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Attributes and Skills of Highly Effective Credit Union Managers

Alignment of an organization’s team members is what makes a company successful. Filene research shows that a middle manager with the right skill set can have a positive impact on the performance of a team at the organization level, and good middle managers are also important conduits for good ideas.

Executive Summary

The western end of San Francisco Bay in California is marked by one of the world’s great bridges: the Golden Gate. Famous as much for its iconic orange coloring as for its size, at the time of its completion in 1937, it was the world’s longest suspension bridge at 4,200 feet. Hundreds of vertical cables connect the deck to the gracefully arching main suspension cables. For our purposes, it is these vertical attachments that are interesting.

A suspension bridge works because its stable towers support a long cable between them, and the bridge’s deck literally hangs on the vertical suspenders extending from the main cable. The support towers of the Golden Gate Bridge represent a firm’s senior leaders and their strategic decisions, and the middle managers are the vertical lines that keep that strategic direction in contact with the deck where the members drive. A suspension bridge without these vertical cables is no better than a suspension bridge without towers.

What is the research about?

Filene takes credit union leadership seriously and this report builds on years of analyzing not just the organizational performance of credit unions, but the human factors that make credit unions tick. From a 2005 inquiry linking team dynamics to financial performance, to a 2010 study that showed how best to move good ideas through an organization, to 2009 research that explored the motivators of under-30 credit union employees. Filene recognizes that examining the human side of credit unions is essential.

Employee performance expert Mike Neill has extended those findings in search of the common characteristics of 94 of the credit union system’s best middle managers. The anonymous participants in Neill’s survey were nominated for consistently performing in the top 20% of managers, receiving the highest possible performance evaluation, and earning the highest possible bonus if one was offered. Using statistically valid data that show what is typical for North American professionals, Neill’s research identifies the relevant instances where these high-performing credit union middle managers differ from the norm.

What are the credit union implications?

This report can be used as a tool for hiring and promoting in the middle management ranks. Beyond simply gathering data for comparisons and academic use, this report is useful for showing what kind of employees make superlative middle managers and how your credit union can identify and promote them—putting down cables to the right places.

But whether you use a formal screening mechanism like the one outlined in this report or simply rely on interviewing and your own intuition, understanding these factors and how they play into effective credit union management will allow you to hire and promote more effectively.

This report is sponsored by CUNA Mutual Group.