One board chair's approach to director education
Excerpted from CUES' Center for Credit Union Board Excellence.
When newly minted board chair Russ Siemens realized how much information was available on CUES' website, he knew he would need an organized approach to sift through the offerings.
Siemens, who was appointed chair at SaskCentral, Regina, Saskatchewan, in March 2015, has also been on the board at $1.9 billion Innovation CU, Swift Current, Saskatchewan, since its inception 10 years ago. He felt further education was required to fulfill his new duties, but where to start?
“I began by reaching out to our CUES Canada support person, [VP/sales and member relations] Leiha Fiddler, and she guided me to the appropriate resources and the CUES Learning Tracker,” recalls Siemens. SaskCentral and Innovation CU are both members of CUES' Center for Credit Union Board Excellence, giving Siemens access to resources tailored for directors.
Once pointed to CCUBE, Siemens discovered learning plans, tools that group content under topics important to directors and chairs, such as CEO relations, risk management and strategy. CUES Learning Tracker automatically tracked his learning activities and allowed him to report on his progress. If he attends CUES learning events, such as the Board Chair Development Seminar, they’ll show up in the tracker, too.
"If I have a plan in place, it guides me through a process and there's a sense of accomplishment at the end of it," explains Siemens. "The learning tracker provides me with a little star of accomplishment." (Literally!)
Based on his needs, Siemens tackled two learning plans, "Essential Resources for Today's Board Chair" and "CEO Compensation." At the time, his board's goal was to make strides in reaching its vision to become a "nationally unified, internationally capable, cooperative financial network."
"I focused on studying the CUES resources related to the role of a chair in leading the process of mobilizing a vision," Siemens added.
Each plan includes a mix of articles and videos and concludes with application questions to spur discussion and cement key takeaways.
"The videos were the most engaging for me," Siemens says. "The experts in the field, to have them present the material provided greater value to me than just to read the information. I found that when I was watching videos with questions interjected—they ask you to pause and answer—that gave me time to reflect.
"I could see a board working through those videos together, collectively, and pausing and having a great discussion about the material that was presented," he suggests.
"Having the information available and having reviewed it gives me greater confidence at the board table," says Siemens. "I know 'These are the right questions to ask.' And when I have a hunch about something, I'm more likely to speak up."
Danielle Dyer is CUES' assistant editor. Browse CCUBE learning plans for governance, financials, advocacy and more. Learn more about the CUES Learning Tracker and start tracking your cues.org learning activities on your own time, wherever you are, whatever your learning method.