Work/life transcendence

The Problem

In my tenure here, Verity Credit Union has won more than 20 “Best Places to Work” awards. We have won three Elly awards. Our corporate university has served as a model for more than 15 other credit unions in our system. We have made the Training Top 125 list three years in a row. Training is consistently the highest rated function in internal and external employee surveys. We have three mentorship programs, five pipeline leadership programs, job sharing opportunities, cross-departmental internships, and literally hundreds of different training opportunities on a variety of delivery platforms. And we do this with a HR & Training staff of three (myself included).

So you should be able to follow the yellow brick road to my credit union, walk into our lobby, and feel as if you’ve walked into Credit Union Oz, right?

Although you will find amazing, creative, funny, intelligent employees at Verity something is still missing. If we have all these great programs, why aren’t more people on fire with what they are doing? 

You know what I mean…Fired up. Excited. Vibrant with engaged enthusiasm. What good are talents unless people want to put them use? I’m not expecting people to break into song and dance, but there is an undercurrent of energy available if we can tap into it. And I know it when I feel it; we all do. We know what it feels like to be in the presence of someone who is excited with…life.

The Questions

I want to tap into that giddy aliveness. Help foster it. So I started asking the people I work with more questions. Why are you in this leadership program? Why do you want to become a manager? Why do you want to be in Verity University? And beyond that: why are you working at a credit union? Why are you working at all?

The first answer an employee gave me was never the real answer. Neither was the second. As I kept asking I noticed the final answer is almost always the same for everyone:

Tina: Why do you want to be a manager?
Employee: So I can make more money.
Tina: Why is that important?
Employee: So I can do the things I really want to do.
Tina: Like what?
Employee: Travel.
Tina: Why is that important?
Employee: Because I like adventure. And travel makes me feel free.
Tina: Why is adventure and freedom important?
Employee: Because that’s why I’m working.
Tina: Why?
Employee: Because then I will be happy.

I would ask this over and over again and notice the same result.

I want to become a manager » to get more responsibility » to help other people grow » to make a difference » so I can be happier.

I want to be a supervisor » to climb the ladder » because I’m better than the job I’m in » because I deserve more » so I can do more with my life » because that will make me happy.

And then I would ask it in reverse: why is being happy so important? Most people scoff at that. Or laugh a little. A Member Service Representative summarized it nicely,

“Um, duh!? Being happy is uber important. It’s, like, why we’re here.”  

Exactly. So why aren’t more employees happy? In Good to Great, Jim Collins said, “Few people attain great lives, in large part because it is just so easy to settle for a good life.”

Perhaps we don’t take enough time to reflect on what matters most in our lives. Without that reflection, it’s hard to make conscious choices that align with our true values. Perhaps we are too busy “should-ing” on ourselves. I should do this, I should do that. “Should-ing” in life inhibits succeeding in life.

If a person is not doing well in their personal life, they won’t do well for our credit unions. If people are not happy outside of work, how can they be happy inside of work?

The NTCUE Project

I’ve come to believe it’s not about work/life balance. And it’s not about work/life blend.

It’s work/life transcendence.

The definition of transcendence is: a state of being or existence above and beyond the limits of material experience; the state of excelling or surpassing or going beyond usual limits.

I plan to go beyond the usual limits of training programs. To create a program that helps employees on a different level, one that is rooted in personal values. I believe that from that source, performance on all levels will follow.

A few months ago I launched a small pilot program, and already observe it working. After eight one-hour coaching meetings, we are at the point of interim evaluation. One of the participants, an Assistant Manager who had a lot of management training at Starbucks said, “I can honestly say that I have grown more in the past eight weeks than in any other program that I have had the privilege to be a part of.”

What I want to do over the course of this competition is prove it, refine it, and share it.

Phase 1: prove it. I plan to start with research to back up this model of work/life transcendence. I want to gather more evidence about the importance of this work. I will deliver more programs to establish these results are not a fluke. 

Phase 2: refine it. Credit unions are value based. Aligning corporate values with personal values can foster engaged advocacy. I plan to draw upon Credit Union Development Education (CUDE) resources to support this vision.

Phase 3: share it. One of the benefits we have as credit unions is sharing our cooperative strength. I see this project as a means to collectively contribute ideas, resources, and best practices within our credit union movement. I invite your expertise.

I hope the outcome of this experiment is a model that others will want to adopt.

I’m excited for this opportunity and want to thank you for giving me the chance to try to make a difference.

Regional Finalist – West