Tansley Stearns

Boundless vision

Tansley Stearns champions empathy and innovation.

September 24, 2021

The art of listening underscores all that Tansley Stearns does, from the projects she launches at Canvas Credit Union to her volunteer work.

“A core part of who we are at Canvas is empathetic, and we build everything we do around listening,” says Stearns, chief people and strategy officer at the $3.5 billion asset credit union in Lone Tree, Colo.

Since joining Canvas in 2018, Stearns has thrived on being able to “share ideas, manifest change, and see that change followed through.”

She collaborated with her team to create the credit union’s podcast, “In the Room with Todd Marksberry.” The show, hosted by Canvas President/CEO Todd Marksberry, features conversations with leaders in the community and the credit union movement.

“The conversations are most magical when we hear about a time a leader didn’t know what to do and how they found their way through,” says Stearns. “It humanizes what it means to lead.”

Stearns also forged a 2020 partnership between Canvas and the Filene Research Institute using data to measure the well-being of Canvas members against that of nonmembers in Colorado. The initiative revealed that Canvas members have greater health, social, and financial well-being than nonmembers.

Canvas can leverage these concrete results to elevate engagement and drive growth. “Tansley’s ability to join innovation with research shows that her vision has no bounds,” says Kitsi Hubbard, marketing director at Canvas.

Stearns promotes a company culture that encourages employees to “bring their full selves” to work.

“When you come to Canvas, we invite you to be uniquely who you are,” she says. “Different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives make us better and elevate what we do.”

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Canvas launched a series of roundtables for small groups of team members to discuss concerns and challenges with Marksberry. Stearns sits in on the sessions and draws valuable insights from each.

“The real gift is people hearing one another,” she says. “Being able to understand one another is a big part of what we do.”

Stearns applies the same principles to her volunteer work. As the CUNA Marketing & Business Development Council’s 2020 Volunteer of the Year, “she showed us all what exemplifying credit union values means,” says Hubbard.

Stearns and her daughter, MacKenzie, volunteer with Fostering Love Rescues (an animal rescue founded by fellow credit union leader Mollie Bell of Ent Credit Union), and Stearns serves on its board.

She also volunteers with Crisis Text Line, a free resource for mental health support and crisis intervention.

“Mental health is something we don’t talk enough about,” she says. “We think nothing of talking to someone about an ailment with our elbow, but if something is hurting our brains and our hearts, we’re very reticent to say that.”

In this role, the ability to listen serves Stearns well. “To be able to support somebody—to find a bit of joy or peace in their day so they can see tomorrow through—is a big deal,” she says.

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