The CUInsight Experience podcast: Caroline Willard – Summit together (#147)

"There is more that unites us than divides us." - Caroline Willard

Thank you for tuning in to episode 147 of The CUInsight Experience podcast with your host, Randy Smith, co-founder of This episode is brought to you by Elan Credit Card. Elan partners with more than 250 credit unions to provide an outsourced credit card program, and offers merchant and mortgage services for credit union members and business owners.

My guest on today’s show is Caroline Willard, President and CEO at the Cornerstone Credit Union League. She is also on the Executive Committee of the CUNA Board of Directors. Recently, Caroline and I, along with others, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro for Climb Africa to benefit The ACCOSCA Academy. Caroline shares, “What started as an adventure, turned into becoming a better global citizen,” when discussing her takeaways from visiting the growing continent and supporting Savings and Credit Cooperatives (SACCOs). Caroline discusses all that went into this six day climb and surprisingly, while training for the physical aspect, she noticed it was much more of a challenge mentally. She explains how leadership lessons emerged through this adversity.


During our conversation, Caroline talks about a possible merger in the future and how this will benefit the efficiency and culture of the association.  She also talks about the biggest challenges that credit unions are facing and how they must continue to evolve in order to overcome these challenges. Caroline connects the work of SACCOs in Africa to credit unions in the U.S and believes they are similar in mission, purpose, and the means to provide a meaningful solution. 

Caroline and I chat about the greatest investment made in her career that is attributed to personal growth. We talk about the value of teams including what she looks for when adding to her team and the importance of open communication and accountability within it. As the league continues to grow, Caroline shares what has her excited and how it will benefit credit unions and their members. 

As we wrap up the show, Caroline talks about what amazed her recently, watching the sun come up on Mt. Kilimanjaro, work-life balance, and an insightful piece of advice from her mother. Enjoy my conversation with Caroline Willard!

Subscribe on: Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher 

Books mentioned on The CUInsight Experience podcast: Book List 

How to find Caroline:
Caroline Willard, President and CEO at Cornerstone Credit Union League
Caroline: LinkedIn | Twitter
Cornerstone: Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | LinkedIn

Show notes from this episode:
A big shout-out to our friends at Elan Credit Card, an amazing sponsor of The CUInsight Experience podcast. Thank you!
Want to hear more from Caroline? Click here.
Shout-out: CUNA
Place mentioned: Kenya
Place mentioned: Tanzania
Shout-out: Lois Kitsch
Shout-out: Climb Africa to Benefit The ACCOSCA Academy
Shout-out: Mt. Kilimanjaro
Shout-out: Jill Nowacki
Shout-out: Caroline’s significant other
Shout-out: David Mategwa
Shout-out: Katy Zaleski
Shout-out: Gerry Singleton
Shout-out: Forbes
Shout-out: The Economist
Shout-out: SACCOs
Shout-out: Ryan Zilker
Shout-out: Mark Myer
Shout-out: Hassan Alukwe Anyanzwa
Shout-out: Fumbani Nyangulu,
Place mentioned: Malawi
Shout-out: Francis Waliwa
Shout-out- Angela Prestil
Shout-out: George Yashon Ombado
Shout-out: Heartland Credit Union
Place mentioned: Missouri
Place mentioned: Kansas
Shout-out: Disney
Shout-out: Pinocchio
Shout-out: Jiminy Cricket
Shout-out: CUES
Shout-out: Steph Sherrodd
Shout-out: Warren Buffet
Shout-out: Dale Carnegie
Shout-out: Development Education Program (DE)
Shout-out: David Miller
Shout-out: FranklinCovey
Shout-out: Mark Meyer
Shout-out: Caroline’s mother
Shout-out: Jennifer Aniston
Place mentioned: Bali
Place mentioned: Iceland
Book mentioned: American Reboot: An Idealist’s Guide to Getting Big Things Done by Will Hurd
Previous guests mentioned: Caroline Willard, Stephanie Sherrodd, Jill Nowacki (episodes 4, 18, 37, 64, 82, 101, 113, 126, & 138)

In This Episode:
[00:43] – Caroline Willard talks about climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro on the recent Climb Africa trip.
[02:26] – What was the purpose of the Climb Africa trip?
[05:13] – What experience does Caroline feel was “humbling” and “gratifying?”
[08:06] – Caroline talks about what surprised her during the 6-day climb.
[10:50] – Were there any emotional moments on the climb up?
[13:03] – “We needed to lift each other up.”
[14:37] – What work did Caroline jump back into after the trip?
[16:44] – Credit unions need to continue to evolve.
[19:12] – “I’m only as good as the team around me.”
[21:53] – How does Caroline keep open communication with her team?
[23:56] – Trust is a huge factor in communicating with team members.
[26:49] – Getting outside your comfort zone is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.
[28:44] – You need to prioritize your goals, and let go of anything unrelated.
[30:42] – What is Caroline’s approach to communicating with her board members?
[32:34] – Caroline talks about managing risk when taking on big ideas in a growing company.
[34:24] – What are Caroline’s thoughts on new work culture and new work environments?
[36:49] – Caroline recalls her first job of making seafood salads.
[38:14] – Caroline tries to be mindful of burnout.
[39:51] – Remember that your job can’t love you back, so take care of your personal relationships.
[41:12] – “Let life unfold.”
[42:45] – Caroline gives props to Lois Kitsch.
[44:33] – Thank you for listening!

Randall Smith

Randall Smith

Randall Smith is the co-founder of, the host of The CUInsight Experience podcast, and a bit of a wanderlust. As one of the co-founders of CUInsight he looks ... Web: Details