The Evolution of Credit Union Leadership, pt.2

Graduates of the Leadership Institute Share their Perspectives

Last week, we sat down with two recent graduates of the Mountain West Credit Union Association’s Leadership Institute to ask them about their experience. If you haven’t yet read the interview with Melanie Hutchison and Shannon Hempelman, I encourage you to do so.

Bernie ChaviraThis week, I spoke with another of the program’s graduates, Bernie Chavira, Senior Director of Mortgage Origination at Desert Schools Federal Credit Union to ask him about his experience at the Institute.

Here is what he had to say…

For Bernie, the most valuable aspect of the Leadership Institute was the breadth and depth of the discussions that happened throughout the program. The Institute is not like traditional classroom learning, where students sit and listen to lectures and then take a test. Each session is set up to allow participants to dive in to real scenarios and work through questions, challenges, and possible solutions – together.

It’s that unique participatory aspect of the program that Bernie most appreciated – the hours spent with peers of all different positions, experience levels, and ages, as they worked together to better understand what it means to be a leader within the Credit Union Movement

“I really believe in the program, largely because of how its set up to facilitate discussions in which everyone learns something – where everyone comes away with new insight and ideas, often to old challenges that those of us who have been in the industry for a while have long stopped examining. The facilitators did a particularly great job of asking open ended questions and then leaving no other option but for us, as a group, to work towards answers. As a result, the deeper we got into the program, the more open and honest the discussions became. The sessions were structured to create this safe place where all of us could openly discuss problems, share ideas, and offer feedback. It was tremendous.”

Bernie explained that although the material itself wasn’t particularly new to him, the application of the material in such a concreate way generated new insights and ideas that apply directly to his role at Desert Schools. Every student at the Leadership Institute has a passion for the Credit Union Movement and a deep desire to become better leaders. But, some come from very small Credit Unions, while others come from large. Some have years of experience and a long string of accomplishments to their name, while others are just getting started.

Having been in the industry for a while, Bernie especially enjoyed hearing what his younger peers from the Millennial generation had to say. He loved how curious most of them were, noting how much they challenged the status quo, constantly asking, “Why?”, and then suggesting innovative alternatives.

Bernie not only benefited from the discussions he had with other classmates, but also from how open the facilitators were about sharing their own experiences.

“The facilitators weren’t there to “give” us the answers. We were required to apply critical thinking to different situations and questions, and come up with answers and solutions. But, that doesn’t mean they just sat there watching us work. During the sessions, the facilitators shared so much of their own experience and knowledge. They not only taught the material, they were extremely open about sharing learning experiences from their past. Often, they would tell us about a situation in which they made a mistake, what they learned from it, and how we can avoid making the same mistake.”

As with Shannon and Melanie, Bernie also really appreciated the 360 assessment, especially the conversations had with facilitator Art Dylan. Art’s approach is about listening, assessing, and then coaching his students, and he’s extremely focused on their success.

“When Art came to my office, I offered to take him around and introduce him to everyone. He respectfully responded by telling me that he was there only for me and suggested we go straight to my office so that we could maximize our time together. It made me realize how much he was invested in my success – how serious he was about helping me get better at my craft. It felt great to know that he was all in.”

I asked Bernie if he would recommend the program to other Credit Union professionals and why. He responded by telling me that he’d already recommended the program to a couple of colleagues. He also expressed his perspective that the program is essential to the growth and development of anyone in the Credit Union industry currently in a position of leadership, and all who aspire to lead.

“So often, we’re operating day in and day out in our own little bubbles. It’s so easy to get into ruts and not even realize how much that’s stifling our creativity. The Leadership Institute pulls you out of that bubble, exposing you to fresh perspectives and forcing you to think about things in an innovative way. It’s extremely powerful and immensely valuable.”

Could next year be your year?

The Leadership Institute is an opportunity to learn new things, refine your current skills, become more self-aware of who you are as a leader, and enhance your tool kit to where you can only succeed. It’s not just an opportunity to grow professionally. You will also experience personal development that will enhance your relationships outside of work, supporting you in your desire to be a better leader in every situation.

If you, or someone you work with, is interested in attending the Mountain West Credit Union Association Leadership Institute next year, please contact Diana Stoick at or 307.265.9250 for more information and to apply.

About Dan Finerty

Dan Finerty is the Director of Marketing at the Mountain West Credit Union Association, a Credit Union champion, a Credit Union Development Educator (CUDE), and an award-winning marketer. Dan has over 14 years of marketing experience in communications, retail, packaged goods, and, of course, Credit Unions. He believes that Credit Unions have an incredible story to tell and works with some of the brightest Credit Union professionals to help promote Credit Unions to the public. Dan holds two Bachelor’s of Science in Marketing and in Management. He is also a swell guy.

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