Stay Local and Connected

August 03, 2010
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Who: Gale Davis

What: Associate VP, Branch Operations, Apple FCU

Where: Fairfax, Va.

Apple FCU has a wide branching network: We serve members in five Northern Virginia counties. In June, the credit union opened its 19th branch. I oversee 11 branches.

How I stay up-to-date on what’s happening in all the branches: It can be challenging. I find that making a concerted effort to listen to both members and staff gives me a good read on the current branch experience for each location. I respect that employees are experts in their markets—they have their fingers on the pulse of community needs. I rely on this knowledge to make the best decisions about service and promotion for each location.

How our CU keeps its geographically dispersed staff unified in purpose: Clarity and frequency are important. Apple Federal’s vision and mission are very clear because President/CEO Larry Kelly and our senior management team emphasize vision and mission daily. From these overarching ideas, objectives are set and frequently communicated throughout the organization. Also, Apple Federal’s branding and marketing support a unified message to staff and members. Consistency is key, and it’s always encouraged.

How I felt about three employees receiving Certificates of Responsible Citizenship from their local community: I  was very proud of them. This was great recognition for Assistant Branch Manager Kathy Horan, and Member Service Representatives Maria Diaz and Rachelle Tran. I know they all felt extremely honored. We experienced a rash of robberies, allegedly by the same person. This information and years of experience are what allowed these employees to recognize and avoid a threat to their branch and their members.

What sets our CU apart in the communities it serves: Differentiation in the Washington, D.C., metro market can prove challenging. Not only do we have one of the highest concentrations of credit unions in the country, we also have to compete with the big banks for market share. Two main things set us apart. The first is our service, which is first-class and consistent. We understand that stellar service will keep members coming back more than anything else. The second thing that sets us apart is that we’re in the communities we serve. Unlike a big bank, headquartered elsewhere, we’re local. We see firsthand what’s happening in each community and make organizational decisions based on this information.

My staff would describe my leadership style as: Focused on goals and results. Goals can be great motivation to provide consistent member service and encourage participation in specific credit union products.

Favorite activity with my family: I enjoy spending quality time relaxing by the backyard pool.

Most people would be surprised to learn: I worked at a nightclub to pay my way through college. I worked my way up from busboy to bartender to musical act reviewer, and finally to club manager.

Phrase I never want to hear again: “I can’t.” It implies you’ve made a decision about the outcome of a situation before you’ve even tried.

Phrase that sums up my outlook on life: You might not get to choose your circumstances, but you get to choose your attitude.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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