My Dinner with Jim Collins

Hello from Las Vegas. I am here to participate in The One Credit Union Conference sponsored by the Credit Union National Association in partnership with the World Council of Credit Unions. It’s an amazing opportunity to learn not only from the hired speakers but also from the 2,800 participants who represent credit unions from 60 different countries around the world.

Last night I was one of 10 lucky individuals invited to a private dinner with our keynote speaker, Jim Collins. Our table was represented by credit union CEOs from the United States and Australia, an association leader from the United Kingdom, as well as key leaders from WOCCU, CUNA, and CUNA Mutual.

I was the youngest person at the table.

It fascinated me to observe the range of topics we covered in out time together. We talked about the challenges of operating in an imposing regulatory environment and growth strategies. We talked about how credit unions have changed in the last 70 years…and how they have stayed the same. We shared our value proposition and discussed how we can engage emerging leaders in our system.

Towards the end of the evening, Jim shared a profound observation. He said, “I think you are going to lose if you are simply here as another alternative in the financial services industry. Your movement needs to be palpable. If you are going to be genius at something, it needs to be people. Having the right people. If seven out of your 10 most important decisions don’t involve people, you are making mistakes.”

His comment gave me an adrenalin rush. Here is someone who has made a career out of studying excellence. Excellence in leadership, excellence in organizations, and excellence across industries. And a key conclusion he made was not about regulation, or ROA, or looming impairments.

It comes down to people.

How much time are we spending at our strategic meetings every week crafting our people strategy? Do our annual reports celebrate the genius we demonstrate in our people decisions? Do our key people feel how passionate we are about keeping them in our movement?

Are our people choices palpable?

This discussion is important to me. It’s the reason why I picked the project I did for this competition. I think we spend the most time on our worst employees. Managing them up or out. Consequently, we spend the least time on our best employees. Managing them in and up. If you believe in the 80/20 rule (that 20% of our best employees contribute to 80% of our bottom line) it is critical our programs are crafted to celebrate those employees who contribute the most to our movement.

In a Development Education workshop before this conference a key industry leader, Mike Beall, said it well: “People Helping People” from an employee standpoint means our key leaders are constantly and consistently reaching one hand down to help the next leader up. And that employee, while reaching one hand up is constantly and consistently looking back with the other hand to help the next person.

If we can craft unique programs tailored to individual needs we will build our genius. If we build it, the rest will follow: growth, profitability, and sustainability.

So what are your 10 best decisions? Are at least seven of them about people? 


Regional Finalist – West