Bishop Dr. Pat McKinstry had a memorable start to her board service at $14 million asset Toledo (Ohio) Urban Federal Credit Union when, during her first meeting, colleagues provided a “total shock” by electing her board chair.
“When I was nominated and asked if I’d do it, I thought, ‘No, that’s too much,’” McKinstry says of the late 2022 meeting. “But I pray for this community, so whatever I can do for it, I will do.”
McKinstry has a long history of uniting people in a common goal. She has 32 years of experience as a pastor, first in the United Methodist denomination and later in the Pentecostal Church, where she sits on the Joint College of African American Pentecostal Bishops. She also leads a charter school and an accredited theological college.
At Toledo Urban Federal, she’s part of a nine-member board that includes other pastors, business owners, a certified public accountant, a Catholic nun, and an attorney, some of whom have two decades of board service. The credit union was founded in a church but now has a community charter.
“What I found with this board was uniqueness with all the different personalities, talents, and gifts that come from different directions and different statuses,” McKinstry says. “Yet we can come together.”
She’s quickly learning about the credit union’s business, meeting with its nine employees and CEO Suzette Collins while “taking a lot of notes and asking probably 1,000 questions a day.”
McKinstry aims to be humble and open to correction as she learns how Toledo Urban Federal fulfills its mission as a community credit union in an urban setting.
Getting up to speed quickly is essential to help the credit union fulfill its new partnership with Bon Secours Mercy Health to offer low-interest loans to homeowners in the central city. Bon Secours is providing $3 million in funding for the five-year housing rehabilitation program.
“The new challenge is working with the partnership, reaching out and renovating the community as a whole,” McKinstry says.
While McKinstry’s journey to board chair isn’t typical, every route to this role comes with a new view and unique challenges. Their perspectives and experiences differ, but board chairs aim to use their leadership role to keep the board focused on key decisions and strategic goals.
‘We have to make sure we’re all aware of our relationship with members and with the leadership team.’
Being elected chair means becoming the board’s pivot point for interacting with the CEO, speaking on behalf of the board to employees and members, ensuring the board meets its own high expectations, and pursuing strategic objectives, says Jeff Rendel, president at Rising Above Enterprises and a former credit union director.
He says the chair’s behind-the-scenes role is critical to engaging directors in decisions and supporting the CEO. An effective board leader assigns directors to committees to evenly share the workload, and facilitates meetings to make sure all voices are heard. That sometimes means going around the table—or virtual meeting screen—to ask each director for input.
“Sometimes the quiet board member is thinking and synthesizing, and has input that’s exactly what the board needs to hear,” Rendel says. “It takes a good board chair to ask, ‘What are your thoughts?’”
Another challenge is turning multiple opinions into a consensus while supporting the CEO’s role in leading an effective executive team and running the credit union. Rendel says board chairs may also struggle with “managing a variety of personalities and involvement levels,” including holding board members accountable for attending meetings and completing required training.
The chair’s role as a conduit between the CEO and board can go beyond meeting professional obligations to impact personal job satisfaction. Rendel cites a CEO who told the board chair that playing on an ice hockey team restored his professional energy.
The chair made sure the full board understood that this outside activity would refresh and likely retain their top executive. Rendel believes this “whole-CEO” approach made for a more effective executive and outstanding strategic results.
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