'Creative Operations Officer' Goes Into Coaching

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Recently, Kathy Elliott saw an advertisement in a newspaper employment section seeking someone with training and business development experience.

Within moments she fired off a quick e-mail to the contact person that read: "You don't need this. You need me."

In her new position as managing partner of TAG, a consulting firm based in Virginia that specializes in strategic planning and organizational development, she told the recipient of her e-mail that she had something much better to offer.

"He called me and said come on in," she said, noting that after watching her interact with his staff, "He hired me to be their coach for the next couple of months."

And so begins her new journey.

After 18 years with BestSource Credit Union in Pontiac, Mich., Elliott has left her job as creative operations officer to become a coach -"Not a consultant," she says-for businesses nationwide.

Those who know the work of this 44-time marketing award winner, creator of Reach for More, a national marketing conference for financial executives, and speaker on women in leadership and retail branch design, for starters, will be happy to know that she's not straying from the CU community.

"My door opener is going to be in the credit union industry," she said. "This is where my work is known."

But, she added that as a part timer for TAG for the past couple of years, she has already had some exposure to other industries as well, including the Federal Aviation Administration and Harlequin Publishing.

Healthy Bottom Line

"Really, I just want to help industries that want a healthy bottom line," she said. "I want to work with some motivated, progressive credit unions that are open to my out-of-the-box theories."

Excited about the opportunities ahead, Elliott admits that is hasn't been easy leaving BestSource. "I can't say that I'm not really, really emotional about leaving BestSource," she said. "I love those people and want to continue to service them. They trust me."

It was at BestSource that Elliott moved from marketing retail specialist to chief operating officer (a title she changed to creative operations officer), and implemented new ways to help the $140-million CU focus more on sales and service, which included evaluating the strengths of staff and placing them in positions best suited to their personalities.

"My whole background was in marketing," she said. "I was trying to make the CU more of a sales and service oriented business. But I started motivating and reviewing and giving feedback individually to the staff."

Her theories led to her creation (with TAG) of a review system for credit unions that, Elliott said, helps them "put the strengths where the strengths go" and let go of the unmotivated people. "My big motivation is looking at life like this: If I'm going to spend 40 hours plus at a job, I want to bring passion to it."

There's no reason CU leaders shouldn't feel the same and expect the same from their own employees, she said.

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