Career advancement requires forming and maintaining relationships, networking, the willingness to take on new responsibilities, and, perhaps most important, fearlessness.
That’s according to a panel of marketers turned CEOs who shared leadership insights at the 2023 CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council Conference Monday in Orlando.
In a discussion led by Tansley Stearns, president/CEO at Community Financial Credit Union in Plymouth, Mich., panelists offered advice to marketers and business developers seeking a path to the C-suite.
“It’s all about relationships and taking the time to build and nurture those relationships,” says Whitney Anderson-Harrell, CEO at Elements Financial Credit Union in Indianapolis. “Also, get the job done. You need to have results and articulate those. Having that opportunity gets you a seat at the table.
“Be brave and confident and say what needs to be said. Don’t be afraid.”
Don’t confuse busyness with value, advises Paris Chevalier, president/CEO at South Bay Credit Union in Redondo Beach, Calif.
“Early in my career, I felt I should be promoted because I was working hard and putting in the time,” she says. “Put your energy toward what the next level of leaders need. I wasted a lot of hours.”
Also, take on new and different responsibilities.
“Say ‘yes’ to things you don’t normally do,” Chevalier says, citing involvement in asset/liability committee meetings at a previous credit union. “As my career progressed, I needed finance education, so I got my MBA. Say yes to opportunities to get additional credentials.”
An early mentor for Nader Moghaddam told him success isn’t about working hard but strategically smart.
“Think about what you’d do if you were CEO,” says Moghaddam, president/CEO at Financial Partners Credit Union in Downey, Calif. “What’s the strategic importance? Level up: What’s the CEO thinking about? Learn and be relevant to that priority.”
It’s also important to “bust out of” marketing and business development and learn about other areas of the credit union, he says. “You need to understand risk, compliance, and operations. Stretch yourself and get out of your comfort zone.”
If your goal is to become a CEO, don’t wait, says Andy Reed, president/CEO at Security First Credit Union in Edinburg, Texas. “Everything in life has a reason and a season and a lifetime. Keep learning and growing, but don’t wait. You’ll never know everything you need to know, but don’t wait on your dreams.”
Prove yourself regularly, adds Mike Akers, president/CEO at Bay Credit Union in Panama City, Fla., and FLAG Credit Union, a division of Bay Credit Union, in Tallahassee, Fla.
“Prove yourself each month or quarter,” he says. “What gets measured gets tracked. Get this in front of the right people. When there’s a bump in the road, that’s when you need marketing.
“And get the right people on the bus or off the bus,” he continues. “The hardest part is finding the right fit for people. Look for opportunities to have difficult conversations: How do we succeed jointly?”