Q&A: Mazuma CU’s Chief Culture Officer

‘Culture affects everything,’ says Matt Monge.

August 28, 2012
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In May, Mazuma Credit Union, a $452 million asset institution in Kansas City, Mo., announced the appointment of Matt Monge as its first chief culture officer.

Credit Union Magazine and Monge recently discussed what it means to foster a healthy culture and why it’s so important to the Kansas City, Mo.-based credit union.

Credit Union Magazine: How much do you like telling people your job title and seeing their reactions to it?

Monge: You know, the title is listed on social networking sites, but when I’m talking with folks in person, I’m generally focusing more on what I have the privilege of doing at Mazuma rather than the title itself.

When people hear about what we’re doing at Mazuma to work toward having a healthy and distinct organizational culture, they usually think it’s pretty cool.

Credit Union Magazine: So what do you actually do? What are your main responsibilities?

Monge: My main responsibility is cultivating a healthy culture. But for us at Mazuma, culture affects everything. We have a vision and desire to build a fantastic workplace, but that’s the easy part.

The hard part—and the part we’re looking forward to working through together—is rolling up our sleeves together and pushing that vision into reality.

We’re trying to pay more attention to the human elements of the organization, so the human resources and learning and culture areas are my primary focus. An additional focus, in the near future, will be on Mazuma’s corporate social responsibility strategy.

Credit Union Magazine: How do you affect the culture of your credit union in a positive way that employees can embrace?

Monge: I think this will be different from organization to organization, especially in its execution, but I can speak a little to what we’re working on at Mazuma. An organization’s culture is like its identity, really; but that identity is lived out by individuals, and by extension, teams.

It’s the individuals in the organization that create cultural norms and values. So really digging in and doing the hard work of building human, vulnerable, committed teams is a critical step in the process.

It’s not a quick and easy step by any stretch, but it’s a necessary and important one.

An organization’s culture is something that takes a lot of time and effort to understand, and then even more time and effort to effect any sort of meaningful change or enhancement.

The key is to create an environment within which the employees—top to bottom—embrace their ownership of the culture.

Culture is a very human thing so, of course, it’s going to be a little messy, and there will be awkward moments and missteps along the way. But you want to intentionally and steadily build an atmosphere where employees can be the unique, distinct, talented people they are in a way that’s consistent with shared group values in terms of attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors.

Culture, done well, becomes something owned—and even safeguarded—by the employees. We want to lock arms together and make decisions every day that have a positive cultural impact on the organization.

Stay tuned: Tomorrow, Monge explains how having a healthy culture benefits Mazuma Credit Union.

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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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