Navigating the Challenges of Authentic Leadership

Have you ever heard that authenticity is everything? As credit union leaders, we are called to be principled, transparent, and tackle issues head-on with high levels of integrity. Yet there are societal expectations, personal barriers, and organizational dynamics that often challenge our authenticity. In most credit union cultures, there is an unspoken emphasis on uniformity rather than individuality. A leader who dares to veer too far from the norm is often treated with suspicion. In the name of “professionalism,” leaders may likewise feel compelled to mask their emotional states, pretending to be someone or something they are not. Leading from a distance is impossible because it gives a leader an excuse not to engage. Inside our credit unions, the demand for immediate results can force us to pursue short-term wins over long-term, value-based goals. These short-term performance pressures can derail us from being our authentic selves. As much as we want to be authentic leaders, how does the fear of rejection, aversion to risks, pressures to conform, and inconsistent values and actions challenge us to lead authentically? And here comes the body blow: Exhibiting authentic leadership is reflective of how you inspire, motivate, and guide your followers. Becoming an authentic leader is not a matter of honor, but a challenge. There are several innate challenges to authenticity. We’re here to unpack how you can go from good to great as an authentic leader at your credit union. Give Yourself Self-Awareness Authentic leadership is not merely “being yourself.” This viewpoint can lead you to resist feedback and growth opportunities. Authenticity should not be an excuse for failing to grow, adapt, and improve. Another common pitfall is oversharing both information and emotions. You must balance honesty with discretion and consider the context and appropriateness of what is being shared. Authentic leaders emphasize self-awareness. It’s taking ownership of your work, your decisions, and your contributions to the organization’s success overall. Regular self-reflection and mindfulness practices, such as journaling, as well as 360-degree feedback, can help you increase your emotional intelligence. Also, seek feedback from peers and engage in continuous learning. A mentor or coach can guide you to develop your own unique leadership model.  Define and Align Organizational Values It is also critical not to overcorrect. A common risk is when a leader is focused solely on their own authenticity to the point that they neglect their credit union’s needs and values. The culture and values of the credit union play a significant role in shaping leadership. Authentic leaders align their actions with their values and the values of the organization. This alignment creates a coherent and compelling vision that inspires and motivates others. If you find a misalignment with building trust, inspiring loyalty and engagement, or creating a positive culture, it’s time to clarify (or reclarify) values. Review the credit union’s mission and vision statement to understand its core values and long-term goals. Compare personal values and organizational values to identify areas of alignment and potential conflict. Then, embed those values into your training programs, performance reviews, and development plans. To Err is Human Nobody’s perfect—not even the boss! Authentic leaders create a culture where failures are seen as opportunities for learning and growth. When leaders admit their own blunders, they build trust and embolden their teams to take smart risks, innovate, and improve without the fear of failure. The key is not to pass blame or judgment, but rather to say, “Now I begin again.” Give yourself and others a personal invitation to do your greatest work yet – always fixated on the road ahead, never stuck in the rear-view mirror. As Vice President of Brand Experience for Your Marketing Co., Frank Allgood works with credit unions to develop strong leaders, create effective training programs, and build powerful brands. Want to connect? Call 864.326.8740 or email frank@yourmarketingco.com.

The Power of Personal Development

Let’s get real: You’ve hired people at your credit union that didn’t work out. Some were never the right fit, while others lost something over time.  I’m reminded of when one of our credit unions hired a marketing specialist. She was rather boastful about having earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing, and she was quick to point out to others at the credit union who did not have degrees. She created waves fast, and clearly hadn’t mastered what it takes to build and maintain great relationships. That’s not always taught in college. After seven months, she was fired. She continues trying to find herself, with short stints in car rentals, manufacturing sales, and now a nursing student. Now, sharing this story is not to belittle her. I am also not discounting her value as a person or the value of a quality education. I think she’s learned some valuable skills, albeit the hard way; however, what I am championing is the importance of personal development. What the former credit union marketing strategist didn’t see in her colleagues was just how much they had invested in themselves. Things like improving self-confidence, problem solving, stress management, emotional intelligence, time management, goal setting, and project management. This is a high performing credit union because it has an amazing team that values personal growth. Here’s the truth: What’s the one constant in our credit unions? Change.  What’s not? Progress.  So, when it comes to increased productivity, employee advancement, enhanced adaptability, and improving teamwork within your credit union, personal development must be at the forefront. Now, we’re not taking about BSA training. Nor are we talking about a book club, which often clashes with differing interests and mismatched expectations.  Let’s take a closer look at six practical strategies to create a culture of learning: Personal Development Policy – Do you have one? If not, consider allocating funds for training programs, online courses, conferences, and workshops. Note Well: Don’t be that credit union that sends their leadership team to every conference under the sun, which becomes more like vacations. Invest in your team in other ways. With a personal development policy, you are showing you are committed to fostering a culture of learning.  Encourage External Learning – Support employees who want to learn. Now, you may be saying to yourself, “We do that, and we get nothing.” You’re forgetting the “personal” in personal development. Truly get to know the individual. When you do, then you’ll know what direction to point them in, and they may even come to you with what areas they are passionate to learn about. Gamify Learning – When employees embark on tasks, solve problems, or acquire new skills, make it a competition. You can award points for achieving milestones or even create a leaderboard to show top performers. The key here is to make these opportunities challenging, enjoyable, and relevant to your credit union. Bite-Sized Learning – Examine videos, podcasts, and online modules that are easy to access and complete. While this shouldn’t be your only form of personal development, these often help you build momentum and promote positive reinforcement. Side Note for YMC clients: Staff have access to a Learning Resource Center, where credit union staff can learn skills in sales, productivity, leadership, and more.  Offer Coaching/Mentoring – Senior employees can give new employees guidance and support. Sometimes, it pays to use an external mentor for an objective perspective and specialized development – especially if you are going through organizational change or restructuring.  Onsite Staff Training – Having dedicated onsite staff training helps eliminate distractions and allows for interactive sessions with your credit union team. From technical skills to soft skills, leadership development, and team building activities, you can motivate and engage your team to a whole new level. Stepping out of one’s comfort zone can be intimidating, and we all give excuses: Lack of time, perception of being expensive, lack of support, fear of being overwhelmed, etc. Work with your team to identify priorities when it comes to personal development. I promise you, for most of your employees, they have strong aspirations and desires to be a better version of themselves.  Start implementing strategies gradually and celebrate incremental successes. If you’re in a leadership position, having YOU championing personal development is critical to buy-in. Do it, and you will see individuals work toward being more skilled, engaged, and productive at your credit union.  As Vice President of Brand Experience for Your Marketing Co., Frank Allgood works with credit unions to develop strong leaders, create effective training programs, and build powerful brands. Want to connect? Call 864.326.8740 or email frank@yourmarketingco.com.

Selfish Credit Unions Kill Opportunities

When credit union leaders and board members resist change in favor of the comfort of the familiar past, all in the name of love of the credit union, I ask one question:  “What is your credit union story from when you first joined?” I tend to hear emotional and moving stories about the many firsts that the credit union helped with, and the tough times that the credit union helped them navigate through the years. My follow up question: “Why are you so against the next generation having that same opportunity?” The board is so protective of what was, there is no way to serve the next generation. We must embrace Louise Herring’s words: “We must remember what we started out to do and find the modern tools to do it.” I don’t know why, but as I was having this conversation with a board several weeks ago, an old folk song came to mind that I remember singing in elementary school: Love is something if you give it away, You end up having more. It’s just like a magic penny, Hold it tight and you won’t have any. We must remember why we exist, and the true benefits experienced by previous generations of members and work hard through your credit union strategic planning to not hold on tight to what was, but to look forward to the needs of the next generation of credit union members and change for the sake of staying relevant. At Your Marketing Co., “We exist to avoid the unnecessary merger of credit unions by helping to educate, engage and retain the next generation of credit union members.” We would be honored to do that for you. Reach out when you’re ready!

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Reh Harvey

Vice President of Digital Strategy

Reh Harvey, our Vice President of Digital Strategy, leads with diligence and fervor. Having previously been a member of Team YMC, he is excited to return to such an amazing culture and even more amazing people (his words)! Through his experience in the marketing world, he’s found the key to success is to stay on the cutting edge and to always keep evolving.
 
Although originally drawn to marketing for its lack of math, Reh now finds himself doing more math than he would’ve bargained for. But his self discipline and positive attitude make it easy for him to laugh and take it in stride. Hoping to one day visit Japan and enjoy some premium Sushi, Reh lives life by his creed: Be a good human. Do good work. And above all, just keep going.

Hailey Madej

Graphic Designer

As YMC’s in-house Graphic Designer, Hailey possesses an eye for detail and a drive to innovate. It’s no surprise though since being creative runs in the family! Inspired from an early age by her mom’s work as a Graphic Designer, Hailey is a seasoned expert whose talents bring vitality and accessibility to every project. As a UX/UI designer, she expertly blends the intuitive and the creative for all to enjoy.
 
In addition to the occasional freelance project, Hailey also lends her abilities to supporting art initiatives within her community, such as the Belleville Mural Project. Her favorite aspect of joining the YMC team is the friendly, uplifting culture and breadth of design tasks. When it comes to marketing, she believes in pushing boundaries and maybe breaking some rules to capture her audience’s attention. Her advice to those just starting out? “Always seek quality over quantity.”

Dexter Ochoa

Development Assistant

When it comes to blending logical thinking and creative problem solving, Dexter’s abilities are undeniable! Beginning his career as a Web Developer, he’s no stranger to the wide world of Marketing and Advertising. Calling Biñan City in the Philippines home, Dexter has a burning desire to visit the Alpine peaks and valleys of Switzerland. While that journey may be far off, he is still no stranger to international travel. While visiting Japan, he was able to enjoy his favorite delicacy: Sushi and Sashimi. He also learned unexpected facts about Japanese Yen, specifically that it has special markings for the blind to know its value!

Whether he’s enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning or the occasional Pale Pilsen in the evening, Dexter is eager to work with the talented professionals of YMC, and we’re just as eager to add his talent to the team as well! His marketing words of wisdom? “Be creative, and just do what you want!”

Andrew Wyche

Copywriter

Hailing from the NC state capital (that’s Raleigh if you didn’t know), Andrew is YMC’s Copywriter extraordinaire. That’s why he knows that “The verb form of ‘reconnaissance’ is ‘reconnoiter.’ The former is, strictly speaking, a noun.” Seriously, he knows his words and he’ll use those words to get bold and weird (in a good way) with his copy. Fuelled by a love for pasta, shellfish, a good single malt, or a meal consisting of all three, Andrew navigates life with a motto engraved in his heart: “Choose kindness. Always.” It is this guiding principle that has led him to explore the realm of marketing, driven by a desire to connect with people in meaningful ways. As he continues to chase his dreams, one bucket list item stands out above the rest – a pilgrimage to Scotland. With his heart set on adventure and his pen poised for creativity, Andrew’s journey is far from over.

Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

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