Establishing the CAP COM Cares Foundation changed everything: Consumers have a lot of financial services choices here in the capital region of New York. We feel very strongly that our credit union’s community efforts are a differentiator.
In 2003, we organized our efforts toward education, wellness, and those residents who really needed help.
As that took root, it was a turning point for our credit union. Community involvement gave us visibility, and connected us with “like” partners. It was a win-win. Our networking, visibility, and focus all improved.
CAP COM went from being the best-kept secret to a household name. People started talking about us and liked what they saw. As a result, our greatest source of new members is referrals.
Employee engagement starts on Day 1: I realized a long time ago that if we were to keep great people here, we had to be more than a paycheck—we had to touch their heart and soul.
As the organization grew bigger, from nine employees when I started 35 years ago to nearly 300 today, we had to make sure every single person understood his or her role.
At our new-employee orientation, we spend 90 minutes talking about the CAP COM mission, our core values, and why we come to work every day. We want employees to understand our commitment to members, safety, and excellence.
We turn tasks into opportunities for greatness. I tell them, use our dental plan and make sure your teeth are shiny white, because we’re a friendly organization that changes people’s lives.
I want members to leave saying, “Wow, I had an unbelievable experience.”
Employee recognition is important: Every week, I try to present at least five GUSTO awards. That stands for Greet the member, Use the member’s name, Smile (even on the phone), Thank the member, and Offer a handshake.
Our GUSTO symbol is a bee, because bees are a miracle of nature. They shouldn’t be able to fly. Their body weight is 10 times the capability of their wings. But nobody told them that, so guess what? They do—fly high and pollinate beautiful flowers.
I’ve always believed that leadership is about the success of those around you. I work hard to make sure people are succeeding, empowered, and know they are very important to where we go from here. I say “thank you” a lot.
I’m proud of my relationship with our volunteers: When I became CEO in 2004, it was the first time many of our board members dealt with a woman in business. We worked hard in those first couple of years to even the playing field and make sure our communication was strong.
There was never any looking back. They have embraced my style.
We instituted volunteer assessment forms that help us evaluate from self-reflection: What do I think I’m contributing? What value do I bring to the organization? How can I contribute more?
Everyone is crystal clear there is an expectation you’ll be engaged and involved in CAP COM. Some people have not run for re-election because it’s clear they don’t have the time commitment we’re looking for. On the other hand, we have greater levels of commitment because we do have that open communication.
We’re blessed to have a seasoned board, and I wouldn’t be where I am without the perspective and expertise of our chairman, Ed Gilligan. He was a high-level executive for Verizon for many years. His wisdom has been invaluable to me.
He’s a man who grew up in a world of blue suits and men, so when our paths converged, it was a change for both of us. I think we’ve both grown from the relationship.
Our mission is straightforward: To be a sought-after financial institution whose unbridled commitment to members and the community will be unmatched by anyone. Those key words say it all: We have values and integrity, and you know what we stand for and what we live out, every day. CAP COM has an army of people who believe in this.
When I first got into management and read mission statements in planning session books, most of the time I thought, “What do they really mean?” They were long paragraphs that sounded good but didn’t mean anything.
This baby is one sentence and it’s not hard. That’s the art of our success at CAP COM: Make it easy.
Over the next five years: We’ll advance our mobile reach. It’s already strong but we’re developing technologies so that no matter where you travel in life, we’ll be right in your hand. That’s already very important with the millennial generation and will be with my generation of baby boomers, because they’re going to retire and travel.
Millennials have no boundaries. They’re dreamers and they’re chasing their dreams. We want to make sure that even if they don’t stay in the capital region of New York, they stay with us.
That also means our call center capabilities and branch networks must continue to advance. There’s still plenty of opportunity for us to build that presence.
My bar for excellence is high: I’ve been blessed to be in the credit union movement for 35 years, and I’ve learned a lot in that time. One thing I say is, always be polite but never settle.
Dream, and dream big—that’s how you move mountains and make miracles happen and change the future.
I see a lot of people who are very comfortable in what they do. I would say people never describe me as “comfortable.” I’m high-energy, and I’m always pushing the bar higher. I celebrate loudly, I play hard, and I really appreciate people.