Daniel Johnson

Our Innovation Nation (July 10, 2019)

We talk a lot about being an Innovation Nation - a team of loyal leaders who adapt quickly to change and are open to adopting new ideas and technologies to help us better serve our members. This positions us as a disruptor , allowing us to stay competitive, live out our values in all that we do and change the member experience for the better.

Being a leader goes beyond technology, though. Leading in the digital age requires a balance of our reliance on technology with our need to foster deeper connections as a team. As we grow and expand our channels and mobile offerings , it’s not uncommon for staff members to chat virtually on a regular basis without ever meeting in person. How do we build sustainable relationships in this way? How do we apply this to building relationships with our members?

One of the ways we do this is to come together once a year at our annual staff conference. This exciting event brings our whole team of over 400 people from 24 advice centres together in one space where we can meet face to face and engage in some pretty fantastic team building and learning. We also have a lot of fun.

Heather Christie, one of our Relationship Managers from Swift Current, has shared about her experience at our annual staff conference. “There’s nothing like being in the presence of your team. My favourite part of the conference is when we are all doing something as a group made of individuals who become one unit. Whether everyone is laughing or drumming, we all have our purpose and are doing it together without notice of job titles. We become Innovation Credit Union for one brief moment.”

Staff Conference
This is valuable insight for me as it can be challenging to lead a team that is so diverse, especially from a geographical standpoint. Our conference creates a level playing field, where everyone is equal and equally valued. The structure of the conference gives us the opportunity for shared experiences that bring us closer together and we come to understand how our similarities and differences make us stronger.

The goals of the staff conference are three-fold. One is to have some fun, infusing lots of laughter into our value of “work hard and play hard”. We take time for our staff members to interact and enjoy each other’s company and ensure that there are opportunities to regroup and reflect on our common interests. This builds connections and relationships that strengthen our team. The second goal is to learn new things and exchange ideas. This comes from one another, learning about ourselves and our co-workers. The third goal of the staff conference is learning. We learn about Innovation’s progress and ensure we’re setting better plans as an organization. We learn from guest speakers who are thought leaders that offer us different perspectives and inspiration. We work towards solutions together so that everyone feels like they have a part to play in our growth and direction.

Judy Douglas, a call centre representative from our Meadow Lake Advice Centre feels that the conference is very affirming for the Innovation team. “The conference brings all of the staff together to share ideas, concerns, network and enlighten us about industry disruption and solutions. The speakers, the information and coming together as an organization for the day is so energizing and refreshing. I feel like it's a great reset and restart.”

All of these things manifest into a powerful energy that reiterates our purpose, rekindles our relationships and builds a strong and resilient team. No matter which part of Canada we hail from or how long we’ve served at Innovation, the staff conference opens the floodgates for creativity, camaraderie and connection and turns a group of individuals into a family.

I think Heather sums it up really well by saying, “When everyone gets the message at the same time, in the same way, it gives us something in common that we can circle back to in future meetings. Nothing can replace being in the presence of your team.”

I couldn’t agree more and I know that Heather and Judy’s sentiments echo those of our team. Bridging the worlds of people and technology is a delicate balance. Our Innovation Nation is stronger because of our highly skilled and devoted people and our conference demonstrates that hundreds of people can become one, even if just for one day and this carries us forward until the next one.

Teamwork for the Win (May 29, 2019)

It’s the stuff dreams are made of. An undefeated season. A home-ice arena packed with over 2500 cheering fans. A tense shutout game that was no score until the third period. A provincial championship and, finally, an emotional victory skate for an elated team of young men. If you follow Midget AA hockey, and especially if you’re a Swift Current Broncos fan, you know exactly the game I’m talking about. April 3, 2019 for the win. Because I’m lucky enough to be on the Midget AA Broncos’ coaching staff, I got to witness every moment of this game up close and it will go down as one of the most remarkable days of my coaching career.

That it all took place in the Innovation Credit Union iPlex in Swift Current brought my two worlds together in a way that has stirred a lot of self-reflection for me. It was an amazing game, but it was the result of an even more amazing season of hard work, relentless preparation and enormous heart. We painstakingly planned our strategies and playbook, analyzed hours of game footage to understand our strengths and where we needed to improve. We learned from our failures and celebrated our successes. It was all the very definition of team effort. When those young athletes circled the ice with the Jack Loveridge Memorial banner on April 3rd, they carried it for all of us - from the dedicated group who had guided them through the season to the supportive community cheering them on from the stands.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the fairy tale season. An undefeated regular season doesn’t happen by accident. The Broncos had talent and grit, but what secret ingredients made this particular team and season so special? What was our role in helping them achieve something so rare?

Reflecting on these questions has helped me to better understand myself as a coach - or CEO - of Innovation Credit Union. Given my passion for hockey, coaching and continual improvement, this is a topic I will likely ponder for the rest of my life. But at this stage in my thinking, here’s what the Swift Current Abbey Resources Midget AA Broncos have taught me about how to be a better coach to my teams both on the ice and in my credit union.

  1. Focus on values We picked players who value things like teamwork, respect, work ethic and the ability to celebrate others. This is a winning model that we strive to follow at Innovation as well. We use value pins to celebrate staff who are living our values consistently and setting an example. More often than not, the staff who receive these pins humbly give credit to their colleagues, sharing the win and building and even stronger team.

  2. Choose and retain a talented team What we do to attract, retain and career map our staff at Innovation is similar to how a coach puts a winning team together. We hire and train skilled people and ensure they’re placed in positions where they will shine. We also cross-train our staff so that they can cover for each other when it’s needed. This helps us grow as a team and better understand how to work together to support our members.

  3. Preparation is everything Coaches meet often to prepare practice plans, implement, review, revise and adapt. Players enjoyed off-ice training and pre-game mind and body preparation. At Innovation, our leadership team empowers our staff to really know the playbook. This helps each staff member understand their role in terms of our short, medium and longer term strategies. This better prepares them to keep their eye on the goal and push towards it as a team.

  4. Play hard and smart Success and fulfillment on any team are tied to moving fast, being focused and constantly evolving. When the team has been well-supported and celebrated, they’re more likely to arrive prepared to give their best against all kinds of challenges. This kind of thinking will position our Innovation team for the win, whether it’s for a member, a colleague our communities.

  5. Celebrate success It’s easy to get caught up in the details and focus on gaps, but I always want to be the kind of leader who celebrates success and offers praise to help to foster a sense of shared goals and results. I can always do better at this.

  6. Acknowledge the entire team It’s so important to acknowledge the off ice crew - the managers, association, fitness coach and other contributors - that form the framework for a hockey team’s success. Where Innovation is concerned, this is similar to the excellent governance framework that is vital to everything we do to be a success for our members. Acknowledging this in meaningful ways strengthens our foundation, emboldens our team and leads us to achieve even greater things.

  7. Ask for help As hockey coaches, we know when we need outside help to build special skills. I’m aware of this at Innovation as well, so I’m dedicated to bringing in outside experts who can elevate our team and take us further in all areas of our business. Nurturing these kinds of partnerships benefits the whole team and is in the best interest of our members.

  8. One-on-ones We spent time with each Bronco this season to chat about how things were going, discuss short and long term goals and determine how we could work together to help each player improve. This is something I believe in deeply as a leader. Applying it to my role as CEO ultimately leads to growth that benefits our entire organization.

  9. Reflect and improve In the spirit of empowering the team, we asked each of our hockey players to watch video highlights of their performance and to provide constructive feedback and self-assessment. This included feedback from player to coach. While we don’t watch game tape together, facilitating this process for the Innovation staff helps us take stock, while at the same time creating transparency, dialogue and collaboration.
I know I’ll be reliving and reflecting on my Swift Current Abbey Resources Midget AA Broncos winning season for a long time to come. Watching our team fight for every win and play through injuries has inspired me and I want to bring that inspiration to the very talented team here at Innovation. Talent alone doesn’t win championships in hockey or in business. This is why planning, preparation and support are fundamental to leading a winning team. We also need to play our own game, not change our strategy to match our opponents. With the right people, preparation and values in place, other teams can adjust to keep up with us. This is how the Broncos operated this past season. But it’s also how we do things at Innovation. I’m so fortunate to be a coach here at the credit union that is truly an #InnovationNation poised for long term success.

Midget Broncos

Responsible Banking: Doing the Right Thing (March 8, 2019)

In the spirit of full disclosure, I’ll open by admitting a strong bias for doing the right thing for people, particularly when it comes to profits. As the CEO of Innovation Credit Union, my team and I look at profits as a tool for real and lasting social change. We do more than earmark some of our earnings for social impact projects. Profitable companies should contribute to society. But if the contribution is more about marketing optics than really making a difference, the impact on social change is minimal and rarely lasting.

Our shareholders are not a handful of the top 1%, as is the case for national retail banks. Our shareholders are our members, good people who trust us to be responsible with their hard earned dollars. To thank them for their trust, we work hard to be profitable and then we use those profits in a way that benefits them, their communities and the social causes they believe in. We call this Responsible Banking and it’s the central pillar of all that we do.

Responsible Banking is something I’m deeply passionate about. To me, it encapsulates what it is to do things right, then turn around and do the right thing. This values-based position guides our entire team. It challenges us to think differently about our profits, how we make them and how we use them. At the end of the day, everyone at Innovation wants to see our profits returned back to our members in the form of benefits, expanded services, competitive rates and member rewards. It’s the responsible thing to do.

Our Responsible Banking mandate ensures that we do more than pay lip service to members being our priority; we practice it everyday and in every decision we make. We don’t make empty promises to get new business in the door; we provide every member with long-term rewards that benefit them financially and position them for a better future. When it comes to helping out, we do a lot more than write cheques. We roll up our sleeves and pitch in whenever we can. When our staff isn’t volunteering, they’re cheering their children on from the stands. In fact, if you were to pop by the rink on any given evening or weekend, you’d be likely to see me cheering on my kids as well. Go Wildcats!

Another way we practice Responsible Banking is by doing all we can to hang in there when the going gets tough. While big banks have left small towns, we’ve worked diligently to find solutions to help us avoid branch closures. We’ve retrained all of our traditional frontline advice centre staff to digitally serve Innovation members from any geographical location via a secure digital queue of phone, Skype, email or online chat. Not only does this keep our valued staff employed, it allows our branches to remain open even as the entire banking industry’s foot traffic to branches declines.

We also understand that sometimes there’s no substitute for an in-person exchange, particularly in underserved communities. That’s why we’ve used our profits to purchase two mobile advice centres, which our members affectionately refer to as ‘MACs’. These MACs are essentially our credit union on wheels and enable us to ensure that everyone has access to financial services by literally driving banking options to them throughout the province. This is Responsible Banking in action. Every time a MAC hits the road, I know we’re doing the right thing. We stand by our promises, finding innovative ways to rally around our communities, making strong member relationships even stronger with committed staff who stay the course.

I work with a team of inspiring people here at Innovation. All of us share the Responsible Banking vision and we’re determined not to create an environment where tomorrow is just another version of yesterday for our members. We think big, embracing strategic innovation that creates change and fosters growth that’s good for our members, our communities and our world.

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From the desk of our CEO

Federal Continuance

For information on upcoming changes to DEPOSIT INSURANCE if we become a federal credit union, see our disclosure notice. Creditors who have concerns may contact Innovation Credit Union.

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