On a Mission to Protect the System

'Credit unions are the right financial institutions for most Americans.'

October 30, 2013
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Robbie Thompson, president/CEO of the Credit Union Association of the Dakotas (CUAD) would like to be Michael Stipe, lead vocalist for R.E.M. “He’s creative and a little quirky, and I look a little bit like him,” Thompson says.

Thompson’s creativeness shows through in how he consistently champions new products and initiatives involving member education, awareness, and advocacy. He was the driving force behind CU Social Good (cusocialgood.com)—a website that provides an online accounting of credit unions’ community activities. He also helped launch the consumer awareness campaign CU on the Road that brings credit unions’ message to local community events. CUAD’s daily electronic newsletter, The Memo, gives readers quick updates of current credit union industry events. And social media enhances all CUAD communications.

All of these efforts and initiatives broaden and strengthen CUAD’s relationship with state and federal lawmakers.

He recognizes that success is a group effort, and he’s quick to credit his staff for any recognition he receives. “We built a collaborative and innovative environment where everyone’s voice matters,” he says.

Credit unions still don’t have the recognition they should, according to Thompson. “Credit unions are the right financial institutions for most Americans.”

Credit unions are community stewards, Thompson says, pointing to their dedication to member service rather than to profits. The CU Social Good website has more than 1,000 contributed stories discussing charitable activities, financial literacy, scholarships, volunteerism, and other individual and community support efforts. “Community involvement is built into our DNA,” he says.

Despite all of these efforts, overregulation and overlegislation remain threats.

“If credit unions were legislated or regulated out of existence, it would be a terrible blow to members and their communities,” Thompson says.

Cooperative spirit and community involvement separate credit unions from other financial institutions. That’s why he advises current and future leaders to embrace the cooperative philosophy.

“I’m passionate about protecting the credit union system,” says Thompson, who regularly attends local, state, and national legislative meetings to promote the credit union message. He also works with state credit union associations, credit unions, and other entities to advance the cause.

“When you believe in something, it makes your job a lot more fulfilling,” Thompson adds. “I enjoy fighting for credit unions. They do the right things. I enjoy telling people about the credit union difference."

Getting the credit union message out never ends in Thompson’s opinion. “We need to do a better job of telling our story. People need to understand credit union advantages. I’m stunned by the lack of knowledge of the credit union difference. Let’s change that.”

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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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