With 16 full-service locations (two of which were added in 2014) and over $1 billion in assets and 100,000 members, Tyndall Federal Credit Union, Panama City, Fla., has experienced steady and satisfying growth since its founding in 1956.
Tyndall FCU’s 280 employees have been integral to its success, says CUES member James Davis, SVP/chief human resource officer. But like many organizations, hanging on to these valuable resources was starting to prove problematic for the credit union. Although not severe, turnover was occurring at all levels, he says. Adding to the concern was the fact that many older, long-time and higher-level employees were getting ready to retire, potentially resulting in some leadership vacuums since people weren’t being sufficiently trained to move into these positions, he explains.
“There was also an absence of any real succession planning,” Davis adds. “We also saw the need to prepare employees to think beyond their immediate branch and think more globally as to how decisions and strategies affect all aspects of the operation.”
There is just so much involved in being the kind of leader people want to follow, says CUES member Jim Warren, president/CEO. “Consequently, we recognized the need for better leadership training. We also wanted to be a role model in this effort for other credit unions that, as we do, want to develop more inspiring leadership the right way.”
In response, Davis and his team began devising a strategy that might address these concerns. The result of their efforts was the Tyndall University; a development program intended to prepare mid-level managers/executives from various areas and departments within the organization (inside and outside of the operational headquarters) for leadership and career advancement, and to provide for the credit union’s future succession needs.
The Transformational Team
The decision was made to create a team of six selected, qualified staff members based on a specific set of criteria, says Davis. Prospective members were required to have:
- a minimum of three years of progressive service in mid-management roles or two years in upper-management roles, albeit still below the executive leadership team, which is composed of those reporting directly to Warren;
- two years of above-average overall performance ratings;
- a stated desire to move into senior management; and
- the willingness to spend extra time serving and actively participating in additional quarterly projects and duties.
Once the top six candidates were identified, they were notified and given the opportunity to accept, which all six did. The first (and so far the only) team was formed in October 2014 with the initial meeting taking place in early November. One of the first tasks presented to the new team was coming up with a name that would aptly describe the character of the group, says Davis.
“An array of suggestions was tabled,” he recalls. “The final unanimous choice by the group was to describe themselves as ‘The Transformational Team.’”
The development program is designed to function just like the credit union’s executive leadership team. Although intended as a three-year program, a team member can be promoted or terminated out of the team before that time is up, says Davis. The concept is that every year, two members will graduate from the program, with these graduates replaced by two new members selected by the remaining team and based on the same criteria.
Moving on Up
Jamie Goodwin and Diane Floyd are members of the first “Transformational Team,” part of the “Tyndall University” leadership development program, created by $1 billion/100,000-member Tyndall FCU in late 2014. At the beginning of 2015, Goodwin and Floyd were asked to serve in an interim executive capacity after the exit of Tyndall FCU’s former COO, says CUES member James Davis, SVP/chief human resource officer.
“Over the past year, both have highly succeeded in fulfilling their respective executive roles and thus will be granted full VP status on the executive leadership team,” says Davis.
Prior to becoming a member of the team, Floyd, whose current title is VP/chief lending officer, had just completed one year of leadership training and welcomed the opportunity the team offered to move forward with additional training and experience and the chance it gave her to learn more about other areas of the credit union.
“This global view is a tremendous advantage when making decisions within my department,” she says. “I feel it has improved my ability to make the best decisions for our members.”
Goodwin, VP/branch operations, describes his participation in the Transformational Team as one of the best experiences of his career. “The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that each team member has his/her own area of expertise and that we should respect what each brings to the table,” he says. “This awareness is what makes this team great. We acknowledge each person’s expertise and listen to the team as a whole; no one person [dominates].”
Like Floyd, he appreciates being able to see the big picture the team experience has provided. Participating in the development and execution of various programs within the CU—such as training, financial literacy, trend research and employee-focused programs designed to ensure that staff feels valued—has been another plus.
“I always wanted to be a part of something that can, and will, change peoples’ lives for the better,” says Goodwin, explaining why he decided to join the team. “In this case, I’m able to create ideas and execute projects that make the employees feel valued, and develop products that may save members money or make the way they do business more convenient.
“CUs that don’t have a leadership team program should consider creating one,” he continues. “Not only does it help develop future executives, but it brings a multi-faceted team approach to any situation involving your CU and employees.”
It also helps employees to see there is a path for advancement, Floyd adds. “This is a confirmation that the path exists,” she says. “They can see supervisors and managers they work with being promoted. When the top level of staff continually comes from outside the organization, it’s hard to believe advancement opportunities exist.”
“We believe this will serve to reinforce the importance of choosing the right team members who will share in the drive and desire to succeed,” explains Davis. “This also gives the existing team members the ownership, authority and responsibility of making sure they build a cohesive and highly functional team.”
The team is responsible for setting its own meeting schedule. “They can meet as much or as little as they see fit,” says Davis, but typically meet for an hour or two every week to every other week. Being able to get all team members together for their scheduled meetings has posed about the only challenge, since one member works enough of a distance away that driving every week or two to headquarters, where the meetings are held, isn’t always feasible. The team resolved this via video conferencing.
The team must also:
- Self-motivate, manage and take responsibility for all actions, delivering “substantial, tangible and sustainable results,” says Davis.
- Participate in offsite education/training. A three-year curriculum of conferences and seminars was developed, with each team member being assigned and expected to attend at least two every year.
- “[Afterward], the participating team members are expected to return and, with the team, develop and implement a project based on what they learned” at the events, Davis explains. “The group is also assigned two Tyndall-specific projects for each fiscal year. So, there is the expectation for the group completing eight projects total each year.”
As of this writing, two team members were promoted into executive positions at the end of 2015 after successfully serving in interim positions for a year. Although not every graduating member may immediately step into an executive position, they are at least primed to do so when the right position becomes available, says Davis.
Transformational Benefits & Successes
“In my 25 years as a CEO, here and at other credit unions, I’ve hired a lot of people and a lot of executives,” says Warren. “And I have found there’s no better way to build a great team than doing so internally. There are just so many benefits to this; it’s better for the whole credit union, from top to bottom.”
Employees learn to think strategically, acquiring a big-picture perspective rather than focusing on any one particular area, Davis explains. They also get to work closely with other department leaders throughout the organization, further enabling them to understand the impact that strategic undertakings have on the entire CU.
One of the team’s projects was researching, designing and implementing a new incentive package for hourly employees, with an eye toward increasing morale, productivity and efficiency, says Davis. The undertaking took about four months, with the team’s suggestions implemented by the second quarter of 2015. So far, the results have been very positive, says Davis, explaining that projects assigned to the team are driven by credit union needs.
Perhaps one of the biggest successes has come with the sense of opportunity the team gives employees and the potential stability this spells for the CU. “Leadership training has been essential in terms of getting employees to see Tyndall as a career,” says Warren. “We’re letting them know we want them to grow with the CU, that we value them and that they have a future here.”
The Transformational Team may also eventually pay it forward, Davis says. “In theory, we foresee that the graduating members of the first team would then branch off into two groups: the Transformational Team and a lower-level team intended to prepare employees to move up to the higher-level Transformational Team by facilitating, coaching, mentoring and managing in the same fashion. This lower-level team would also be a three-year program.”
This two-team strategy hasn’t yet been implemented; the plans are to have the Transformational Team grow into two groups by 2018, says Davis.
He believes this strategy could work for any credit union, although it does require establishing meaningful and appropriate educational curriculum. “[Then], select the right participants for the team and lay down the ground rules up front,” he says. “And then step back out of the way as you watch the future leaders of your credit union do amazing things.”
Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer based in Long Beach, Calif.