Emerging Credit Union Leaders, Take One

“Go in with an open mind. You will get out of it what you put into it.”

This was the most common response I received from previous Emerging Leaders after I was also awarded a scholarship for the Northwest Credit Union Association program. At the time, I didn’t quite know what that meant but it became apparent when I walked in the room for the first day.

The program is led by the DDJ Myers Advancing Leadership Institute, and gives professionals a chance to go through six months of “transformational” training.

I had anticipated a forum with lectures and Power Point presentations in a classroom setting led by distinguished speakers. What I got were chairs set in a giant circle around an invisible table and activities led by altruistic speakers eager to engage in the session.

Susan Geear, Peter Myers, and Tim Tolliver of DDJ Myers didn’t just lead discussions, they participated in our activities, helping us get to the grass root of ourselves. It was clear by then that everyone’s take-a-ways would be different and specific to what each individual wanted to improve on their own.

“Be the Tiger Not the Tea Cup”

Tim opened the session by explaining the difference between the tiger and the tea cup. A tea cup sits on a shelf waiting to be filled, while a tiger goes after what it wants. In that way, the tiger is its own biggest advocate.

I wanted to be a leader that made a difference beyond the borders of my staff and members. I decided that a step in that direction was to participate in a group of leaders given the task to define clear expectations of an employee and a leader in our credit union. That was the foundation for the new sense of confidence I learned at my first Emerging Leaders session.

Breaking Out My Tools Early

Before Emerging Leaders I would have been content to be a fly on the wall. As the room began to fill for our first meeting I could feel the nervous pressure build inside me. However, I used the techniques in my new tool box to feel secure enough to actively participate in conversation and offer opinions. I centered myself. I created an open presence. In that way, the effective communication and leadership presence skills I had learned made that first meeting a success for me.

Looking Back, Long-Term

The activity that had the biggest influence on me was drawing a timeline of the past ten years marked with pivotal points in my life. Sharing that timeline with the group gave me a new viewpoint on how I saw myself, too, using my own timeline as a reference.

For example, my time with a previous employer was filled with many closed doors to opportunity. At one point, I would have attributed these to failure, but the affirmation from the group showed me the opposite: how I had pushed aside those obstacles and continued down my career path, instead.

The true “a-ha!” moment was simply allowing myself to see the coin from the other side and be prepared for those obstacles.

Another impactful activity was discussing my DISC profile, which sought to identify my professional personality and work style. Having in-depth conversations helped me find a comfort zone and adapt to my surroundings more.

  • D (Driven, Decisive);
  • I (Influential, Interpersonal);
  • S (Steady, Systematic);
  • C (Compliant, Conscientious).

If you’re wondering, I am a high S and I but want to display more D with emphasis on decisiveness.


Since my first Emerging Leaders session, my perspective shifted in how I see others, including in my personal life. I actively try to assess what their behavior style is so I can adapt my approach and interaction with them.

My husband was the first one to state a noticeable difference in me. On the phone while I was driving back from the session, he had lots to discuss about the days I was away from home. Previously I would have tried be present in the conversation, even though I couldn’t dedicate the attention needed. Because I had worked on demonstrating effective communication skills, and knowing his DISC profile (D), I said, “Can we have this conversation when I get home so I can give you my full attention? I’m very tired and need this quiet time to reflect on what I’ve learned.”

Hearing those words come out of my mouth nearly shocked the both of us, and he appreciated my directness and honesty. I felt encouraged that I had applied the right technique.

Next Steps

With week one completed of the Emerging Leaders, I can see the lessons learned applying in my day-to-day experience. I actively seek opportunities on applying all I have learned through the program and, while it may not be a noticeable difference to everyone around me, the important part is that I feel different.

I feel great. I feel like I empowered myself to make decisions I might not have made before.

The project will be a big step in my learning development and I’m looking forward to the next session. My biggest take away from week one is: I can only change what I am aware of.

For those of you considering applying for the program, I would highly encourage you to do so, and welcome you to follow my journey as I go through it. It has been a rewarding experience thus far and will post another update in June.

Editor’s Note: Click here to read more about Emerging Leaders, or contact Northwest Credit Union Foundation Managing Director Jamie Dedmon at 206.340.4814 or jdedmon@nwcua.org.

Questions about this story? Contact Eric Horvath: 503.350.2222, ehorvath@nwcua.org.

Posted in Events, NWCUA.