CUES SKYBOX BLOG

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Getting Members to Vote

Strategies to encourage members to cast a ballot. By Deepak Prakash When only half the eligible voters in the United States turn out to vote for the highest office in the land, it’s not so surprising that credit unions sometimes struggle to get members to vote in board elections or other key decisions for the organization. A way credit unions can help spur members to participate is to offer electronic voting as an option along with paper ballots. We recently had a client host a hybrid election in which members could either vote online or receive a paper ballot from us. This allowed our client to gradually transition its voters from paper-based elections, with the goal of moving over to entirely electronic voting in the long term. Here are some additional strategies for encouraging members to take the time to vote: Send a postcard or paper mailer to each member with their voting credentials, especially if members are accustomed to receiving communications from the credit union through the mail. This can be particularly important for CUs that are transitioning their votes to electronic means. Send a personalized email to each voter that contains his or her login credentials. Send a […]

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457(f) Plans Help CU Keep Key Execs

‘Golden handcuffs’ an effective benefit for top leaders of Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union..  By Scott Albraccio Content provided by CUNA Mutual Group through CUESolutions When you’ve taken careful measures to build a strong leadership team, it can be devastating to lose a key executive to an outside organization. $7.3 billion Randolph-Brooks Credit Union, Universal City, Texas, uses 457(f) plans to help retain its top executives and preserve leadership continuity. According to industry data, 55 percent of credit unions offer 457(f) plans to their executives. EVP/CFO Robert Zearfoss explains the strategy of Randolph-Brooks FCU. “To be competitive in the marketplace, it is something that we have to offer,” says the CUES member. “Otherwise, our executives are going to be taken away by other institutions that have those programs.” What Is a 457(f) Plan? A 457(f) plan is a type of non-qualified retirement plan that creates an opportunity to supplement executives’ income with no contribution limits. The assets are owned by the credit union until they are paid out to the executive. These plans are not subject to IRS limits on contributions, meaning your credit union can add an unlimited amount of funds to any of your executives’ 457(f) plans. This makes […]

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Innovation Still the Right Thing for CUs

Here are three suggestions for building a culture of embracing new ideas throughout your organization. By Christopher Stevenson, CIE “Innovate or die” still stands. That catch phrase—going back at least two decades—has been used to encapsulate the idea that innovation holds the key for a company’s survival and growth in the fiercely competitive market. In 2007, Hayagreeva “Huggy” Rao was quoted in an article saying that even though the high importance of innovation “is a truism,” it’s so important to an organization’s lifeblood that “there is nothing wrong in harping on it.” A professor at Stanford University and lead faculty for CUES’ Strategic Innovation Institute, Rao said in that same article that innovation becomes possible only when an organization’s culture encourages new ideas. “To state the obvious, the CEO need not necessarily be the most brilliant, or most original, mind in a company,” he explained. “He, or she, has to welcome suggestions from employees at all levels.” How are you going to ensure that new ideas are welcomed at all levels of your credit union in 2017 and beyond? Here are three suggestions: Take stock about where you are in terms of innovation. Use the 15 questions in “Self Assessment: […]

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CUES Members: We’re Thankful for You

As U.S. Thanksgiving nears, CUES’ President/CEO John Pembroke has been feeling thankful as he reflects on some of the many ways CUES members help make possible the learning necessary for credit union leaders to succeed in the changing financial services marketplace. Read more in his recent article on CU Insight.   View CUES’ “Honorary Team Members“. Find out about the offerings of the CUES Councils near you. CUES Councils are local, grassroots professional development organizations run by CUES members. Learn about individual and group CUES membership for executives and directors.  

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Pressure Wash Your Board’s Barnacles

Don’t let directors add drag. By John Waupsh Excerpted and adapted with permission of the publisher, Wiley, from Bankruption: How Community Banking Can Survive Fintech by John Waupsh. Copyright (c) 2016 by John Waupsh. All rights reserved. This book is available at all booksellers, starting today. Barnacles create such significant drag that the U.S. Naval Academy estimates they increase the Navy’s petroleum expenditures by $250 million a year. Community financial institutions can have their own barnacles, and they typically come in the form of an aged, unimaginative, unresponsive, disinterested board. This is a shame, because a great board can positively transform an organization—as early PayPal CFO-turned-Sequoia-Capital-Lead Roelof Botha suggests, “Good board members act as shock absorbers.” At a time when the nimbleness of smaller boats would be an advantage, the would-be community FI trawlers have significant hull drag. For once, small isn’t small enough. There’s something smaller and faster than you. These days, board members are required by regulators to be deeply involved with their institutions. Unfortunately, barnacles hide behind this fact, and use it as an excuse to require undue reporting, which ultimately increases expense and frustration. A friend of mine is CEO for a $300 million community institution […]

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Employees Want Something More Important than to ‘Be Engaged’

They want to be leaders. By Holly Buchanan Talk with the leaders of just about any company, and you will hear a lot of talk about “employee engagement.” Employers are constantly trying to find new and better ways to create employee engagement. They want to know how to “motivate, inspire and engage” their employees. They want this, of course, because ultimately they want productive employees. But is that what employees want? Is their top desire to work for a company that inspires, motivates and engages them? Or is it something else? I believe part of the problem is that employee engagement is framed from the perspective of the employer. That perspective says the employer is the leader that has to inspire and engage employee-followers. What if we switched that frame? Your employees want to be leaders, not followers. When your employees are leaders, they are more engaged than when they are following. I heard the CEO of a large financial company give a lecture to a large audience of college students. He told them, “If you want to be leaders, you have to have followers.” I remember thinking that I couldn’t disagree more. How many of you, given a choice, […]

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Education Key in Director Onboarding

Board learning expectations are part of the conversation with prospective directors at a Kentucky CU. By Charlene Komar Storey This is bonus coverage from “Developing Director Development,” forthcoming in the December 2016 issue of Credit Union Management magazine. At $1.3 billion Fort Knox Federal Credit Union in Radcliff, Ky., director education is so important that it’s part of the very first conversation with a potential board members, according to CUES member Ray Springsteen, president/CEO. “The board incorporates the areas of training into the job description for volunteering,” Springsteen says, so there are no surprises for new directors. Part of director onboarding at Fort Knox FCU is to make sure that new volunteers know where to go to ask questions, he adds. They may turn to more experienced board members, or ask senior staff, including Springsteen himself. Education is ongoing for the CU’s nine board members, three associate directors and four non-board members of the supervisory committee. The credit union uses several modes of training including online modules, conferences and staff-directed education. “The board reinforces education by ensuring directors report on the use of all three,” Springsteen says. In addition, one of the non-board members of the supervisory unit attends each […]

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Help Members Stay on Track

The right credit card program can keep life from derailing them. By Bart Scott Sponsored by LSC There’s an old philosophy that goes something like this: “If I don’t have the money for something, I just don’t buy it.” In many, if not most scenarios, that is smart, practical thinking. Irresponsible spending gets many of us into trouble. Especially when we’re young, and particularly when we get our hands on our first credit card. As a credit union that builds relationships with its members, you need to do your part to counsel members about responsible money management. Prudent financial advice like the adage above seems fairly sound and straightforward. What about those times, however, when members don’t have the money for something . . . but they have no choice but to buy it? For instance, the day the furnace gives out, or the hot water heater decides it won’t heat the water anymore. You and I both know these things are more likely to happen in December or January than in July. Does your credit union have a plan to help? These are very realistic scenarios when a credit card can be not only a good thing, but a […]

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Voting for Organizational Change

Electronic balloting is a business decision-making tool. By Lisa Hochgraf Voting is an important tool that sometimes helps my family of three decide what to do on Saturday. Tomorrow, citizens of the United States will use it to choose a new President. Likewise, some businesses use voting to help make all kinds of important change decisions, according to Deepak Prakash, vice president of eBallot (formerly Votenet Solutions), which powers CUES eVote: Elect and Educate. Electronic ballots “are ideal instruments to ensure change is installed in a fair, easy, secure way in an organization,” Prakash explains. Merger ratifications, bylaws changes and board member elections—all events when a lot of people need to weigh in—are typical times that credit unions use electronic elections now. But Prakash suggests they could also use electronic voting for internal decision-making done by smaller groups. Members of credit union teams “can vote on multiple issues or positions using one credential and have all the tracking and accountability benefits that electronic balloting provides in larger elections,” he explains. “This makes it as easy as buying flights online. You click on it. As an added advantage, an internal team can set up a decision-making ‘election’ so a key expert’s […]

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Leadership Mindset Assessment

Here’s a way to measure the primary obstacle standing in the way of achieving your strategic objectives. By Hugh Blaine It seems that an epidemic of negative thinking has swept through corporate America and is infecting the ranks of employees at all types of organizations—from IT and healthcare to financial services and higher education. The mantra we frequently hear nowadays is, “We don’t have enough resources to get it done.” It is true that most businesses are strapped and this has become the new norm. But what’s more concerning is that organizations lack the resourcefulness to achieve strategic objectives—and they’ll never realize them without a dramatic mindset change. The truth is that executives and their teams have the ability to transform adversity into opportunity, creating powerful solutions to seemingly impossible problems. Since the primary obstacle standing in the way is what is going on in between each employee’s ears,  how can leaders assess mindset? To help answer that question, I created the 10-question “Leadership Mindset Assessment.” Rate yourself one to 10 on the 10 questions below. Choose one if you either don’t have this item or don’t do it, and 10 if you do this regularly and or have it […]

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Does It Need to Be a Scary Day for CU Leadership?

The brain trust model can help credit unions succeed in good, bad and uncertain times. By Jay Murray It’s Halloween—a day that celebrates all things scary. While credit unions don’t fear ghosts and witches, they have plenty of other things they can worry about, including the future of our economy, the results of the upcoming election and the impact of technology. Can credit union leadership really be successful in uncertain times? My life experience makes me think they can. In my hometown of Middletown, Pa., I survived a flood, a near nuclear meltdown when the Three Mile Island power plant heated up too much, and the demise of the local savings and loan where I had my first real job. The financial crisis of 2008 hit in my second week as the new CEO of a credit union. As the old saying goes, never waste a good crisis. I’ve survived. I’ve learned much. Similarly, credit unions can be successful whether it be good, bad or uncertain times. The three key ingredients of the “brain trust model” are important supports to success, whatever the outlook. First, the model directs finding the right “brains” to sit around the board of director table, […]

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Market Your Auto Loans Like a Rock Star

Three ideas that will help make your program sing. By Victoria Penn Sponsored by SWBC Marketing is a critical aspect of the vitality and growth of any business, and credit unions are no different—particularly when it comes to auto lending. Competition for credit unions is significant and consumers know that in a low-rate environment, they have the flexibility to shop around and find the lowest rate possible. To help your auto loan stand out from the rest of the competition, finding creative ways to market your loan program is critical. While you’ll likely never get away from traditional media like billboards and in-branch signage, consider these three ideas for your auto loan marketing efforts. 1. Get social. For better or worse, social media is here to stay, and credit unions should embrace this venue as an opportunity to connect with members and potential members. Consumers use social media for far more than simply being “social.” In fact, 46 percent of consumers rely on social media when making a purchase decision. Those are some big numbers for your credit union to leverage in your marketing efforts. Some examples of great ways to promote your auto loan program on social media—Facebook, in […]

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Learning Leadership From Watching TV?

11 traits of great leadership demonstrated by Madam Secretary. By Lisa Hochgraf While my son is excited about Supergirl starting up again this fall, I look forward to Sunday nights when I can watch Madam Secretary. The show stars Téa Leoni as Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord, who drives international diplomacy, battles office politics and circumvents protocol as she negotiates global and domestic issues, both at the White House and at home. To do what is often a very tough job, McCord demonstrates over and over that she is smart, able to inspire and motivate her team and tireless in her pursuit of a better world. A slide show on the CBS website describes 11 key leadership traits you can observe in McCord’s actions. Which of these do you already successfully practice? Which of these do you need to practice? 1. Be passionate about what you do. 2. Pay attention. ” You can’t lead if you don’t know what’s going on around you, whether that means what your co-workers are up to or what the people on the other side of the table are up to,” the slideshow caption asserts. “Take the time to listen, watch, and learn—you never know […]

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5 ‘Core’ Considerations

Be sure you set the right strategy for this key system. By Kristen Jason Sponsored by D+H For credit unions, the core banking platform is the primary system of record for members and accounts, and arguably the most important technology choice. The right core strategy starts with understanding future expectations, current needs and what solutions are geared to your business model. Here are five things to consider when making your decision. How does your core system affect your member experience? Credit union members can have high expectations for personalized attention and customer service. Often, that’s the very reason they chose to establish a relationship with your institution. When your employees serve your members, what does the experience look like? When they look a member up in the system, do they pull up an account or an account holder? If your core is able to provide a snapshot of the account holder, every employee who interacts with a member has a holistic view of that member. This means your staff aren’t offering products and services that a member already has, or taking a long time to access the information they need to provide superior service. What does Microsoft-based mean? Microsoft-based means […]

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Spotlight on Electronic Voting Security

It’s probably too late to fully secure the electronic ballots for the November general election. But your CU can certainly protect its next board, bylaws or merger vote. By Lisa Hochgraf Google “electronic voting security” and you’ll get a lot of hits. With a contentious Presidential election just around the corner, people want their votes to count, and concerns about outdated electronic voting machines and the physical security of polling places are real. Fortunately for credit unions, leading technology available for running online votes about board members, bylaws changes and mergers is completely different from—and considerably more secure than—the general election voting systems now in the headlines. In fact, the national voting systems and the CUES eVote: Elect and Educate system are “two completely different systems and they can’t be compared,” says Deepak Prakash,  vice president of eBallot (formerly Votenet Solutions), which powers eVote. “We do not share any systems or processes that general elections currently use.” CUES eVote’s security is both electronic and physical, he explains. “First, every voter has his or her own credential,” Prakash says. “Only voters with credentials can access the ballot. If they’re not part of the voter list, they can’t access it. “Once you […]

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Six Barriers to Effective Innovation

What gets in the way of your team’s ability to innovate? Here are possible problems–and solutions. By Graham Seel This post was excerpted with permission from “Innovation Basics for Community Banks and Credit Unions.” Innovation isn’t easy, no matter how you define it. It takes time, costs money, and requires attention from very busy people. And sometimes, we seem to be running as fast as we can just to stay in the same spot. Here are a few things that stand in the way, and some general approaches to addressing them. Other priorities. We all are familiar with the tyranny of the urgent. By its nature, innovation is a strategic activity. When day-to-day pressures dominate, long-term strategies fall by the wayside. Solution: Ensure that at least one senior leader has innovation as their highest priority. This should be the main activity on which their performance is measured. Ill-defined needs. We know we need to innovate. But we don’t know what problems to start with. Solution: Create a prioritized list of innovation opportunities. Each should have well-defined problem statement, desired outcomes, and measures for success. Fintech companies that don’t understand us. Technology vendors may have a good solution for our stated […]

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5 Steps for Connecting Strategy and Leadership Development

Just like a bread baker puts in salt, strategic planners need to incorporate learning for best results. By Christopher Stevenson, CIE This post originally ran on CUToday in March. In their planning for 2016 and beyond, many CUs are not supporting their strategy with their leadership development efforts. Failing to do so risks not having the right people ready to lead your growing, changing credit union today, tomorrow and in the future. Looking at strategy without looking at leadership development is like making bread without the salt. You’ll still get a loaf. But it won’t have quite the right consistency nor the full flavor you’d want if you were going to serve it to guests. Connecting strategy with leadership development will be worth the effort for your staff, your credit union and—in the long run—your members. Does connecting strategy and leadership development sound difficult? It does require going beyond just meeting regulators’ demands for succession planning and having an internal candidate ready to become the next CEO. Successfully connecting strategy with leadership development means building bench strength by looking deep into the credit union and identifying already-emerging and potential leaders who can not only fulfill the CU’s needs of today, […]

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Hire One ‘Hacker’ to Catch Another

Find a white hat by tapping your network and looking for credentials. By Terrence Griffin Sponsored by CO-OP Financial Services In today’s complex digital world, so often subject to fraud and security breaches, it can be fairly said that “It takes a hacker to catch a hacker”–a hacker wearing a white hat, that is. “White hat hackers” or “ethical hackers” are technology good guys, who use their skills to improve security by exposing vulnerabilities before malicious hackers (“black hat hackers”) can detect and exploit them. White hat hackers can be valuable as consultants to a credit union CIO or CTO in planning effective security strategies and methodologies, identifying and eliminating vulnerabilities, and lending knowledgeable input during vendor selection. They can function as advisors to credit union boards, helping them understand the climate and issues of cybersecurity today. Hackers can offer credit unions a competitive advantage by providing a unique perspective on technology. The nature of their profession gives them thorough understanding of computer networks. In addition, hackers have a working knowledge of the “darknet,” where much of the hacker mayhem is created and distributed. But it is also a place where ethical hackers can find information that helps them and […]

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Does Your CU’s Reputation Rest on Your CEO’s Shoulders?

CEOs need to take care of their professional brands. By Karen Tibor Leland When you think Facebook, you think Mark Zuckerberg. When you think Amazon.com, you think Jeff Bezos. These and other examples of celebrity corporate leaders show that a CEO’s personal brand can work in concert with the corporation’s brand, helping elevate both in the public’s eye. Like it or not, today’s CEO has been pre-cast in the role of their company’s chief brand ambassador. All CEOs have the daily opportunity and obligation to build their personal brand in service of their own and their corporation’s reputation. Much of the public makes a direct connection between a corporation and its CEO. A study a few years ago by Weber Shandwick and KRC Research showed that 49 percent of a company’s reputation is attributed to the CEO’s reputation. That’s why it’s important for CEOs to take an active role in managing their reputations. Ways for them to do that include: • Claim your name. In the digital era, CEOs need to stake a claim to their names in similar fashion to the way miners staked their territory in the gold-rush days. A step in doing this is to register your […]

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The Right Payment Processing to Support Your Strategy

Three things to help you choose a solution that cultivates loyalty and drives revenue. By Bill Hampton Sponsored by Vantiv With fewer resources to meet increased demand, many financial institutions have opted for a payments strategy of cost reduction instead of revenue replacement. But is this the right strategy? What if everything you know about payments is wrong? What if it is not about cost reduction? If the cardholder is not using your card, they must be using someone else’s. It’s time to engage and fight back. With the right payment processing solution, financial institutions have the opportunity to change this strategy into one that instead cultivates brand loyalty and accesses untapped revenue. But not all solutions are the same. Let’s take a look at three important things to consider when choosing a payment processing solution for your credit union. Payments expertise. When it comes to payment processing, managing multiple vendors has become par for the course. With a collective payments expertise partner, everything is in one place, making it easier for CUs to manage their entire line of products and services. A partner that owns and maintains its own platform has the advantage of offering solutions that are not one-size-fits-all, instead […]

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What Makes Merger Conversations Succeed?

Three ways to support good dialog about a possible combination. By Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC Merger conversations are not rocket science! Yet, there is an art to a having a successful conversation about a combination wherein all participants feel dignity and like they were heard, and the overall membership is considered. Here are three ways to make it more likely your merger conversation will effective: 1.  Put the membership first. A clear organizing principle, deeply embedded in the key decision-makers, is whether membership will benefit from the merger. When board members declare, in the first 10 minutes of conversation, their credit union name will be the surviving name and their CEO will be the surviving CEO, there’s a good chance the merger conversation has stopped. 2.  Gather leaders to have an exploratory conversation early on. Use a facilitator skilled in deliberate dialog to support such a conversation. A trained subject matter expert guides discussion, uncovers potential, and sees possibilities through objective listening. Mergers are only successful if participants strategically collaborate to build trust, dive into the conversations and authentically express their visions and concerns. 3. Understand the boards’ conditions of success up front. What does the board want? How […]

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Empowering Continuous Learning in a Digital Age

CUES Learning Tracker responds to modern learners’ need to record what they’ve learned informally. By Christopher J. Stevenson, CIE “As training moves to more digital formats, it’s colliding with new realities in learners’ jobs, behaviors, habits and preferences. Today’s employees are overwhelmed, distracted, and impatient. Flexibility in when and how they learn it is increasingly important. They want to learn from peers and managers as much as from experts. And they’re taking more control over their own development.” So begins the slide, “Meet the Modern Learner” from a webinar hosted by Bersin by Deloitte, which specializes in leading practices, trends and benchmarking research in talent management, learning and strategic human resources. The slide (numbered 3 in this deck) also notes that 66 percent of learning and development professionals have trouble engaging these modern learners with corporate learning. A later slide shows that only 14 percent of informal learning—the kind learners want most—is consistently tracked, compared with 97 percent of instructor-led training, 72 percent of self-directed e-learning and 57 percent of instructor-led webinars. Not surprisingly, Bersin by Deloitte also found that 50 percent of learning and development professionals report difficulty capturing data from informal learning activities. CUES was invited to co-present […]

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What Does That Behavior Really Mean?

CEO Institute III attendees learn the danger in making assumptions about the behaviors of others. By Lisa Hochgraf Once when Kristin Befhar was teaching a class at the University of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business, a student’s behavior caught her attention. He was walking in and out of class, taking calls on his phone. Befhar, professor of business administration at the university, related this story during CUES’ CEO Institute III in August. Based on her past experience with students who had exhibited this kind of behavior, Befhar figured this student didn’t really take her class very seriously. But when she took him aside later and asked him what was up, she learned that he was the sole provider for his family; an IT manger with a boss who didn’t believe in executive MBAs because he thought they just give people opportunity to move to another job; and was launching a new technology system that very evening. “He was more committed to my class than I was,” Befhar said. Befhar used this example to illustrate her definition of perception: the process of integrating and interpreting information about others’ behavior so as to accurately understand them. She explained that perception comprises […]

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High Touch, High Trust

Investing in member relations boosts loyalty. Sometimes in today’s high-tech world, it still takes an old-fashioned approach to get the job done. When the economy took a downturn in 2008, CUES recognized the opportunity to increase its support to members as they navigated the new and exceptionally challenging business environment. A regionally structured member relations team was put in place to listen to members, uncover their needs and do something about them. “We get a lot of satisfaction in finding out what keeps our members up at night and then offering solutions that ease their worries,” says Dawn Poker, CUDE, CUES’ SVP/chief sales and member relations officer. The new Mergers & Acquisitions Institute (next slated for June 26-29 in Chicago) is one example. Member relations reps on the ground at conferences, league meetings and credit unions discerned a need for more in-depth knowledge of growth opportunities. Turning feedback into action led to this compelling new offering, developed in conjunction with the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Leiha Fiddler, CUES’ VP/sales and member relations-Canada, makes sure Canadian credit unions also reap the benefits of CUES’ personalized service. “My goal is for members to say, ‘CUES didn’t just ask me […]

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Three Questions Leaders Should Ask Themselves Twice a Year

Lessons for leaders from a gymnast on the pommel horse. By Lisa Hochgraf Alec Horniman told attendees of CUES’ CEO Institute III at the University of Virginia in August about watching a gymnast give a presentation while performing a routine on the pommel horse. A gymnast gets 94 points when he raises his hand to the judges, the gymnast said as he started his routine. According to Horiman, Killgallon Ohio Art professor of business administration and senior fellow with the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics at the University of Virginia, the gymnast stepped up his routine as he explained that gymnastics judges add two points to a gymnast’s score for good extension—reaching beyond what is easy. Horniman said the presenting gymnast again stepped up his routine as he talked about how the judges add two points for a pommel horse performance that includes some calculated risks—and did some unexpected pommel horse moves as he said two additional points for creativity could also be earned. Horniman said this story illustrates three questions leaders should ask themselves at least twice a year: How have I done on extending myself? “The value we create every year increases if we choose to extend,” Horniman […]

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