No More Business as Usual

birds on a wire with one rising above the crowd on a red balloon
By Tammy O’Hara

2 minutes

CUES Governance Leadership Institute participants learn to think bigger (and differently).

I challenge any director to attend CUES Governance Leadership Institute and then return to his or her credit union and do business as usual. Attending provides amazing discussions and a significant toolbox of information. In all, the program helps new directors get a foothold and experienced ones re-energize.

In June, I had the honor and pleasure to attend in Toronto with 40 credit union folks. About half were from Canada, half from the United States and two from Barbados.

A particularly interesting discussion was the one about board compensation. Some U.S. states allow compensation for directors of state-chartered CUs, but such payment for directors of federal CUs is not allowed. Several U.S. directors joked they would be moving to Canada where compensation for directors is commonplace. The two directors from Barbados receive a monthly stipend.

Travel and education budgets were all over the place for program participants, with some having a dollar limit and others a number of trips limit. With the large time commitment and the responsibilities and liability that go along with the “job” of serving on a CU board, it could make sense for U.S. directors to be paid in the future.

In addition, we considered how directors are selected and elected. Key questions to ask included: Is the board truly representative of the CU’s members? Does your nominating committee include “outsiders” who help provide an unbiased view of other candidates when it comes time for elections? Do you even hold elections?

Because the board sets the tone for the credit union, our instructors at CUES Governance Leadership Institute pointed out the real need to do board evaluations and peer assessments. These efforts can provide incredible insight for bettering both the board as a whole and directors individually.

What best practices were described for dealing with underperforming directors? They should either be mentored/developed or removed. While the chair typically oversees director performance management, an assessment from an outside party can be a useful tool in boosting performance.

There was high energy every day in both the main classroom and in the many breakout groups. We were challenged to present points and counterpoints about a variety of case studies. The “decisions” we were making could make or break a company. All of this drove home the point that successful directors will look at credit union issues from a variety of perspectives, not just through the lens of their habitual way of thinking. In all, directors left inspired and better equipped to better lead their organizations.

Tammy O’Hara is CUES’ VP/member relations for the Southeast region of the United States and the Caribbean.

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