What it Means to Have a Millennial as CEO

What it Means to Have a Millennial as CEO

Over the past several months I have had the privilege to work with several people who are in the millennial generation who are already CEOs, becoming CEOS, or aspiring to be CEOS. There is a distinctive energetic pulse with the millennial when we are discussing how it is being a CEO, developing Board–CEO relationships, leading a team that is older in age, and balancing life as a new CEO with a young family and community commitment. These CEOs’ deep commitment to doing things right is palpable and compelling. I certainly do not feel a sense of righteousness or entitlement from them; rather, what is present is a deeply felt sense that they are becoming a certain kind of leader.

My research says this: if you are a board member, a team member, or a strategic partner with a millennial CEO, you are in a situation with a strong value proposition. So pay attention, sit up straight, ask powerful questions, offer support, and be leadership champions with your CEO.

Millennials, as a generation, advocate for advancing the organization, the community, and global issues and will do so with innovative thinking and action, cohesion, collaboration, tolerance, and a high standard of excellence. Born between 1980 and the early 2000s, millennials experienced a number of nationally and globally transformative events during their leadership-formative years: 9/11, Enron, BP, the Great Recession, multiple systemic banking crises, war on multiple fronts, currency crises, sovereign debt crises, baby boomers retiring in thousands everyday, and now, a disruptive presidential election cycle. Some research indicates these crises created mistrust in millennials; I say they created a leadership opportunity.


  • Do not promote social responsibility (SR) to advance the company brand; they advocate SR because it is the right thing to do because the community and world become a better place when SR is embodied in workplace values.
  • Consider products and services a waste of time if they don’t make a difference for the community.
  • Are not overly risky with other people’s money; they are pragmatic and will invest in today to ensure future relevance and sustainability.
  • Care about organizational and employee fitness and work to build a strong core of the organization, team, and self.
  • Expect collaboration, commitment, and completion; to be a member on their team, you are expected to fulfill on expectations and do so with passion.
  • Lead with purpose.
  • Have a standard of excellence that does not track the number of hours worked and rather will look at the economic and qualitative value of the employee.
  • Expect high-performing board members who are rigorous with strategic thinking, decisions, and continuous learning and who are committed to the organization through thought and action.
  • Add more value as a new CEO with onboarding especially after a long term sitting CEO.
  • Increase their immediate value as a CEO with boards that acknowledge a potential shift in their thinking and communication style is needed to best leverage the value of the millennial CEO.
  • Are intelligent and have cross-functional expertise.
  • Are educated with graduate degrees and pursue ongoing and continuous industry learning.
  • Are natural-born mentors and coaches.
  • Implement corporate social responsibility that is authentic and transparent.
  • Build and maintain trust.
  • Understand their personal reputation is entwined with the organization’s brand.
  • Are masters of a broad range of communication skills to deliver a range of messaging with increased complexity.

From my perspective, to choose a millennial as a CEO is a defining transformative moment!

Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC
DDJ Myers, Ltd.

Are You Willing to Step Aside?

Are You Willing to Step Aside?

First published by CUInsight.com

Does the threat of not being reelected discourage incumbents from shirking their duties to be a high-performing board member or engaging in empire building with other board members and the membership at large? My hope is that all board members are committed to serving on the board to the best of their ability and adding value to the membership.

One of my favorite questions to ask a board member is “Are you willing to step aside and make room for someone who can add greater value?” One board member shared that every morning she asks herself, “Am I giving the value needed? If not, why? If yes, how do I know?” Self-reflection, such as these questions, is a courageous leadership move. How much do I live in the legend of myself?

Most credit unions have a semi staggered board of directors wherein a certain number of directors are up for reelection every year. A staggered approach to board elections has both benefits and potential problems. A major benefit is that the board has a constant supply of trained and ready board members for continuity. A potential challenge is presented when the chair and vice chair are up for reelection at the same time. In a high-performing board, this simultaneous reelection is not the same issue as when the boardroom is full of posturing and politics. If each board member is adding value, the membership will notice. Here are ways a board—and, hence, board members—can be seen as high performing.

  • Elect a strong chair, one who provides leadership and direction; stay away from the “next-in-line” concept for electing a chair.
  • Work in partnership with your CEO.
  • Understand the role of the board.
  • Hire and retain a high-performing and compelling leader as an expert CEO.
  • Be in strategic partnership with the CEO; ask strategic questions and engage in strategic conversations. If you don’t know how, learn.
  • Hold a compelling vision of the organization’s potential for serving the needs of the membership.
  • Reflect the membership with relevant board diversity.
  • Create a true strategic plan with emphasis on strategic.
  • Stay in your lane and out of operations.
  • Adopt a robust board meeting agenda.
  • Establish a purpose to add value.
  • Maintain an efficient board structure, including size of board, meeting agenda, 
committee structures, and officers who serve the greater good above and beyond 
  • Establish a strategic approach to board recruitment and composition to ensure the 
membership is represented.
  • Adopt board learning plans and update them every year.
  • Have frank conversations on how each board member adds value.
  • Conduct periodic assessments to find out what you are doing well; invite the 
executive team to assess the board for effectiveness.
  • Adopt a rigorous onboarding program.
  • Create a plan to build the board with the right people and prepare them for their
  • Identify and transition to the right board leaders for ongoing board renewal, 
development, and leadership succession planning.
  • Dust off your governance structure and fine tune it for the board of the future, 
This is a long list, and yet, everything falls into place with a committed, high-performing board. My suggestion is to take time in the next few months to discover the true potential of your board and lay a solid foundation that holds up for many generations to come.
Beyond SMART – Ensuring Your Projects are Relevant and Sustainable

Beyond SMART – Ensuring Your Projects are Relevant and Sustainable

This blog post is part of the 2016 Next Top Credit Union Executive competition originally posted August 05, 2016.

Conducting the coaching calls with the Top 15 NTCUE applicants has been both a rewarding and an inspiring experience. Each one came to the coaching session with passion, talent, and a forward-looking sense of accomplishment. The purpose of the first coaching call is to support the applicants in expressing his or her project, creating structures for success and sustainability, and connecting deeply felt passions to measurable and observable results for multiple stakeholders. They got this!

Two blended communication rubrics provided a framework for the coaching calls. One is a widely known methodology for goal setting: SMART, and the other, founded in communication theory, is called Mutual Commitment to Success (MCS).

Passion and volition for their projects are foundational. Any project, idea, or innovation requires commitment to the right action to ensure success and sustainability. After all, this competition is all about advancing the next generation of leaders.

SMART was used as a basic framework for transforming a great idea into an observable result. We started with the Specifics of the project: the specific goal and the need it serves or the opportunity it creates.

We discussed how their projects were Measurable, both quantitatively and qualitatively. Thus the coaching calls included a 360-degree view of all the stakeholders and how they each experience increased value because of the efforts of each applicant and his or her project. I heard well thought out plans from each applicant.

The applicants shared how their projects were to be Achieved, including the resources required and the order in which their priorities would need to be carried out to achieve success.

We brainstormed the layers of Relevance, and each applicant easily related his or her project’s relevance in the context of the credit union, its membership, and the community.

The rubber hits the road with the action steps in the three Time frames: what has already been achieved, what’s going on now with the project, and what the future road map looks like for the deliverables. Each applicant expressed clarity on the timeline and acknowledged potential bumps in the road. Regardless of the challenges or obstacles, the Top 15 remain steadfast in their passion and commitment to intentional action.

Lastly, the applicants explored the sustainability and replicability of their projects. That is, does the need for the project transcend time? Can other organizations easily adopt and adapt the project for their needs? What resources are needed over the various project phases, and what investments do they require? Is the project an offering outside of the credit union industry? Does the investment warrant the result?

The MCS Commitment to Action Model, uniquely offered by the DDJ Myers Leadership Institute, was also used in the coaching call. Basically observing the leadership presence of each applicant and his or her capacity, competency, reliability, and sincerity to be the Next Top Credit Union Executive who will represent the thousands of people in their generation of leadership in credit unions. Each one has a strong sense of self, a uniquely positioned offering, and a competitive edge that will make it difficult for all of you to select the Final 5!

Over the next three weeks, read their new blogs and view their videos and feel proud of these applicants. Your imagination and creative juices will flow just like mine! Each applicant has a lot to share with and offer to this world!

Deedee Myers,

Best Board Member Behavior: 15 Common Sense Pieces of Low Hanging Fruit

Best Board Member Behavior: 15 Common Sense Pieces of Low Hanging Fruit

First published by CUInsight.com

Recently I had the honor of facilitating a group conversation for 80 board members.  The topic was how to be seen as an engaged, committed, and high-performing board member.  The organizing principle used as the basis of conversation was the board is responsible for strategy, policy, and advocacy.  This list of 15 common sense behaviors is both simple and provocative especially in the context that boards have a high degree of potential turnover in the next three years, 35%. Email me your thoughts and I will keep the stream going.

  1. Believe in and advocate for the credit union
  2. Know the vision, mission, and strategic plan
  3. Passionately talk about the credit union
  4. Show appreciation
  5. Separate your personal and professional life from the work at the credit union
  6. Invite members to the annual meeting
  7. Update your black book list on potential board member nominees
  8. Read the packet and be prepared to ask strategic questions with a lens of helping
  9. Stay in your lane, focus on the big stuff
  10. Proactively and brilliantly participate in strategic planning
  11. Use the credit union products and services
  12. Step into difficult conversations with passion for the member
  13. Create your learning plan and take care of your board education requirements
  14. Proactively support board decisions
  15. Show up for your CEO
Make Sure Your Board Agenda is Heading in the Right Direction

Make Sure Your Board Agenda is Heading in the Right Direction

What is your energy level at the end of a board meeting? What are the unspoken comments inside your head as the meeting adjourns? Are they “Glad this is done and what’s for dinner?” Or “Time flew in this meeting – the dialogue was rich?”

More boards are reshaping their agendas, board packets, and style of board conversation. They are doing this to move toward being a high-performing board with strategic readiness.

Board agendas need to cover three main governance functions:

  1. Setting the organization’s direction
  2. Ensuring necessary resources are allocated
  3. Conducting oversight

Sounds pretty basic, right? Let’s take it a deeper level with examples.

  1. Setting the organization’s direction: This means approving the strategic plan, which is more than an episodic event every fall. Every month, an agenda topic needs to be a dive into questions like how are we fulfilling on our strategic plan? Are we on target? Has the target shifted? What is up for our future that needs our attention now?
  1. Understanding and ensuring how resources are allocated: This means receiving regular reports from the CEO on how resources are being allocated to fulfill on the direct set by the board and appropriately challenging and supporting.
  1. Conducting oversight: Oversight requires expertise, deliberate dialogue, communication of expectations of financial strength, risk management, reputation and regulatory challenges, and evaluation of the board and the CEO. Do we have the financial strength to weather another economic setback? How is the CEO capable of leading the organization into the future, what support does he or she need, and what is the quality of our Board-CEO relationship? What do we, as a board, need to improve in our leadership?

Earlier I mentioned a culture of inquiry, which I believe is a best practice for all high-performing teams and boards. A culture of inquiry encourages curiosity, maximizes engagement in gathering relevant information, and increases knowledge across the room. Equal access is provided in real time to all participants in order to provide a level setting for a rich and deliberate boardroom dialogue.

Two other attributes of a culture of inquiry are active feedback mechanisms and an individual and collective commitment to success. A systematic process to help the board behave as a high performing board is necessary for a commitment to continuous improvement. The feedback mechanism is ideally at the end of every meeting (how did we perform as a board?) and through consistent feedback by the chair to each board member. An agreed-upon commitment for each board member and the board as a whole must be present in each conversation and meeting.

A litmus test to determine if your board has a culture of inquiry is for each board member to agree that:

  1. Each board member shows up to the meetings ready to actively discuss the board packet.
  1. Each board member demonstrates an active openness to question complex, controversial, or ambiguous matters.
  1. Each board member actively evaluates issues, challenges, and opportunities from all sides before a decision is made.
  1. Each board member proactively participates in decision-making.
  1. Each board member has mastered the skill of listening, appropriately analyzing issues, and professionally responding as part of our board dynamic.
  1. Each board member behaves in the best interest of the organization.
  1. Each board member actively demonstrates continuous learning by reading, attending webinars/webcasts, and participating in ongoing board certification programs.
  1. Each board member asks difficult questions.
  1. Our board, as a whole, does not accept easy answers; we ask powerful questions.
  1. Each board member has and works their own customized board member development plan for the sake of increasing knowledge in the room.

Use this simple litmus test at your next board meeting. Answers are simple: YES or NO. Answers that say Sometimes or I don’t knoware treated as NO

Call me or write with questions and comments, and look for next month’s blog on “Trust: A Boardroom Phenomenon.”