Stretch the Boundaries

 ‘True success is by design, and measured by the good it does for others.’

September 01, 2012
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Newfarmer’s “outside of the box” ideas have earned her staff’s and board’s support. Andrea Powell, Tarrant County’s marketing coordinator, describes her as a “progressive leader.”

“She’s my CU Hero, both personally and professionally,” says Powell. “I’ve been in the credit union industry for more than 25 years, and I’ve never worked for someone so hard-working, so forward-thinking, and so genuinely concerned for the future of our credit union and the movement as a whole.”

Newfarmer shepherds a staff of 41—including 22 employees younger than age 30. She personally meets with younger staff members regularly and asks them to contribute ideas.

“I’m amazed at their comments and questions,” she says. “I don’t want them to get discouraged and leave our movement. Their ideas are mind-boggling.”

The Mouse that Roars

Lily Newfarmer, CEO of Tarrant County Credit Union, Fort Worth, Texas, doesn’t let her credit union’s size slow it down.“We’re doing things credit unions our size never do and the larger ones hesitate to do,” she says.

“When Bank of America rolled out its ‘Keep the Change’ program, no one dared offer a similar program in fear of retaliation from Bank of America.” But the credit union saw it as a beneficial program for members—providing an alternative way to save.

“We decided to provide a similar product called ‘Change is Good.’” To date, she says, the popular program has drawn no retaliation from Bank of America.

The credit union began offering an alternative to payday loans even before the stock market downturn and the surge in consumer borrowing from payday lenders. It also was among the first credit unions to offer remote deposit capability, and soon it will roll out mobile deposit services.

“At every opportunity, we’re ready to go,” says Newfarmer. “Success is ours only because we pursue it diligently and without trepidation. We consider ourselves the mouse that roars!”

Newfarmer also supports programs that benefit youth in the community. For example, she negotiated a partnership with the Generation Hope Laptop Program, an afterschool nonprofit, to include a financial education component and a scholarship sponsored by the credit union.

Among other accomplishments, she:

 Graduated from Southwest CUNA Management School in 1999, received the Alumnus of the Year Award in 2008, and is a current faculty member;

► Has served on the Texas Credit Union Foundation board of trustees since 2001, and as board chair from 2010-2012;

► Has “Hiked the Hill” with the Texas Credit Union League;

 Received the Credit Union Development Educators designation in 2008, and has served as a mentor; and

► Serves on the Filene Research Council.

In addition, her credit union recently received the 2012 Desjardins Youth Financial Education award, and received the 2006 Dora Maxwell Award for Social Responsibility—both from the Texas Credit Union League.

But Newfarmer claims she doesn’t like the spotlight.

“All I know is that I love what I do,” she says. “I hope when I’m done, I will have instilled in my staff and colleagues the belief that boundaries are established by those who haven’t the vision or the fortitude to challenge and overcome them. True success is by design, and measured by the good it does for others.”

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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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