Why The Next Top Credit Union Executive is a Smart Idea

Today’s blog comes courtesy of Shari Storm, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Verity Federal Credit Union. Shari is the author of the new book ‘Motherhood is the New MBA”, available here.

Why The Next Top Credit Union Executive is a Smart Idea

Have you ever had one of those moments where you pause, look around yourself and marvel at how the heck you got there? I had one of these moments in 1997. I found myself sitting in a beanbag chair, in the attic of some University of Washington (UW) student’s house where he lived with seven other guys. I was paying him $50 to take all of my VHS tapes that I had hastily pressed “record” on whenever I raced home from work after being  interviewed. He was assembling them into a compilation for me.

That was well before Craigslist. I can’t remember now how I found him. I think I went to UW’s media center and put a note up on their bulletin board that I needed VHS dual recording help – pronto.

The reason I found myself sitting amongst stinky pizza boxes in some random guy’s attic was because I wanted to impress Bill Hayes. Bill was the President of NW Federal Credit Union. He had interviewed me twice and I had met his executive team. I knew I wanted to work at his credit union. My resume was light on marketing and I had never worked in the financial industry. I was 27, applying for a top management job. The odds were kind of against me. But I knew I’d done one impressive thing – I had been interviewed 72 times at my prior job.  

So I decided to put a sampling of those interviews on a tape, drop by his office and ask him to watch it. I thought it would make me stand out.

It did make me stand out. I got the offer for the job the next day. It impressed him too. He’s mentioned it at my five-year and ten-year anniversary that I’m the only job applicant who has ever given him a video (Leaving much of the staff wondering…lucky for me nobody has VCRs anymore!)

There are three critical elements to landing that job you want, getting a book deal or anything else of that nature.

1. The willingness to put yourself out there – to do things that might make you stand out amongst the others – or might make you look silly. It’s a risky proposal and it’s never comfortable.

2. The creativeness to set yourself apart from others. It’s one thing to be bold enough to put yourself out there. It’s a whole other thing to have the skills to figure out how to do it right.

3. A strong network. It wasn’t just that video that landed me my dream job at NW (now Verity). A current executive of the credit union recommended the position to me and I was able to find references that Bill knew and trusted.

I admire CUES Next Top Credit Union Executive challenge because it does such a great job of demonstrating the need for those three elements to get ahead in any field of work.

If you are in the industry and you’ve been online this week, someone has probably asked you to vote for them. In my opinion, every candidate in this challenge has proven that they can do #1 (mentioned above) better than all of their counterparts not in the challenge. A few of the candidates, like my own Tina Hall, have demonstrated their ability to do #2 and creatively set themselves apart from the competition.

Click here to see Tina’s video.

And next week, we will see who has the strongest network.

I encourage you to check out the site and to vote. It took a lot of courage to post a video. If you’ve never done it, you have no idea how scary it is. All of these candidates are sure to make something of themselves, regardless of whether they win the challenge or not. I’m proud to have so much talent in my industry.


12 thoughts on “Why The Next Top Credit Union Executive is a Smart Idea

  1. Agree w/ you 100%. Think this is a great idea, and I have a huge amount of respect for anybody who puts their hat in the ring.

    But I gotta tell you something that I don’t like about it: It all boils down to a popularity contest. Real-world accomplishment plays absolutely no part in who wins.

    So let’s get real here for a moment. The REAL next top CU execs aren’t going to be the people who make the best videos or spam the most people on Twitter to get their followers to vote for them.

    Before you conclude that I’m simply being a jerk, let me make sure I’m clear here: I really like the idea of the contest. I’m simply advocating for different criteria for choosing the winner(s).

  2. When I went in and reviewed the videos, I focused on their ideas first – which idea will I want to read about for the next several months? Which idea will be interesting to listen to at CEO/Executive Team Network? Then, it was who has the personality to thrive in this position? And who will really benefit from the prize package, getting to attend CEO Institute?

    It’s my hope Ron, with six geographical areas to vote for, that it won’t be about the most Twitter noise, but the entries will be judged on content, and what will make a difference at their credit union and in the industry.

  3. @Ron Shevlin – Real world accomplishments probably play more of a part than you think. I wouldn’t be campaigning for Tina K. Hall if she was a deadbeat or even mediocre. I’ve worked along side her for years and know first hand she gets stuff done. Matt Vance is the same way. He and I have worked on several committees together and I know he’s quality.

    Nobody can become popular on Twitter overnight (despite what a bajillion books might try to tell you). I like to think that most well connected people are well connected because they’ve earned the respect of others.

    I’ve seen a few people rise to the top of their organizations for reasons that leave everyone scratching their heads in confusion. Is there any sure way to pick a business leader?

  4. Great post Shari!

    I’m doing those 3 things you list in your post as I search for my next position. I like the contest too but the rules should have allowed people not currently employed to apply. There are a lot of us out there who want to stay in the credit union movement but are struggling to find the right position. By allowing credit union job seekers it would have helped gain exposure and show that passion and the true desire to work in a credit exists even with those not currently employed in a credit union.

    All in all this is fun competition and it’s going to be interesting to see who wins and what they do with the victory.

    By the way if you are looking for your next credit union executive with proven executive experience give me a look: http://www.linkedin.com/in/jasonlindstrom

  5. Let me just say that as a contestant in NTCUE, this has been a great experience! It is very exciting to see so many other young professionals who are passionate about our industry. I am thankful to CUES for thinking of this. It has allowed some of is to connect, and to form new relationships. Relationships that will grow throughout our career.

    My hope is that we will continue to grow together. My passion for credit unions, particularly the next generation, is very strong. I hope to see many of you in Dallas this year, so help me get there. I am a Southeast Region contestant. http://www.nexttopcreditunionexec.com/vote

  6. As a contestant, I agree. The voting rules are a little off. But, as Shari says, this is a way for me to put my name out there. It was a huge personal step for me to make the video and enter the contest. Even if I don’t win, I still have something to be proud of. It’s also giving my friends and family that don’t know what I’m doing an idea and chance to support me.

    That being said, you can vote for me, Kelsey Balcaitis, Southwest region (I had to put in a plug). http://www.nexttopcreditunionexec.com/vote/

  7. @shari: You just proved my point.

    I don’t doubt for a second that Tina and Matt have great accomplishments to speak to. But do you know what the accomplishments of the other candidates are?

    I’m betting the answer to that is “no”. You voted for who you know. I’m not knocking that — so did I. I voted for my Twitter buddies. And when I had more than one Twitter buddy in one region, I used my other email addresses to vote for all of them.

    I’m pretty sure this is not how I would select the next person I wanted to hire into my organization, if that’s what you meant by “pick a business leader”.

    But, hey, ok, this is just a contest. When it’s a “looking like a fool with your money in a bank” contest, this is fine. But with a “next top CU exec” contest, I’d argue that a little more formal criteria applied to the selection process is in order.

    p.s. Note to CUES: If you run this again and want judges, I’ll volunteer to play the role of Simon Cowell, and I bet we can get Wymore to be Paula Abdul. 🙂

  8. I love this contest idea and found the videos to be very impressive. On the voting side, given the way it is set up in regions, I think it will be less a popularity contest than it otherwise could be. Even if the initial voting is done that way, it does not determine the ultimate winner.

    In particular, I am looking forward to seeing what blog posts, videos and other content each regional winner produces. And, Next Top Credit Union Executive will be picked (at least as I understand it) based on the months of posts that they do.

    And, hopefully, people aren’t just picking the people they know, but also looking at all the videos and voting in the other regions as well.

    Thank you, Shari for sharing your story.

  9. Great article Shari and also great conversation and fantastic ideas in the comments. I’d like to chime in on some of the decisions that were made to come up with the judging and voting criteria.

    Round 1: We had plenty of discussion around how we would narrow the field to the six regional finalists. Initially we thought about having CUES Council members narrow the field to a top three and then turn it over to the public to vote on each regional finalist. A few issues led us away from this approach, but mostly we didn’t want to eliminate any great ideas in Round 1, and so we chose to leave it up to the industry to decide. We also were unsure if we would even receive three entrants in each region, so this first level of judging was ultimately put aside for the first year.

    This does make round one a bit of a popularity contest, however, by keeping everyone in it, I think we are giving everyone and their ideas an incredible amount of exposure. If we left it entirely to a judging panel to at this level, there would have been no exposure for the entrants and CUES. In addition, if we had cut the 41 to 18, 23 people would not have the opportunity to get their selves and their ideas in front of thousands of people.

    From a selfish marketers point of view, this approach it is drawing an incredible amount of attention to CUES and its’ new NextGen membership, which is ultimately what we were hired to do. What I can tell you about the voting though is it’s extremely close in every region and the variety of votes being cast on the ballots show no signs of block voting. We are seeing a mix of ballots with just one name (likely family and friends of the entrant), and those with votes in multiple regions, so those who are taking the time to consider all of the projects. The 10 pages per visit and 5+ minute average time on the site also indicated that people are spending a lot of time considering their choices.

    To Ron’s point, “But, hey, ok, this is just a contest. When it’s a “looking like a fool with your money in a bank” contest, this is fine. But with a “next top CU exec” contest, I’d argue that a little more formal criteria applied to the selection process is in order.”

    This is why there is Round 2: From mid-June to the end of October, the six Regional Finalists will keep everyone updated on their progress by contributing two written blog posts and one video per month to the Next Top Credit Union Exec blog.

    All six Regional Finalists will come together November 7–10, 2010, at CUES’ CEO/Executive Team Network in Dallas. Each finalist will present the results and progress or planning of their project to a judging panel comprised of CUES Council officers. The live audience will also vote for their favorite finalist. In addition, the public will be able to vote online. At the conference, the Regional Finalist with the highest combined score will be declared the 2010 Next Top Credit Union Exec.

    In addition, if CUES decides to run year 2, we have talked about a vendor category, a director category and I really like Jason Lindstrom’s ideas about allowing people that are not currently employed to enter.

    It’s a work in progress and we love the passion and energy being put into the Next Top Credit Union Exec contest, and of course the sharing of the great ideas that are underway throughout the industry.

  10. The best part of this contest and your post is that it gets us all to take a step back from our busy days and think about what makes a great leader. By putting the spotlight on this subject it helps us all. Getting bogged down leads to complecency. Nice post!

  11. Wow. Two shout-outs to my “Money in the Bank” parody in the first 11 posts. [sarcasm] The public has spoken! Give them what they want! [/sarcasm]

    On a more serious note, very interesting discussion with valid points being made for both sides of this argument. As a contestant, I initially had similar concerns as Ron but after going through the process, I lean more towards Tim’s position – win or lose, the experience has been a blast and a great learning experience, and I therefore appreciate that all 41 applicants were given the opportunity to compete.

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