentors & Support System – Professional and personal connections that inspire you to do your best work.

Personal Attributes – Professional, ego in check, honesty, positive choices, goals, perseverance, and a passion for work.

In addition, Deb asked her colleagues for a list of reasons they chose to be career employees in the credit union industry.  Here is the list that resulted from that survey:

Job satisfaction;
Opportunities for advancement and learning;
Culture (valued as an employee); and

The #1 reason – the credit union philosophy of “People Helping People – making a difference in people’s lives.    

How can credit unions attract and retain the next generation of leaders?  First, by recognizing that young professionals want those same opportunities!  By providing education and training, opportunities for advancement, mentors, and support with a positive culture and values, we can ensure that the credit union movement stays strong and continues to grow.

Who knows, the next CEO of your credit union could be one of your front-line staff today!