Bridging generations of leadership in the credit union movement

Around the globe, young leaders are making their impact felt at credit union conferences. While WYCUP and Crash events are perhaps the best known, other young leader conference events are creating forums for young leaders to build amazing relationships and gain practical learning experiences. They can be intense and a little exhausting but they’re the best way to maximize and grow the young leader community while looking to the future of the credit union system!

The Canadian version of these events, CUNextGen, was held for the third time this May as a pre-conference event at the Canadian Credit Union Conference in beautiful Banff, Alberta. CUNextGen is put on by the National Young Leaders Committee (NYLC) whose mission is to “strengthen the credit union system by bridging generations of leadership.”

This year’s facilitator was the inspiring Sandra McDowell, VP Communication & Culture, at First Credit Union. As a founding member of the NYLC ten years ago, it was great to have Sandra integrate practical stories from her own personal leadership journey in the context of having been in “our shoes.”

Sandra has done a lot of work in examining elements of leadership, especially diving into the neuroscience involved. Young leaders had completed DiSC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness) leadership assessments as pre-work which gave us a platform to hear different perspectives, find commonality, and see the value and the challenges of each approach..

Following this, we put our learning to the test in an experiential game of countries vying for status in a newly-merged “Imperia.” Cooperative principles, leadership qualities, passion and practicality (and perhaps a little greed!) were all important players in the end result.

The concluding session was a “human library” of executives from credit unions and CUSOs (credit union service organizations) from across Canada and the US. This was a key exercise in bridging the generations where both young leaders and “books” engaged in rich dialogue and questions. It’s not that often that we get the chance to engage CEOs in this way and their interest in supporting the next generation is critical to the success of the system.

After taking in the opening reception of the main conference, we hopped on a bus and headed off to Lake Louise for a “good ol’ western party.” Much frivolity, singing, and all kinds of dancing – including line – ensued. After starting the day as a room of strangers, we had all made new friends and an amazing tone (tone-deaf singing notwithstanding) had been set for the rest of the conference.

On the second day, Sandra led us in a closer look at ourselves and the impact we have on others. We talked about developing our EQ (“IQ gets you the interview, EQ gets you the job”) and the need for emotional intelligence in our lives. Sandra gave us some opportunity to think about mindfulness and grounded all of it in deeper insights into the neuroscience behind it. She also walked us through different coaching frameworks, giving us insight into when we aren’t coaching but teaching/telling/mentoring instead.

The final group activity was to build a LEGO creation at each table that represented what we had learned throughout the two days. The theme of leading with “heart and backbone” was picked up by several groups which Sandra was really excited to see. It’s her personal philosophy which she believes is needed more in our system.

To close out CUNextGen, the NYLC announced a donation of $2,500 to the Banff Community Foundation. Over the years, the NYLC has raised more than $100,000 for the work of the Cooperative Development Foundation through various fundraising activities and decided this year to focus on the local region where the conference takes place. This approach, which will be enhanced in the future, was supported by the National Credit Union Social Responsibility committee and the local Bow Valley Credit Union in selecting the foundation.

Using CUNextGen as a launching pad, young leaders spoke up and used their voices to impact the future of the system throughout the main conference. Through presentations by finalists in the National Credit Union Young Leader Awards, questions asked during keynotes and sessions, and NYLC members reaching out to gain insight into what more they can do to support the growing network, young leaders were noticed by all generations. The future is bright!

Benjamin Janzen

Benjamin Janzen

Benjamin Janzen is the Stewardship in Action Advisor at Mennonite Savings and Credit Union, Canada’s largest faith-based credit union. He works on projects advancing peace, social justice, and mutual ... Web: Details

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