Article

Inclusion Starts at the Top

diverse leadership group
Dionne R. Jenkins Photo
VP/diversity & inclusion
Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union

2 minutes

When leaders look for a diversity of ideas, they avoid groupthink and get better results.

The only way for any diversity and inclusion program to survive and be effective is through leadership commitment. My credit union, Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, Chattanooga, has 13 members on the senior leadership team, including president/CEO Todd Fortner, CCE, a CUES member.

We have our asset/liability management meeting, which is now virtual, every Tuesday to discuss ideas, provide updates, and find solutions to existing or potential problems. During the weekly discussions, Fortner will present a question or a problem and ask each of us for our input. He wants honest, creative feedback and open dialogue to weigh the pros and cons of every decision.  

Effective leaders know that you need to surround yourself with people who will be truthful, authentic and willing to challenge your ideas to find better-fitted solutions. If those around you are in constant agreement with you, it is time to surround yourself with new people. Innovation is stifled by groupthink.

After the rollout of a new product or service, if a decision we made falls short of expectations, we come back to the table to discuss what went wrong, how we could improve and if we should scrap the idea. Through collaboration and collective voice, our organization is able to garner the best results.

Currently, we are an organization with net assets of $1.8 billion. That success did not come from one individual making all of the decisions. Listening and learning from our members, employees, board members and the community at-large, our leadership team has made wise decisions creating a positive impact on our growth and sustainability as an organization.  

Diversity comes in many dimensions. Credit unions committed to bringing about real and effective change need to invest in a position fully dedicated to championing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. Part-time effort for full-time work simply will not do. The strategies and initiatives implemented at each organization may be different, but the outcomes will produce unimaginable benefits.

CUES member Dionne R. Jenkins is VP/diversity & inclusion at $1.8 billion Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union, Chattanooga. She works collaboratively with senior leadership to increase staff diversity and advance the CU’s mission and vision through recruitment, retention and community engagement. Jenkins earned her B.S. in business administration and her MBA from Bryan College. Her motto is, “I want to inspire people. I want someone to look at me and say, ‘Because of you, I didn’t give up!’” She and her husband, Don, have a daughter and two sons.

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