The Leadership Bet, LLC founder Bill Partin

Passing the leadership torch

Recently retired CEO Bill Partin on leading others, taking calculated risks, and instilling the right culture.

August 30, 2023

Bill Partin spent 42 years in the financial services world, including the past decade as the CEO at $1.9 billion asset Sharonview Federal Credit Union in Fort Mill, S.C.

Now retired, Partin passes his leadership journey, principles, and methods down through The Leadership Bet LLC, which he founded in 2020 to offer speaking, executive coaching, and strategic consulting.

Credit Union Magazine recently caught up with Partin to discuss leadership, lessons he’s learned, and what he’d like to see from the next generation of leaders.

Credit Union Magazine: Congrats on retirement. What are you doing now with The Leadership Bet?

Bill Partin: A couple of things I love. I love to coach people, and I enjoy public speaking and talking about leadership.

It's been a lifelong passion of mine. Ten years into my career, I realized that leadership is the difference maker. I started reading how-to books and it led me on this 32-year search of how to how to be a good leader. That's part of what The Leadership Bet is about.

I’ve been fortunate to have people in my life who pushed me and gave me opportunities. I want to pay that forward.

Q: How did your credit union career inform what you’re doing with The Leadership Bet?

A: I experienced that leadership really makes a difference. Net promoter score and employee engagement don’t grow on trees. You’ve got to build a group of folks who can lead, and you have to put some money into it—as well as time, energy, blood, sweat, and tears.

When we set up our strategic plan in 2016, I put leadership as a strategic pillar.

We were a top workplace in Charlotte in 2021 and a top workplace in Charlotte and the U.S. in 2022. Sharonview Federal was named a top workplace in South Carolina in 2023.

It wasn’t about, “Look at what I've done or what the team has done.” It was the staff talking about the people-first culture we tried to build. Those top workplace results show the dividends of the leadership strategic pillar.

Q: How would you describe your leadership style?

A:Collaborative. I wanted to surround myself with people smarter than me—a mixed group of executive leaders who had different voices and concerns, and weren’t “yes” people.

We need critical thinkers who can think on their feet, ask the hard questions, and not make assumptions. Things got dicey at times, but we created the right amount of friction to make sure we were doing what was best for the organization.

‘Pay homage to history, but how are you going to move forward?’
Bill Partin

Q: How do you navigate calculated risks?

A: Life's full of risk. I wanted to make sure the credit union was taking appropriate risks, and the same thing for me personally.

If I felt like I was done learning at a particular organization, I’d think, “What do I want to do next? How does it fit my career plan? What is it that I don't know?”

Before jumping into the stockbroker world, I’d been doing on-and-off research for about a year, interviewing some stockbrokers about what it’s like.

The Sharonview job was also a huge bet for my wife and I because I’d been in Los Angeles all my life. But trying to do the big job had a lot of allure, so Kim and I talked and decided to make the move.

That’s also where you need some truth tellers; people who’ll say, “Hey, maybe that’s not a great idea. Did you think about this?”

Making bets involves conducting research, talking to the right people, and making sure you have truth tellers in your life. Then, sometimes you’ve just got to make the leap.

Q: What are some of the big lessons you learned as a CEO?

A: You can't overcommunicate with your board of directors. Board members are volunteers. They do this part-time, and they’re busy. Don't take it for granted that they’ll remember something you said two months ago.

I made a conscious effort to let employees know we cared about them. If I saw someone, I could recall their name and a story about them; something they told me last time I was there.

I learned not to get enamored with the past. Things are evolving. Pay homage to history, but how are you going to move forward?

Q: What advice would you offer aspiring CEOs?

A: I had an executive coach the last 14 years of my career, and I wish I would have had one the 14 before that. I'd bring her a situation and she'd ask me three great questions, such as, “You approached it this way, how do you think it went over?” I found so much value in it.

I encourage people to be their authentic selves. Figure out what's important and what drives you.

Q: What tips do you have for people who are already CEOs?

A: You need to be able to have candid conversations with each other. Encourage people. We had a four-to-one ratio of positive feedback versus negative.

When you reach the CEO level, it gets harder to spend time with staff. But you’ve got to be open to feedback. It helps create an open, honest environment.

How do you handle constructive feedback? It’s hard to hear when something doesn’t land, but I was glad people were willing to tell me.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

A: I'm now the full-time gardener and pool guy for the family. I love being outdoors. I started running again to train for a half marathon, and I’m trying to read 24 books this year. My wife and I love to hike, boat, waterski, and play racquetball.

I love hanging out with my family. Our daughter, son in law, and two grandsons are about 30 minutes south of us, and our son, daughter in law, and granddaughters are in Edmund, Okla. We sneak away there whenever we can.