Inspire16 Blog

10 Essential Leadership Prerequisites 

By: Celeste Cook

One of the hottest topics in the credit union industry today is leadership – new leadership, that is. With the current mass exodus of credit union CEOs, new leaders are entering top roles to take the baton and raise this industry to higher levels over the next few decades. But there are many questions being asked about this next group. 

  • Do they possess management and leadership attributes, abilities, and skills? 
  • Do they have the ability to lead change? 
  • Are they visionaries and progressive thinkers? 
  • Do they have the ability to influence others to support their vision? 
  • Are they out-of-the-box thinkers? 
  • Are they passionate? 

For credit union Boards and exiting CEOs, these are questions, among many others, that need to be addressed for the industry to maintain and certainly increase its current momentum. 

Listed below are ten prerequisites Boards and exiting CEOs need to examine closely for their future leaders: 

  1. Passion: Leaders must have an ongoing burning drive to make things better, to make a difference, to persevere and overcome all barriers to achieve success. 
    In addition, how passionate is the new candidate about ensuring growth through excellence in all areas of the credit union: People, pricing, products, programs, policies, processes, and procedures? This industry has a unique mindset. It’s more than a transaction. It’s about changing lives and making a difference. Is the passion there to go to a deeper level of service? 
  2. Perspective: Today’s leaders need to understand where you have been, where you are, and where you want/need to go. It’s an ever-changing world today. The speed of technology, for instance, has never been faster. Having your eyes on the horizon regarding members’ growing needs (Can you say mobile?), growing regulatory requirements, evolving infrastructure, etc., is so critical. However, one of the most critical component is keeping your pulse on your employees and your culture which have such a powerful impact on the member experience and the growth of a credit union. 
    Credit unions today are living in a world of moving targets. Perspective certainly plays a huge role in an organization’s success. 
  3. Creativity: Use your creativity to find new and more effective ways to do things. It’s the fun part of the job that requires the complete opposite – risk taking which is what credit unions are in the business to do. This takes creativity to venture outside the proverbial box that can many times help leapfrog over the competition. Try new things, be curious. 
  4. Organizational skills: Transferring your broad vision into a very well organized, practical, step-by- step program. This prerequisite is vital to running a well-oiled machine in keeping tasks, responsibilities, and order in check and on target. 
  5. Teamwork: Leading any major change involves engaging, persuading, and working with other people while keeping the organization’s best interests at heart. Very few great things in life occur from one person – especially professionally. Being an aligned team from top to bottom just about guarantees success as long as the direction has been clearly defined for all staff. . But this alignment and direction starts at the top, the leader and must be clearly communicated to everyone in the organization. 
  6. Persistence: Passion gets you started; persistence is what carries you through. Highs and lows are not only part of life, they are part of business, too. A leader that can weather these fluctuations and keep steaming ahead can keep the credit union heading toward achieving its goals. Setbacks occur, but being persistent can quell those speed bumps – keeping the passion that sparked it all at full stoke. Getting and keeping everyone focused on the end results and putting simple actions plans in place is critical to remain steadfast in your mission and vision. 
  7. Open-mindedness: Change leads you into unchartered waters and involves a good measure of “learning by doing.” Therefore, you must be very comfortable with ambiguity. It’s somewhat similar to both creativity and perspective, keeping options open for anything new and, yes, proven. Therein lies the calculated risk that an open mind craves. A mighty fine prerequisite for today’s credit union leader. 
  8. Integrity: Honest and genuine; motivated by your deeply held values to make your organization and team better. Nothing matters more in a leader. 
  9. Empowerment and Accountability: Empowerment and accountability go hand in hand. One does you no good without the other. Great leaders are comfortable delegating and empowering their teams to excel and do the right thing to get the right results. Conversely, great leaders hold their teams accountable as well. 
  10. Fun: Leaders know how to incorporate fun along the journey! 

Success is not driven by “black and white” operational thinking. Success is driven by visionary leaders who embrace and possess the attributes outlined above. As an industry striving to become more relevant in a fast-paced world with a very fluid economy, having the right leader in place is certainly giving you a competitive edge to ensure long-term success. 

Celeste Cook works with credit unions across the country and in New Jersey, helping them accelerate their lending programs. Celeste will be will be speaking at the NJCUL Annual Convention on the topic of Key Lending Strategies for Growth, Profitability and Retention. Register today at

Wednesday, September 07, 2016 8:00:00 AM Categories: Celeste Cook

Business Development and Marketing Best Practices from cuStrategies 

By: Celeste Cook

In today’s economic landscape with fierce competition between credit unions and other financial institutions; even worse, competition between credit unions; and the lack of loyalty from companies, successful credit unions are finding it challenging to increase its membership, loan growth, and checking accounts without reluctantly giving the farm away…meaning lower interest rates and lower profit margins (yield which impacts ROA). The days of waiting for people (new members) to walk into the credit union to open an account are long gone. Therefore, if people in your community and employees of your select employee groups aren’t coming to you, then you have to find a way to get face-to-face with them. That is where business development and innovative marketing strategies become an important piece of the pie to grow the credit union. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Getting in the door of companies is one of the biggest obstacles credit unions face today. Secondly, once the door is open, it is even more difficult to keep the door open with regular on-site visits and access to employees. Thirdly, it seems all marketing pieces and ads look alike so it is difficult to create differentiation! This being said, credit unions must rethink, renew, a​nd revive business development and their marketing strategies. Below are some quick tips to help you get started! Also, take a moment to review the success of other credit unions.

Business Development and Marketing Best Practices

Credit unions cannot afford to not have business development!

  1. Market a partnership, not the credit union with businesses in the community. Also, market a relationship, not a product or service
  2. Strengthen your brand to become more relevant to people and employees in your communities…offer a program that helps member improve their credit score; lowers their DTI and monthly payments on loans with other financial institutions; and gets rid of high-interest-rate credit card balances with other financial institutions (proven strategies shared at cuStrategies Business Development and Marketing Conference)
  3. Offer a unique program no other financial institution offers that adds greater value and is real, relevant, and relatable to companies in your communities and their employees: Exclusive Credit Score Management Seminar (a one-hour PowerPoint Presentation provided to attendees at the cuStrategies BD&M Conference) that is guaranteed to generate loans and increase checking accounts from new members for the credit union
  4. Build and train a strong Business Development Team that is focused on building relationships and partnerships as well as capturing quality profitable loans (New Member/New Money) and services: auto loans and HELOCs as well as checking with e- statements, bill pay, etc., to strengthen loyalty and long-term retention
  5. Establish loan and new account goals that align with the credit union’s overall strategic goals
  6. Remove barriers and offer the right tools to create a streamlined process to ensure new accounts and loans are captured at onsite visits
  7. Build strong partnerships with real and relevant programs that add value your competitors don’t/can’t offer
  8. Offer rewards for the right results…loans, checking account with e- statements, and bill pay (number-one retention tool)
  9. Get staff motivated to be engaged in Business Development and with the Business Development Team
  10. Develop key strategies and scripts to overcome objections: ask the right questions and offer relevant solutions to ensure you don’t get the response “No thanks”!

Celeste Cook works with credit unions across the country and in New Jersey, helping them accelerate their lending programs. Celeste will be will be speaking at the NJCUL Annual Convention on the topic of Key Lending Strategies for Growth, Profitability and Retention. Register today at

Monday, August 29, 2016 8:00:00 AM Categories: business development Celeste Cook marketing

Millennials Say It's Too Difficult Working With You 

By: Jim Kasch

Member Intelligence group recently published the results of a large Millennial credit union member research survey. Millennials report it’s too difficult to do business with their credit unions, and they want better access to their money.  Sometimes it’s technology, but it’s just as often branches and ATMs. Credit unions should redefine the Millennials need – it’s not ATMs they need, but surcharge free access to cash.

For more information on this and other findings, visit Member Intelligence Group to download your free copy of the report.

Jim Kasch has over 20 years experience in business, most of which with credit unions. In his credit union tenure Jim led marketing, business development, sales, and strategic alliances as CEO of Partners FCU, which serves The Walt Disney Company. Jim will be speaking at two NJCUL Convention General Sessions. Register today at

Wednesday, August 24, 2016 8:41:00 AM Categories: Jim Kasch

Ask, Listen, & Respond: The Secret Sauce for Serving Your Audience 

By: Dr. Michael Hudson

The gap between what we think we know about those we serve and what we actually know is often much larger than we realize. But if we don’t really understand the challenges they face, we can’t create value for them.

In this video I share a simple approach you can use to learn how to serve your audience by joining the conversation in their mind about the problems they are facing and the solutions they are seeking.

Back again this year for another highly engaging small credit union workshop at Convention, Dr. Michael Hudson brings 31 years of experience working with businesses, including credit unions and credit union associations to the breakout room. Challenge your credit union to think bigger and go further by being a part of his workshop. Register today at

Thursday, August 04, 2016 12:09:00 PM Categories: michael hudson small credit union
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