Part I

Q&A: Mazuma CU’s Chief Culture Officer

‘Culture affects everything,’ says Matt Monge.

August 28, 2012

In May, Mazuma Credit Union, a $452 million asset institution in Kansas City, Mo., announced the appointment of Matt Monge as its first chief culture officer.

Credit Union Magazine and Monge recently discussed what it means to foster a healthy culture and why it’s so important to the Kansas City, Mo.-based credit union.

Credit Union Magazine: How much do you like telling people your job title and seeing their reactions to it?

Monge: You know, the title is listed on social networking sites, but when I’m talking with folks in person, I’m generally focusing more on what I have the privilege of doing at Mazuma rather than the title itself.

When people hear about what we’re doing at Mazuma to work toward having a healthy and distinct organizational culture, they usually think it’s pretty cool.

Credit Union Magazine: So what do you actually do? What are your main responsibilities?

Monge: My main responsibility is cultivating a healthy culture. But for us at Mazuma, culture affects everything. We have a vision and desire to build a fantastic workplace, but that’s the easy part.

The hard part—and the part we’re looking forward to working through together—is rolling up our sleeves together and pushing that vision into reality.

We’re trying to pay more attention to the human elements of the organization, so the human resources and learning and culture areas are my primary focus. An additional focus, in the near future, will be on Mazuma’s corporate social responsibility strategy.

Credit Union Magazine: How do you affect the culture of your credit union in a positive way that employees can embrace?

Monge: I think this will be different from organization to organization, especially in its execution, but I can speak a little to what we’re working on at Mazuma. An organization’s culture is like its identity, really; but that identity is lived out by individuals, and by extension, teams.

It’s the individuals in the organization that create cultural norms and values. So really digging in and doing the hard work of building human, vulnerable, committed teams is a critical step in the process.

It’s not a quick and easy step by any stretch, but it’s a necessary and important one.

An organization’s culture is something that takes a lot of time and effort to understand, and then even more time and effort to effect any sort of meaningful change or enhancement.

The key is to create an environment within which the employees—top to bottom—embrace their ownership of the culture.

Culture is a very human thing so, of course, it’s going to be a little messy, and there will be awkward moments and missteps along the way. But you want to intentionally and steadily build an atmosphere where employees can be the unique, distinct, talented people they are in a way that’s consistent with shared group values in terms of attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors.

Culture, done well, becomes something owned—and even safeguarded—by the employees. We want to lock arms together and make decisions every day that have a positive cultural impact on the organization.

Stay tuned: Tomorrow, Monge explains how having a healthy culture benefits Mazuma Credit Union.