Passing the Torch

Mentoring is the key to passing vision and values to future CU leaders.

February 08, 2011
KEYWORDS mentoring , values
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There's a growing concern in the credit union movement that the zeal and passion for our founding principles are retiring along with many of our leaders.

If you’ve attended credit union conferences for any length of time, you’ve probably noticed a changing of the guard. Many familiar faces are gone, and younger faces are taking their place. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s inevitable.

The real issue, however, isn’t about the old guard taking credit union vision and values with them to the lush fairways of retirement.

The real issue has to do with their replacements: What vision and values do they subscribe to? How well are retiring leaders passing the torch? Are retiring leaders actively mentoring their replacements?

I’m not referring to operational mentoring so much as philosophical mentoring.

The credit union movement obviously needs leaders who are skilled in operations. But we also need leaders who are keenly aware of the marching orders handed down to us by pioneers such as Bergengren, Filene, Desjardins, and Doig.

Without a clear understanding and appreciation of our past, our future becomes even more uncertain.

Mentoring is crucial to passing the torch. Every senior, influential leader must pass the torch to the next generation of leaders without dropping it or letting it grow dim.

There are a of couple of programs to help leaders do that:

  1. Credit Union Retired Executives is a way for former credit union executives to stay involved in credit union affairs and give back to the movement.
  2. The National Credit Union Foundation’s Development Education program is an excellent way to steep future leaders in credit union principles and values, and become part of a network of like-minded leaders.

We address this issue in our cover story (“Staying focused”). If your credit union has an effective mentoring program or another way of “passing the torch,” let me know.

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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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