Her Refusal to Quit Is an Inspiration

‘It took a lot of dedication to keep our founding leaders’ dreams alive.’

October 09, 2013
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When Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Federal Credit Union approached the brink, Teri Robinson helped pull it back.

And her grace under the pressure of a net-worth restoration at the Portland, Ore.-based credit union caught the attention of many in the credit union movement.

“Her credit union is thriving now and others are taking note of what she’s done—implementing her ideas and positive attitude to help their own credit unions perform better,” says Brady Howe, president/CEO of Cutting Edge Federal Credit Union, also based in Portland.

Robinson wasn’t always sure things would work out in the face of daunting financial difficulties. But she conjured up a positive attitude, put her head down, and got to work.

“I wasn’t afraid to ask for help from my vendors, staff, and board,” she says. “I told them ‘I’m in it to win it.’ So, how are you going to help me? I didn’t give them a chance to tell me ‘no.’ ”

Throughout the restoration, the plan was to hold on to shares and loans—not to bleed off assets—and to continue making loans despite past losses.

The plan worked. Now, Robinson has to worry about growing too fast after emerging from the net-worth restoration.

“It has been really hard work, and took a lot of dedication to keep our founding leaders’ dreams alive with our credit union,” she says. “Many people would have given up. Our credit union very easily could have been gone. But we have a mission to help union ironworkers. No one else would be here to help them.”

Robinson wasn’t interested in hearing “no” or “can’t” during the long days and nights it took to right the ship. And her positive leadership and “why not” attitude keep the credit union moving forward.

“I look at how we can do things instead of how we cannot,” she says.

The credit union movement is important, Robinson says—members belong for many reasons. Understanding these reasons should be a driving force for all credit union leaders.

“We are relevant and needed more now than ever,” she says. “You have to believe this as a CEO or leader in your organization or give up your spot to someone else who does.”

Robinson’s determination and success at Pacific Northwest Ironworkers Federal reaches beyond the branch walls. “She uses her experiences and expertise to motivate other leaders in the credit union industry whenever possible,” Howe says. “Her positive, can-do attitude is contagious and inspiring.”

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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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