Time Is Right for a ‘CU Constitutional Convention’

CUs can be the answer to the problems facing the financial system.

October 01, 2012
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Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs provides a great model for approaching the financial well-being of people throughout the world.

Maslow’s motivational theory explains that while people aim to meet basic needs, they seek to meet successively higher needs in the form of a hierarchy.

The levels of well-being are:

  • Physiological—basic needs.
  • Safety—free from danger, free to succeed.
  • Love/belonging—belongingness, a part of something bigger.
  • Accomplishment/esteem—achievement, respect of others and by others.
  • Actualization—fulfillment, adaptability to environmental changes.

In the past 100 years, the U.S. credit union movement has succeeded in meeting levels one and two of Maslow’s hierarchy. Credit unions offer products and services to meet the average person’s basic financial needs at reasonable prices.

Through credit unions, products and services once available only to the privileged are now available to all. Credit unions also provide members peace of mind by providing a secure place to transact their financial business.

While several top performing credit unions meet the definition of success in providing all five levels of the hierarchy, levels three, four, and five present challenges for most credit unions.

These higher levels, however, represent what could be and should be credit unions’ fulfillment of their promise and their genius.

The three challenging levels:

1. Love/belonging. People want to be part of something that’s both bigger than themselves and seen as important. What better outlet than a credit union?

Credit unions meet the third level of need by helping members be part of an organization that helps both society and members through the ‘people helping people’ philosophy.

2. Accomplishment/esteem. Belonging is valuable by itself, but it becomes more meaningful and fulfilling when it leads to accomplishment.

If credit unions are models for achievement and accomplishment beyond their members’ individual successes, they can be an influence for good outside the movement, as well. Everyone feels better knowing that not only are they better off, but they’re also part of an organization that contributes to the common good and is valued by others.

3. Actualization. This final level is defined as reaching the level of fulfillment that creates the conditions allowing one the freedom to operate altruistically.

In a regulated environment, this may be difficult to achieve, but it should be the goal.

First, the challenge is to reach the point where all the needs of individual members and the credit union are met. The bigger challenge is to continue to evolve as an organization simultaneously with the world evolving around us.

Therefore, I suggest the time is right for a 21st Century “Constitutional Convention” to review every aspect of our movement and ensure that credit unions provide all five levels of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Credit unions can be the answer to problems facing the global financial system, which currently is based on profit and greed. Our shared spirit of cooperation can be the key success factor for global financial health.

BUCKY SEBASTIAN is executive director of the National Credit Union Foundation.

Analyze the movement’s full potential

Take a fresh look at the credit union movement by asking:

  • Does our operating framework still meet our needs?
  • Is our governance structure optimal?
  • Has our regulatory framework kept pace with today’s needs and technology?
  • Can the powers granted to credit unions allow us to meet the changing needs of our members?
  • Do credit unions have access to the third-party businesses that we need to succeed?
  • Do we control our own destiny or are we dependent upon 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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