A 'Come-From-Behind' Story Line

‘We are the little CU that could, and did, and continues to do great things.’

October 08, 2013
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Stop if you’ve heard this before: Man inherits motley crew and transforms them into an elite organization.

Sounds like “The Bad News Bears,” “The Dirty Dozen,” or “Major League.” Now, it’s the script of Pioneer West Virginia Federal Credit Union in Charleston.

The once struggling credit union just completed its third acquisition in as many years, and is now the largest credit union in the southern half of the state. Along the way, it earned national awards and a clean slate from regulators.

The turnaround was a team effort, says Dan McGowan, the credit union’s executive vice president/chief financial officer (CFO). “Think of the emotions you feel when watching those ‘come-from-behind-to-win’ movies,” says McGowan. "That’s us—we were judged losers but now we’re clearly winners. We are the little credit union that could, and did, and continues to do great things.”

Three years ago, McGowan found himself in the role of outcast after he was ousted as CFO from a Florida credit union after losing his bid for CEO. That night he saw a job opening at Pioneer West Virginia Federal and applied in unorthodox fashion—mentioning he’d just been let go, so the timing was good.

The candor resonated with CEO C. Dana Rawlings, who was in his first year on the job. Rawlings called McGowan the following night and they hit it off immediately.

“For some reason, he seemed to think we would make a great team,” McGowan says. “Turns out he was right.”

Among his many achievements, McGowan engineered a tenfold increase in the credit union’s investment portfolio yield, developed a variable-rate certificate in which members’ return can only increase over its four- or five-year term, and conducted the forst financial literacy training program for the board of directors.

“Dan has the ability to see things how they can be, not as they are,” Rawlings says. “He’s relentless in his pursuit of excellence.”


Pamela Keller
October 10, 2013 8:02 pm
He was a an amazing CFO at the Florida Credit Union. It was not appreciated. He is now getting his rightful due. He is an amazing person and this is no surprise to me!

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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 (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) 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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