Community Choice Credit Union is Awarded the Leadership in Action Grant!

Here’s how they plan to use the Grant for long term growth.

In order for the credit union movement to grow and thrive, it’s imperative that we are committed to investing in the development of our leaders.

The Foundation promotes credit union leadership development through a variety of structured scholarships and grants, including Leadership in Action grants, which are designed to help Credit Unions implement leadership initiatives within their own institutions. The grants are intended to support all leadership initiatives, but are focused on the creation of strategies, systems and methods for achieving performance excellence, stimulating innovation, building knowledge and capabilities, and ensuring organizational sustainability.

The most recent Leadership in Action Grant recipient is Community Choice Credit Union in Commerce City, Colorado. We sat down with Rainy Thoen, the CEO of Community Choice to talk about the leadership initiative this grant will help support. This is our conversation.

Q: Thank you for speaking with us Rainy! Tell me about the Leadership Initiative that the Leadership in Action grant will help support in 2020.

Rainy: The primary objective of this initiative is to retain a professional coaching group to support the growth of our staff individually and collectively. Our vision is, and has always been, to provide products and services that will address the financial needs of our members and entire community in an increasingly impactful way. We have big goals, and know that in order to sustain rapid growth, we must invest in our most important asset – our people.

At the moment, we are interviewing a few companies, with Bridgepoint being one that we’re considering. We want to bring in a group that will help our team enhance their communication skills, build efficiencies, and help each of our team members get very clear about where they want to go in their careers.

Q: Why coaching? And, why now?

Rainy: Over the past several years, I’ve spoken to other Credit Union leaders who have had great success with coaching, and I can understand why. It’s an effective way to support growth.As leaders, it’s so easy to get wrapped up in day-to-day responsibilities that we can neglect to those things that will support long term growth. You have to be deliberate about it.

So, we wanted to do something that would bring in a powerful, consistent, ongoing structure for growth. We’ve set forth a goal of achieving 100 million in assets. We are moving quickly towards that goal and want to ensure that our staff is prepared. If you’re going to achieve a goal that large, you must have strong internal leadership and a growth-positive culture. We think that a strong coaching program will help us create that.

Q: Have you been personally involved in coaching? And, if so, did that experience influence your opinion about the value of coaching and what it might do for your staff?

Rainy: Yes! To this day, I regularly reach out to past coaches and mentors that I’ve had throughout my career for advice and to shift my perspective. Experience has taught me that coaching is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to grow and achieve their goals and stay relevant in an ever-changing world.

There are a lot of great options out there for ongoing professional development, most of them valuable in their own right. But, the dynamic of a coaching relationship is so pivotal in helping people define and reach specific, personal goals. I think that coaching is a powerful way to help you bring everything together – the books you’ve read, conversations you’ve had, classes you’ve taken – and create a concrete plan that centers on your personalvision.

The other thing that I think coaching achieves is helping you see outside yourself. It’s difficult to step back and get the big picture for your life and career. We spend most of our day down in the weeds, attending to the tasks of the day. Coaching offers an objective, high-level view that can accelerate progress and help us come up with creative, innovative solutions.

Just this morning, I was in a staff meeting with my team. We are all working on defining our goals for 2020, and I told them that a goal is achievable if you set up the right plan, review it, set up action steps, and keep it front and center.

But, the key with goals is not necessarily to achieve it 100%. I mean, we all want to do that, of course! But if you get 70% of the way, aren’t you better off than you were before? You might not have gotten to where you wanted to be in whatever time frame you set forth, but if you’ve even gotten part of the way there, then you’ve accomplished a lot more than if you didn’t have that goal in the first place.

That’s why I want to encourage my staff to set big goals, take on greater responsibilities, take risks, learn more, and work with people that can support them, so that whatever they want to achieve, they are working towards that right now.

Q: I know how focused you are on the impact that Community Choice can have on your community if you continue to grow. How do you feel that your Credit Union’s internal culture influences the impact that’s possible within your community?

Rainy: I believe culture is the core of who we are. Our team must feel valued and appreciated and have the resources they need to truly become experts in their field so that they can share that knowledge with those in our community.

Every day, we have an opportunity to rise up and do more. If we can help one person do more today than they were able to do yesterday, that’s success.Without a culture that encourages learning, risk taking, and the knowledge to appropriately deal with mistakes, people get stagnant and discouraged. There’s enough of that in the world. We don’t need any more of that!

I want the people in my community to know that there are options available that can change their life. But, that starts with us. How can we change our community and our world if we aren’t willing to change ourselves?

Q: How are you hoping that coaching can help your team be more purpose focused and values driven?

Rainy: There’s a great quote from Maya Angelo that says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better you can do better.

Over the years, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by some incredible leaders who have helped me define my passion and hone my skills and abilities. They’ve helped me know better so that I can do better.

If you were raised in an environment where there was a lack of resources, it’s easy to repeat that because that’s all you know. A lot of people in our community are in that situation. I want Community Choice to be one of the opportunities in front of them that can help them know better so that they can do better.

To accomplish that, every interaction with members must be perceived as more than a transaction. We’re not a bank. We are about the people we serve. This is our purpose and I believe that coaching can help us translate that purpose into concrete, meaningful action.

Q: How long will the program be?

Rainy: We want to bring in coaching for the whole of 2020 and the Leadership in Action grant will help make that possible. But, ultimately, we are hoping that this year long program is just the beginning. The moment we decide that we know everything is the moment we stop growing. So, if this program is successful in moving us forward, we will find a way to continue it beyond 2020.

To find out more about the Leadership in Action Grant, including ways that other Credit Unions have put the grant to work for them, Click Here.