The Inside Scoop On The Chief Executive Institute

The Chief Executive Institute is an executive-level course designed to equip newly seated CEOs with practical tools for growth in a complex and ever-changing marketplace. The program utilizes The Baldridge framework to help participants create a plan for the achievement of strategic goals, improve organizational processes, and become more competitive. The intensive program spans five classroom sessions plus two one-on-one coaching and mentoring sessions. Each classroom session meets for two days with a networking dinner in the evening.

We sat down with one of this year’s Chief Executive Institute’s graduates to get an inside peek into the program and its impact. This is our conversation.

Michael Nagl is the President and CEO of Centennial Lending, a Credit Union service organization in Longmont, Colorado. Michael has served as the organization’s CEO for the past two years and went into the Chief Executive Institute in part because its focus aligned with one of Centennial Lending’s core values.

“Before I applied to the Chief Executive Institute, we had just developed Centennial Lending’s strategic plan, which included our mission and values. During that process, we determined that innovation is one of our core values. I knew that the CEI program was focused on creating value through superior business processes, so the timing was perfect.”

Q: Why did you decide to invest precious time and energy into the Chief Executive Institute this year? What were you hoping to gain from the experience?

Michael: One of the things that interested me most about the program was the opportunity to be in close quarters with other new Credit Union CEO’s. When you’re at the top of an organization, there is very little opportunity to interact with your peers. There isn’t a “team” of CEO’s that you work with every day. So, the opportunity to spend 10 days with other newly seated CEO’s was very appealing.

I was also fortunate to have a lot of our Credit Union clients and owners in the program with me. That was helpful because I had plenty of opportunity to talk with them about how we can help increase their production levels, deliver greater value to their members, and support their strategic growth.

Q: Having completed the program, what do you think about the Baldrige framework and how are you applying it within your organization?

Michael: The first thing I want to say is that the instruction was excellent. The instructors really know what they’re talking about. The program is a great mix of academic instruction and real world application, which I appreciated. You’re not just listening to lectures or reading a text book. They give you new ideas and concepts, but then you have to apply it.

Baldridge helps you examine every level of your organization’s processes. You start with a very high-level strategic view, but then drop down into action plans, and the details of processes and procedures. You roll up your sleeves and ask – What is the process? Who needs to be involved? What results do we expect? How are we going to measure it? It provides a practical framework from which to examine your entire organization at a level of depth I found to be extremely insightful.

Q: In retrospect, what was something about the program that you found particularly impactful to your organizational goals?

Michael: I completed an organization profile for Centennial Lending, answering all the questions that the Baldridge program asks. The profile covers strategy, workforce, results, measurement, organizational leadership – essentially every aspect of how we operate. For every process, I examined what’s working and what’s not, how it can be improved, what’s missing, etc. I found this to be extremely valuable because this isn’t the kind of thing you have the time and space to do during normal day-to-day operations. The program provides time away from the office and the demands of being a CEO so that you can do the deeper work that lays the groundwork for real growth.

One of the things they emphasize is the importance of starting from wherever you are today and taking it one step at a time. The Credit Unions that have completed the program and gone on to win national awards did so over the course of years. It’s important to be patient with the process and know that there are tremendous opportunities to improve your processes regardless of your size or areas of expertise.

Q: What would you say to another new CEO who might be considering applying to the Chief Executive Institute?

Michael: If you’re a new CEO, the program is an excellent opportunity to learn. One of the biggest reasons it’s so effective is because it allows you to leave the office and focus on absorbing and applying new knowledge and insight in a relaxed environment. The nature of the program allows you to analyze your organization from a more objective position. Most of us have little opportunity to step away from the stress of daily decision making and look at our organization’s challenges, goals, successes and failures alongside other CEOs who are going through many of the same things. It’s exceptionally valuable.

I am also very grateful for the time I got to spend socializing with other Credit Union professionals. We didn’t just talk shop the whole time. We went out for drinks, dinners, and other events where we could relax, have a good time, and get to know each other. It wasn’t just about building professional relationships. We became friends.

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