Spotlight: Rachel Risberg

CU executive guides a successful bank-to-CU transition.

February 11, 2011
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CU Mag: How long have you worked in the CU movement?

Risberg: I was hired by the credit union about 27 years ago to supervise a new branch through Royal’s first merger.

It was in my hometown and had 100 members and $100,000 in assets.

CU Mag: What advice do you offer staff?

Risberg: Have fun. Enjoy what you do.

One of my managers shared consistent messages she’s heard from me over the years:

  • Run your branch like it’s your own business—taking ownership in what you do, how you serve your members, and how you grow.
  • Stay active in the community. Community involvement is a key part of the success of the branches and the employees.
  • Think outside the box. What new things can we do, what can we do better, and how can we better serve our members? Challenge everyone to think more creatively and to look at all angles and options.
  • Grow and develop. Learn from your experiences and seek out new ones.

CU Mag: What's your biggest professional challenge?

Risberg: As organizations get bigger, it’s tough to stay focused on your core values.

I always sort and assess our choices by how we help members and employees.

CU Mag: What keeps you excited about your job?

Risberg: My advocacy for the members, the employees, and my awesome team of leaders.

I like to get the right people on my bus, and help them grow. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping others develop beyond their own expectations.

CU Mag: What would you change about the past if you could?

Risberg:  I wouldn’t change anything. I don’t look back; changing the past isn’t an option.

I look for what I can learn from it for the future.

 CU Mag: What's your favorite way to pass time during a free weekend?

Risberg: Being outside! My favorite outdoor activities are hunting, canoeing, campfires, golf, spectator football, skiing, and small-group gatherings.

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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 ( 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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