Providing the Resources for Developing Young Leaders

The Evolution of Leadership in the Credit Union Movement

Brandi Stankovic is a nationally recognized CU consultant, speaker, author, the Chief Strategy Officer for CU Solutions Group, the World Young Credit Union Professionals Committee Chair, and US Ambassador for the Global Women’s Leadership Network.

This past September, Brandi facilitated the LEAD (Leadership, Engagement, Advocacy and Development ) Conference, in Cheyenne Wyoming. During the event, which is partially funded by the Foundation, young professionals are guided by the movement’s leading authorities as they work on understanding and incorporating Credit Union cooperative principles into their career goals.

I sat down with Brandi to talk with her about the conference, capture her perspective on the value of mentorship, coaching, and leadership development, and the future the Credit Union movement.

Q: Thanks for speaking with me today, Brandi. Would you tell our readers a bit more about yourself and your background?

Brandi: I am theChief Strategy Officer for CU Solutions Group and lead the advisory solutions division of the organization, which is focused on leadership strategy and risk management

I’ve been working with the Mountain West Credit Union Association for the past 5 or 6 years in a variety of capacities. I was involved in the beginning of the development of the Young Professionals network and have seen it experience a tremendous evolution over the past few years.

I also chair the steering committee for WYCUP and have worked with the Association to examine how we can advance the growth and development of young credit union leaders on a global scale through education, networking, and mentorship.

Q: Tell me a bit more about what the LEAD Conference is about. What are the primary objectives of the event?

Brandi: The LEAD Conference is an incredible resource that allows a variety of seasoned professionals to offer their support, leadership, wisdom, and knowledge to young credit union professionals in the Association.

The conference is for emerging leaders, but that’s a broad category. At a LEAD conference you’ll find entry level professionals and CEO’s, and everyone in between. The structure is very networking focused and allows attendees to find likeminded individuals in the Credit Union industry that are dealing with many of the same challenges. Networking is so important to professional development and this event is an excellent opportunity for young professionals that don’t have the opportunity to attend some of the larger national conferences.

Q:  What did you enjoy personally about being involved in the LEAD conference?

Brandi: Everyone there is incredibly vibrant and hungry for new knowledge, insight and resources. The atmosphere is very energetic. It’s exhilarating to be there!

I absolutely loved having the opportunity to inspire and energize so many quality professionals in the industry and did my best to give them more confidence, support, and love.

Q: One of the topics you spoke about at this year’s LEAD Conference is the idea of leading from where you are and the importance of mentoring and coaching. Would you tell me more about that and why you believe that mentoring and coaching is important for young professionals?

Brandi: I really do believe that all individuals can lead from anywhere if they want to. So, for those of us who want to support the development of young leaders, it’s really about trying to give them the tools that they need to view themselves as a leader regardless of whether they have a title to support that. Quality mentoring and coaching relationships can go a long way towards providing that kind of support.

I also think that the best way for young professionals to move forward and grow in their professional development is to invest in themselves. Our time and energy flows to the things that we choose to focus on and so we have to be cognizant of where our attention is directed and on keeping our eyes on the prize. Coaching and mentoring relationships can be a powerful force for young professionals as they determine what they want to focus on and how they are going to maintain that focus and intent along the way.

Also, one of the most important things for young professionals to develop is emotional intelligence. It’s important for them to learn how to balance their own emotions and understand emotional communication from others. This is also something that can be supported through the feedback and insight of a coach or mentor.

Q: Do you have any suggestions for someone who doesn’t know where to find quality mentoring relationships?

Brandi: One of the things we talked about at the LEAD conference is the idea of finding a “friendtor”. This is a person that is your champion. They see your worth and want to see you succeed. A “friendtor” doesn’t have to be someone in a position for which you aspire. They simply need to be someone who has something of value to teach and a willingness to share their time, energy, and knowledge.

MWCUA is stellar at creating opportunities for leadership development and growth. And you know, often I find that when someone is struggling to find a mentor, they actually do have several people in their life that would be perfect for the role. They are just afraid to ask. If you don’t ask, then you’ll never know.

Q: What can young professionals do to get the most value from a mentoring or coaching relationship?

Brandi: It’s extremely important to go into it with some sort of end result or goal in mind. Define what you want to get out of the relationship and be transparent about that goal.

In fact, I think the first thing a coach or mentor should ask is, “what do you want to achieve?” Knowing the answer to that question will help focus the conversation and make the most out of your time.

I also think you have to have a willingness to be authentic because authenticity is the key to leadership today. For all of us, the more honest we can be about our strengths and weaknesses, the greater the potential for growth. If we are putting effort into guarding or masking things we don’t like or are ashamed of, then we are robbing ourselves of energy that can be better spent on improvement and growth.

It’s important to note that authenticity doesn’t mean drama. Rather, it means having a commitment to personal awareness and remaining open to feedback and criticism. It means having a willingness to be direct and get to the point.

As much as possible, communication should be backed by intent. Be intentional about your conversations. Know what you want to say or understand and why you want to say or understand it. With every conversation, know what the goal is. This is important because authenticity is balanced by an awareness of our own intent. 

Q: Why do you believe that leadership development is important to the future of the credit union movement?

Brandi: I think that we have a critical skills gap between CEOs and next generation leadership. We aren’t doing a good enough job with internal succession planning. And not having a solid succession plan is guaranteed to create future emergencies. So, we must be better at cultivating the next in line.

After my dog of 16 years died, I went out and got a new puppy, and the change from living with a mature dog to living with a young puppy was a shock! Puppies are just so chaotic and full of energy!

At the same time, I was working with a Credit Union that had hired a group of young professionals and they were also looking at me and saying, “can you get them to just calm down?” And, I thought – it’s the same thing. Just as I have to take the time to train my new puppy, we need to recognize that cultivating the next generation of leaders takes time and energy. If we fail to do this, the Credit Union movement will struggle in the future. But, if we rise to the challenge, our industry will continue to grow and thrive. 

About Brandi Stankovic

Brandi Stankovic, Chief Strategy Officer & Chief Operating Officer, Advisory Solutions

Dr. Brandi Stankovic leads CUSG’s new Strategic Advisory Services division, driving a nationwide consulting strategy, creating a network of advisors, consulting with CEOs and their teams, writing books and developing products for leadership and organizational health, and speaking to audiences from across the globe.

Brandi is the coauthor of The Strategic MVP, a book of 52 growth and leadership tools and the host of the energizing podcast, The Strategic Hotbox designed to help executives reach their greatest potential. Prior to CUSG, Brandi was the Managing Partner of Mitchell Stankovic & Associates, Vice President of Marketing and Administration for Ventura County Credit Union and the Director of Education at Harland.

Brandi is the World Young Credit Union Professionals Committee chair and US Ambassador for the Global Women’s Leadership Network, World Council of Credit Unions, helping advance young executives and women in leadership across the globe. She is also a board director for the Nevada Council on Economic Education, Young Leaders vice chair for CMN Hospitals Credit Unions for Kids, the HRD Network Board advisor, director for University of Nevada Alumni Advisory Committee, and a Development Educator CUDE and I-CUDE. She is the recipient of the National Credit Union Foundation’s DE Individual Achievement Award 2017, Credit Union Times Under 40 Trailblazer 2016, California Nevada Credit Union League Tomorrow’s Star 2015, MAC Gold Award Financial Literacy and Community Outreach 2015, and the HRD Network Outstanding CU Professional 2014.

Brandi received her Bachelors in Finance and Economics at University of Nevada, Masters of Business Administration from University of San Diego and Doctorate in Organizational Leadership from Pepperdine University.