Career-Helping Advice For New Managment School Grads

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For weeks now I've had sitting in my pocket a commencement speech all written and ready for delivery to any of the credit union management schools- CUES CEO Institute, Southwest CUNA Management School, NAFCU's Management Development Institute, and the like. Frankly, I've been surprised not to have received an invitation, and can only assume it's because each thought I was already speaking to the other.

It's too bad, as I believe I have priceless advice on first, securing a credit union CEO job, and second, excelling at the job once you've been hired-which is a slam dunk, by the way, if you just follow the advice below. And so, as a new class of management school grads seeks to make its way in the credit union world, I offer the following:

While in the interview process with the board, use as many of these witticisms and tips as you can:

* "I'm not really a people-helping-people sort of person."

* "Credit union philosophy? You mean like Aristotle?"

* "Hey, I'll do the question-asking here."

* "To be honest, I'm not much of one for math."

* "I really admire how they do it with fees over at the BofA."

* Point out there is no "I" in member. "But there are two 'M's' and two 'E's,' so let's talk about me and me."

* Try to strike some common ground with the directors interviewing you by letting them know the experience reminds you of a similar interview with your parole board. Sprinkle in references to "the joint." If it's a small credit union, make sure they know you know how to get by on a small budget and can even make a shiv out of a spoon.

* At the first reference to NCUA, roll your eyes in disgust and announce, "I hate those bastards."

Once you've used the indispensible advice above to get that coveted CEO job, here's what to do once you're aboard:

* Hang a photo of Tony Soprano on your wall. When staff asks if you're a fan of the show, say no, you really consider "T" to be more of a management guru.

* When the chairman's at the credit union, pull him aside and let him know he's welcome to visit anytime and that you completely understand. After all, you've seen a picture of the Mrs.

* Announce during the first meeting with your new staff that you're not really good with names, and prefer nicknames, like "Blondie" and "Pizza Face." Remember, it's not sexism-you're kickin' it old school.

* Speaking of morale, bring in an Outward Bound-type group for one of those team-building exercises (because swinging by ropes between trees is the type of thing you do every day at the credit union). Then, during the exercise where a person falls backward and the rest of the "team" catches them, pick someone out not to catch. This will make for years of yuks around the water cooler.

* Complain about your credit union-provided car. Ask the chairman if he could take care of the oil changes.

* Tell everyone job No.1 will be taking the boring, mobile branch and "pimping out the ride."

* Play departments off one another. Encourage cliques.

* Reward suck-ups. Let sycophants do their own job reviews.

* Make a priority out of addressing member complaints and concerns by purchasing an automated phone system so convoluted and confusing no member complaint will ever reach you-or any other human being for that matter. And don't forget to make sure the number of member complaints recorded is a factor in your annual bonus.

* Speaking of phone calls to the credit union, just one word: India.

* Speaking of your bonus, let it drive your every decision. And never lose sight of the fact every reduction in the employee health benefits plan goes to the bottom line. Which helps you. Hence, the name, benefits.

* When meeting with the marketing department, offer encouragement by asking whether they plan to continue to produce the same "crap." Then cut the budget in half and demand twice the results.

* When the marketing department actually comes through after working nights and weekends, resulting in a first-place award for "Marketing on a Shoestring," make sure to show your support by traveling to the awards ceremony to accept the prize in their place.

* Every day at five o'clock, give a Homer Simpson-like "woo hoo" and run toward your car shouting, "Last one to happy hour is a stinkypants."

* As the leader of the organization, you'll be expected to provide not just leadership but comfort. But make sure to clarify upfront when meeting with an employee going through a particularly painful trauma, "Will this takes long? I'm taking the family to the park today, because no one in my family is dying."

* Know that other credit unions are not your comrades in cooperation. They are member-stealers. Treat them accordingly.

* When at your first chapter meeting, tell every board member you talk to from other credit unions, "Oh, yeah, believe me, I've heard all about you from your CEO. But don't tell him I said anything."

Frank J. Diekmann is Editor of The Credit Union Journal and seldom-used commencement speech giver. He can be reached at fdiekmann

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