Corlinda Wooden

The Nerf of Some People!

Trainer aims to keep people laughing while they learn.

October 2, 2013

Every credit union person who’s met Corlinda Wooden knows she loves brainstorming’s freeform style.

Even so, “Though I’m a big believer in brainstorming, we have a set of rules we follow that everybody must be clear on,” she says. “If somebody breaks a rule, others at the table can lob a Nerf ball at them. This keeps the environment fun and focused.”

Recently relocated to Houston from Unitus Community Credit Union in Portland, Ore., Wooden left behind a legacy of innovation in terms of training and motivating staff. She now runs Wooden Consulting, which aims to teach her methods to credit unions nationwide.

How does Wooden come up with her ideas—such as sessions with Dr. Seuss or game-show themes? “I like to take a cooperative approach and use people’s natural talents and playfulness. We’ll have all-day brainstorming sessions that start off with stimulating mental exercises. Then we cover goals, the results we’re trying to achieve, and how we’re going to achieve them.”

Wooden picked up her techniques by attending many conferences and sales meetings. “I watched how [speakers] motivated people and then rolled those good practices and insights into my own style. I looked at what companies like Nordstrom and Ritz-Carlton were doing to set clear goals and motivate [staff], and wanted something similar we could do ourselves.”

The “Member Service Sales and Service Standards” program Wooden designed stems from enterprise-wide initiatives. “But because branches have their own agendas tailored to their teams and circumstances, we needed to create standards more specific to our unique role.”

Another technique she developed to help keep service standards alive and present was “Consistent Monthly Huddles.” These are structured check-ins across the entire branch network with themes such as “achieve,” “believe,” “own,” or “show.”

During check-ins, “we announce the team’s successes by name, discuss failures—not by name but by description—and maybe look at a funny YouTube video that spoofs a particular situation to help keep everyone laughing while they are learning.

“We never assume that failure was malicious or that somebody was trying to fail,” she continues. “If a person’s intent was good and their heart was in the right place, their mistake becomes a teachable moment.”

Wooden’s training techniques fall into three categories:

  1. Facilitating internal classes;
  2. Leading outside huddles and sales conferences; and
  3. Coaching one-on-one.

“These are the sessions that provide those wonderful ‘aha’ moments, when you see a person understand something. We do these compassionately so the person I’m helping feels comfortable telling me what I need to know and accepting feedback.”

Outside of work, Wooden describes herself as an outdoors woman who grew up with horses. She intends for her two daughters to continue the tradition.