Young Execs Build Bonds Between CU Professionals and Their Communities

'If you’re not sacrificing for your community, you’re not doing your job as a credit union executive.'

October 09, 2013
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If they could be rock stars, Brandon McAdams and Patrick Livingston see themselves as long-lived stars that have spanned the ages with their work–Mick Jagger and Elton John, respectively, though McAdams is quick to add: “not in the leather pants.”

McAdams and Livingston are employees with Coastal Federal Credit Union in Raleigh, N.C., and creators of CUaware, which brings credit union professionals together to learn from each other and bridge the knowledge gap between experienced veterans and those who are new to the profession. It provides an opportunity to share ideas and contacts as well as successes and burdens, and take proactive steps to help the communities that credit unions serve.

Part of helping those communities is to span generations and to strive to engage Millenials, much as Elton John does, according to Livingston, who is also Coastal Federal’s director of business transformation. He sees CUaware as a way to help credit union employees bridge the awareness gap with members and prospective members. Unlike generations of the past, Millenials typically aren’t brought up knowing the services that financial institutions—particularly
credit unions—provide.

It’s not only the typical checking, savings, and other accounts that credit unions bring to their communities, it’s the volunteerism in rescue missions, children’s groups, and other similar community efforts, says Livingston. “A lot of the members don’t understand the impact that credit unions are making in their communities.”

“If you’re not sacrificing for your community, you’re not doing your job as a credit union executive,” adds McAdams, Coastal Federal’s consumer lending product development manager. “You have to care. If you’re only in it for the paycheck, then you should get another job. You’re not going to get the happiness you want if you’re not willing to sacrifice. Dedication to the community adds a lot of value to what you do.”

CUaware’s website ( offers information about local volunteerism and networking opportunities for credit union participants to interact with one another. The site also encourages credit union executives and staff to learn from one another, particularly with new credit union participants learning from veterans.

“You need to be fully immersed in the cooperative spirit of the credit union,” Livingston adds, recommending that credit union leaders of the future look not only to credit unions but to other cooperative businesses and the National Cooperative Business Association for ideas and inspiration.

McAdams, like Livingston, says he’s inspired by stories of credit union managers and staff going the extra mile to meet a member’s needs—like the branch manager who gets up at 3 a.m. to travel to a community event. Those types of efforts are commonplace, but are largely unknown in the community. Both have contributed to the hundreds of hours CUaware has logged in the community, but don’t talk much about it, like their peers in throughout the industry.

“Credit unions are terrible about bragging about what they do,” explains McAdams, adding that credit unions offer opportunities for employees as well as for members. “Young employees can excel. They have the right opportunity. Good guys can win here.”

Credit union leaders of the future need to be willing to stretch themselves, even if it means taking a pay cut to move to a different job within the organization to expand their skills, McAdams adds.

"Thiis isn’t Bank of America, where you have people specializing in a very small area, you have to know a vast array of products,” McAdams explains.

While credit union executives and staff should be proactive, they should also make it easy for members to obtain the products and services they want and need, McAdams says. But he advises that credit unions need to talk to members and prospective members to understand—rather than assume—what they want. One of the things he likes best about his job at Coastal Federal is helping members obtain products and services they need to grow their wealth.

It’s a similar philosophy of people helping people that’s behind the efforts of CUaware, which Livingston and McAdams hope helps credit unions and their members reach their potential now and in future generations.

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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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