Let’s take a look at our year together…

You know the moment when you volunteer to do something, but you don’t fully know what you have gotten yourself into?  You think to yourself “no problem – how hard can it be? I can figure it out as I go” Then the time comes to have it done and you have NO idea how you’re going to pull it off.  Yeah you know exactly what I am talking about! And yes…that is me right now.

“December blog – Naomi”

I have literally been staring at those words every single month since February. I had nine months to write what could have been the greatest blog ever and yet, here I sit. I have nothing. “What am I going to talk about so I don’t sound like I fell off my chair and bonked my head while I was sitting here spinning in circles hoping that a relatable topic would just fall out of the air and hit me.” (Because that happens sometimes, right?)

Then I noticed a pile of mail sitting on my desk and just like that, I was sidetracked…or was I?

December mail may be the best mail month of the year! It goes from being 90% junk and 10% bills to 89% junk, 10% bills, 1% Christmas cards/letters/photos. I mean…that bright red envelope with the giant snowflake and handwritten address on the front can only mean one thing…an annual update from my friends and family. Some whom I see often and others who I only get to keep up with via their annual Christmas card (and Facebook of course).

And here we are…maybe not a blog, but more of a Christmas Letter from me to you! An idea that is in no way groundbreaking; but perhaps a necessity as we move into another year in an ever-changing world of banking, *ahem* Credit Union-ing.  Sorry OSFI!

Let’s take a look at our year together…

As I was creating this graphic I was actually blown away at how much we have accomplished in just 8 short months. We had a bit of a slow start on the year but we managed to cram a lot into the time we had left.

Some of my favorite 2017 moments include (but are in no way limited to):

  • Building on the business plan from 2016 using collaboration as one of our key drivers. Many of the initiatives we chose for our 2017 business plan were based around mentoring and partnerships; which always seemed to go back to collaboration. We worked together with CUMA on a couple different occasions – this partnership with CUMA continues to strengthen and I can’t wait to see where it ends up in the next few years. Sticking with the theme of collaboration: In June, the Alberta Young Leaders and the National Young Leader committee formed a Young Leader collaboration group with BC Young Leaders, Credit Union Young Leaders of Manitoba, and Saskatchewan Young Leaders. Through the summer and into the fall we have participated in numerous calls discussing the future of young leader groups in Canada. The conversations are focused mainly around awareness, collaboration, and strategy. These calls are expected to continue and likely grow stronger into 2018.
  • The Power of Change Leadership Retreat that we held in August is number two on my list.  There’s absolutely nothing bad that can happen when you get 40+ energetic leaders from numerous Credit Unions from across the province. I think I can speak for everyone when I say we all came back to work energized, excited, and enthusiastic about the future of the CU System!
  • Of course, I can’t leave out the SK CUAdvance 2.0. Keeping with the mentoring and partnerships theme, we thought it would be fun to reinvent the SK CUAdvance competition, which we hosted a few years ago as well. We began recruiting for the competition early in the spring, and by April, we had 16 entrants willing to take on the Credit Union World! The competitors were split into five teams and were each assigned a system challenge that they were required to come up with a solution (or solutions) to.  The top three teams were then invited to present their finalized ideas to a panel of guest judges at the Power of Change Leadership Retreat in August.  To check out the presentations and see who the overall winners were you can visit our website!
  • Lastly, I’d like to mention the latest initiative we presented; which was hosted jointly by SYL and CU Advance finalists: Team Marketability…the inaugural SYL Twitter Chat. One very common comment around the SYL table is “We should tweet that!” followed by “But I don’t know how to Twitter!” Social media is hard sometimes, but Team Marketability helped us bridge that gap and were able to engage the wonderful world of Twitter with some very thought provoking questions around Co-operatives and Credit Unions during International Co-operative Week. The reason this initiative was so cool for me was because we were able to engage many CUers from across the country AND we got to see Team Marketability actually implement some of their solutions to their CUAdvance system problem of Co-operative Awareness. The deciding factor for me was when a non-CU friend of mine said “Hey Naomi, I saw your responses to that twitter chat yesterday. I had NO idea a Credit Union was a co-operative!” Mission accomplished!

Of course there were many other highlights this year, but these were the ones that really hit home for me and make me feel like our year was successful.  I’d like to finish off by sending a shout out to all our SYL supporters this year.  This is everyone from participants, community members, guest speakers, judges, system sponsors, new committee member applicants, and Credit Union sponsors. Without your support, volunteerism, listening ears, and encouragement (and money J) we would not be near as successful. Of course, a giant thank you goes out to my fellow SYL Committee members (both past and present). THANK YOU for all your hard work this year. I’m positive that you are all going to be standing together with me at the end of 2017 looking back with goofy grins on our faces wondering how we accomplished everything we have!

In my final month as the current Chair of the SYL Committee, I wish all you a very Merry Christmas and all the best in 2018!

Naomi Seaborg


The Power of Positive Thoughts

Recently I attended a conference where I had the privilege of hearing from Mark Tewksbury, Olympic Gold Medalist and Debbie Muir, one of Canada’s greatest coaches. During their keynote session, they spoke to the power of positive thoughts and it hit home for me.  So many times, I find myself in the downward spiral of negative thoughts in both my personal or professional life. I am all too familiar with doubting my ability and thinking thoughts like; “I can’t do this”, “I am not strong enough”, “I’ll never get that promotion”, and many more. I am sure those of you reading this can relate to these same thoughts.  So why is it that we do this?

While driving home, I started thinking about all the chores I needed to get done around the house and all the tasks at work and I started thinking to myself; “I will never have enough time to get all this done”. Suddenly, I remembered that I had just sat through Mark and Debbie’s presentation and they just told me to think positively and to stop myself when I think negatively. If I think that I can’t, my mind-body connection will affect my performance. In doing research I found an article from the Huffington Post that stated “negative emotions narrow your mind and focus your thoughts.” We spend so much time fixating on and being consumed by the negative things that we forget to see the big picture of everything else around us. I realized that I was focusing more on the negative than I was all the great things that had happened to me during that week.

After realizing that I had been thinking about my tasks negatively I decided to shift my mind set to a more positive one. So, for the rest of the drive, I thought to myself; “when I get home I am going to do this”, “I am going to accomplish this”, and it started making me feel a lot calmer about everything that seemed to be piling up on my to do list. I started to focus on how I was going to be able to accomplish all my tasks. By thinking positively about my actions, I could make the mind body-connection and it affected my performance for the better and I was able to accomplish everything I set out that week plus I even had some spare time to get ahead for the next week!

I wanted to dig deeper into the concept of the power of positive thoughts, so I started tracking the number of times I thought negatively about something whether it be in my personal and professional life. Let’s just say, I had A LOT of ticks on my good ole tally list! After seeing how many times I had negative thoughts I decided to challenge myself to think positively this entire month. It has been very neat to see how “beneficial positive thinking” can affect a person. Instead of thinking “I can’t” or “It will never happen”, change your thoughts to “You can do this”, “You’ve got this”, “Keep going” and see just how much you can accomplish. Positivity in your personal and professional life can go a long way. I challenge everyone reading this to stop themselves when they notice that they are thinking negative about a work task or something presented to them. Take a deep breath and rephrase your “I can’t” or “I won’t” to “I can do this” or “I’ve got this” and see how much your perspective changes. By changing your mindset I truly hope you are able to see the big picture versus just narrowed in on one negative thought. The mind-body connection will really help you be able to perform!

Katelyn Kosokowsky
Innovation Credit Union

Power of Change Retreat

The 2017 SYL Leadership Retreat took place August 21-23 at Shekinah Re-treat Centre. This year’s event host-ed 40 young leaders representing 16 different organization from the Sask. Credit Union System.

To kick off the theme “Power Of Change” Amie Warkentin of Manito-ba Central (and the National Young Leaders Committee) lead a Change Management workshop.

Day 2 saw the CU Advance 2.0 finalists present their ideas and participate in a questioning period with the judges.

In the afternoon the attendees heard from Eric Dillon about “The Emerging World of Leadership Development”, about “Becoming a Federal Credit Union” from Dan Johnson. Adam Thome shared information about the National Young Leaders and gave

some advice based on his personal learnings. In the evening Gerald Hauta took us outside to tell us about “The Old Man and the CU” (and to do the macarena).

Throughout the rest of the retreat the attendees participated in breakout sessions, networking activities, and enjoyed the natural amenities Sheki-nah has to offer.



“It was nice to hear first hand the reason Innovation is becoming federated. It was nice to have Dan Johnson share his view and perspectives.”

“Adam Thome spoke about being self-aware, and if you fall into the wrong path start over and find a new path. He encouraged young leaders to get out there and try new things. He was very inspirational as a young leader himself.”

“Gerald Hauta was very engaging. His presentation left me inspired and open to change”

“I loved the passion Eric Dillon brought to the table with all of the topics he spoke about. Becoming a leader, not just sitting back and waiting for someone else to make you the leader you want to be.”

“I think Amie Warkentin was one of the best speakers at the retreat in terms of bringing back learnings to our work place. The model she provided, her personal story, and breakout sessions to help deal with change were a good mix.”

“There were so many great conversations in the breakout sessions. I could have just talked and listened for even longer about how passionate everyone is about their CU and their members.”

“I enjoyed sharing ideas and brainstorming with different people for both of the breakout sessions. Getting a chance to talk to people from other credit unions is my favorite thing about SYL events.”

“The time and effort that went into the CU Advance 2.0 presentations did not go unnoticed. It makes me look forward to a long ca-reer within the Credit Un-ion, as the system is definitely in good hands”

“Another successful SYL retreat where the environ-ment is open, non-judgmental, casual and educational.”

“I haven’t stopped telling every-one how amazing this opportunity was and how inspired and revived I feel. I am very passionate about the Credit Union System and was so happy to see so many others that feel the same way.”

“A very motivational retreat. I think its safe to say that we will all be better at our jobs, working with partner Credit Unions, and be more influential leaders. I felt very rejuvenated and refocused and I returned to the office to keep the inspiration going.”

SYL Spotlight: Cornerstone Young Leaders!

 Shannon O’Neill (Chair), Savannah Komodowski (Secretary), Erin Liske, Emily Niezgoda, April Olynick, Christine Honeyman, Amber Landels, Robin Nontell 

Shannon O’Neill (Chair), Savannah Komodowski (Secretary), Erin Liske, Emily Niezgoda, April Olynick, Christine Honeyman, Amber Landels, Robin Nontell 

We are a group of fun, innovative, ambitious individuals whose mis-sion is to empower others to grow and succeed while bringing forth innovative, forward thinking ideas that will benefit our organization and communities. In 2017, our group has come together to accomplish great things. We have been intentional about creating a balanced work plan that promotes our committee, enhances our book of business and keeps the culture strong. A series of “Culture Boosters” are planned throughout the year to keep things fun and additionally we will be completing the following:

Learning and Development: we have launched the Cornerstone Young Leaders Book Club! Reading two books a year to challenge our thinking and further development.

We want to be seen! We have committed to increase our visibility in our organization and the System.

We want to understand our members and help them thrive! We will be hosting a think tank session to promote ideas and innovation about how we an enhance and increase our membership and book of business.

A Day in the Life: by promoting a video blog series that highlights all the great staff and locations we have at Cornerstone we can feel closer as a team

Connect with Cornerstone Young Leaders on Twitter @CCUYoungLeaders to see what they’re up to! 

Fall Virtual Learning

The first SYL Twitter Chat is coming soon! Hosted by Team MarketAbility, finalists from CU Advance 2.0, we want to start a conversation about celebrating Credit Unions and Cooperatives. Keep an eye out closer to International Credit Union Day (Oct. 19) for your official invite & follow us on Twitter @SKYoungLeaders
#CUchat #SYLvoice #cuproud #chooseacooperative

SaskCU Advance 2.0

And the winner is… TEAM CU BY DESIGN!!!! Congratulations to all of the finalists including Creative Crew & MarketAbility! The SYL Committee would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to all the groups for their contributions to the CU System, and their commitment to collaboration and personal growth.

Ahead of the CUrve
Alex Roettger, Derek Targerson, Sheena Soke

Creative Crew
Harjas Singh, Kayla Hamm, Robin Nontell

CU by Design
Josh Noble, Justin Villeneuve, Shannon O’Neill, Stephanie Burkell

Dynamic Do-ers
Alixander Landry, Chantelle Doratti, Charity Armstrong

Ashley Kennedy, Brady Maw, Taryn Grey

 Judges included Eric Dillon (Conexus), Amy Bott (SaskCentral), Adam Thome (Affinity/NYLC), Gerald Hauta (Unity) & Dan Johnson (Innovation) Judges included Eric Dillon (Conexus), Amy Bott (SaskCentral), Adam Thome (Affinity/NYLC), Gerald Hauta (Unity) & Dan Johnson (Innovation)

Finding That Balance Blend

I knew exactly what I wanted to write about when my turn came around.  It’s something that I have been battling with for the past few years – balancing work & life. We hear and read about this all the time; you have to find that perfect balance that pleases everyone. With two young daughters at home, a loving wife who is in the work force as well, along with other friends and family relationships that I value, it can become difficult to allocate sufficient time and energy to everyone. This is especially true at a time when I am looking to advance professionally and take on more responsibilities at work. I’m sure there are many people out there who can relate to my dilemma!

I figured this would be the perfect opportunity to really sit down, do some research and hammer out a perfect strategy to balance my time appropriately between work and my personal life. A perfect balance seems nice, so let’s look at a 50/50 split. No, I need to commit more time to work if I want to advance so perhaps 70/30 – heavy on the work side. But my wife and kids though; perhaps 60 work / 40 life. Wait, it’s still warm out and the kids want to do so many activities! Better go 60 life / 40 work……… This is impossible.


I soon came to the realization that there is no such thing as a perfect balance. It’s a myth! I’ve thought about it over and over again. The phrase “work & life balance” is flawed. It implies that work and life are on opposite sides of the spectrum but to me, they are not. I would suggest that your career is a very important part of your life and in order to keep yourself sane and satisfied with life, it is imperative that you are able to BLEND your work life and your personal life together.

The best way to do this is embrace what you do for work and become passionate about it and ensure that you communicate this with your loved ones. Having an open dialogue with your spouse, kids, family and friends about what you are working on and how much you care about it will help build a level of respect about whom you are and what you love to do!

Do your best to succeed on the flip side as well – that is, be sure to integrate your personal life into your work space. We are not robots that are simply completing the tasks that we have been assigned. Be dynamic! Be flexible! Interact with those around you. Take interest in what your coworkers and clientele are up to. Be genuine! Hang photos of your family and friends in your office as these are excellent conversation pieces and serve as the perfect reminder of why we do what we do. If we make our work place a fun and interesting place to be, I swear we’ll all be better for it!

Travis Leonard

The Write Stuff

I just asked my 8 year old “do you know what a journal is for?” and his answer was “for writing your secrets in”. Kind of a stereotype from movies about teenage girls but maybe he’s not that far off.

I recently had the privilege of hearing Eric Dillon share some insights about leadership and the one that stuck with me the most is “how can you know what you don’t know?”  Sounds like a secret to me. But seriously, how can we get ourselves to a higher state of self-awareness to find out those things we don’t know but need to?  Well, personally I walked away from that retreat with a promise to myself that I would start journaling (or return to it since I haven’t journaled since I was one of those stereotypical teenage girls).

So, on the spot I started to document what was happening around me, how I was feeling and things I wanted to remember for the future. By putting pen to paper, journaling immediately helped me to get my emotions and perspectives in check. Put more focus on things that are actually important, and breeze past the small things that sometimes get more time/thought than they are worth.


So, easy-peasy lemon squeezy, right? WRONG! Turns out after a few days of real life, journaling turned into another task on my to-do list. Please know that I have HUGE respect for lists but somehow my entries just turned into a documentary of the tasks I completed instead of creative thoughts and goals. That, or I completely forgot to write anything. In order for me to really grow I knew I had to dig deeper to make this journaling journey meaningful.

My first instinct was to do some online research, and I did find a few good resources like CreateWriteNow.com and positivityblog.

But then I remembered something a friend of mine (a real live friend, not just a Facebook friend) shared on Facebook a few years ago. “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own – populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness” from the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows by John Koenig. With so much going on in the world around us, each person will have a different journey to self-awareness and essentially if I was choosing journaling as my own path I would do it my way.

So, I carry my journal with me so I can write in it whenever I have some down time. I try to avoid distractions like the ‘ding’ that comes from that computer everyone carries around in their pocket (credit to Justin V of Team CU By Design). I journal about work, family, emotions, goals, values, jokes…really anything that comes to mind in the moment. I try to be honest with myself and impartial rather than making judgments. I try to stay humble; taking time to appreciate the people in my life, the things I have, and the places I’ve gone. I don’t put a time or length expectation on my entries. And I flip through old entries, not to focus on the past but to hold myself accountable for the things I have written down and keep myself grounded.

Am I an expert on self-awareness? Far from it! The internet is full of great information and lots of bloggers that can shed more light to this subject than I. However, I do think that journaling is the first step for me, and as I enter into this personal journaling commitment (and share it with the world wide web…bye-bye comfort zone), I challenge you to do something similar. Find a hobby, or space, or outlet that can help you slow down and reflect on your values and ambitions. Your feelings are your own, they are unique and never wrong but if you ignore them, you could lose sight of your goals and where you want to be.

Brittany Halkyard

Embracing Change

When I think of people I respect and admire, they all share similar traits. They’re authentic, giving, present, grateful, and have a balanced life outside of their work. Another thing they have in common is their ability to handle and embrace change pragmatically, head-on, and with grace.

Change is inevitable. It is a vehicle for the growth of our communities, workplaces, team members and families. However, when there is a large change in our work life, the uncertainty can be overwhelming. Thoughts of “Will I have a job in 6 months?”, “I don’t understand”, “I’m falling behind”, and “Maybe Freedom 55 isn’t realistic for me” all fill your head. Here are some helpful tactics to manage workplace change.

  1. Perspective shift – a.k.a. Suck It up. The change is happening, so you might as well find the positive in it. Dwelling on the negative feeds the anti-change movement and gets us nowhere. Don’t think, “I like the old way better”; shift your perspective to be open to learning and broadening your horizons. When we struggle, we grow and improve. Learning a new skill will look good on your resume. Perhaps shifting duties now allows you to spend more time with members, or if an admin task is done quick, maybe you can focus on big projects that you’ve been putting to the back-burner.
  2. Remember the WHY – Ask yourself: Why are you doing these new tasks? Why is your job impacted? Why are you applying for a new position? Answering the why gives clarity to the day-to-day functions and keeps you and your team motivated. Maybe the why is to enhance the member experience, advance your career, or simply to print less paper to save our beautiful trees and improve the ever-important operating efficiency ratio. If you’re unsure on the why, have a candid conversation with your Supervisor/Manager/VP/GM/CEO or anyone who is leading the change. It’s their job to help you see the organization’s vision and your role in getting there.
  3. Have a Laugh – Humour is great medicine. Remember, others are likely feeling the same pressure and confusion as you. Take 15 minutes to go for a walk or coffee together to tell a joke, share an article or hilarious stories about what your children have done to bring you great embarrassment. My personal favorite is when I realize my day is playing out just like an episode of a TV show. Applying wisdom spoken by Michael Scott or Mindy Lahiri is guaranteed to lighten the mood.
  4. Be Patient – Not everyone accepts or applies change at the same rate. Develop your emotional IQ to be sensitive to different personality types and help out where you can – we’re all on the same team!
  5. Communication and Self-Care – Reach out to those around you if you’re struggling. Ask your superiors to assist with clarity on future possibilities and timelines. Perhaps they can assist you in ways you didn’t expect. Remember to take care of yourself. Endorphins are powerful for creating a positive attitude – get some exercise and a good night’s sleep.

Change can be empowering. It allows us to seize opportunities, develop new skills, and learn more about our co-workers and members in order to serve them best. At the end of the day, we all benefit from a healthy, forward-moving change when we choose to buckle up and get ready to get better!

If you want to learn more about embracing change, apply for our next learning session. Applications are being accepted until June 7th for our August 21-23rd retreat!

Pamela Anderson, CPA, CGA

Money is not the only motivator

In a society where money and various tangible rewards seem to be significant drivers both personally and professionally, how can credit unions and other co-operatives effectively motivate their employees without increasing year-end bonuses? It’s difficult for credit unions to compete with larger financial institutions in terms of tangible rewards, as we don’t have the resources to do so. Although extrinsic motivation such as bonuses, commission, and other tangible rewards are useful in guiding employees to meet performance targets, ultimately contributing to the success of the organization, this type of motivation is not sufficient to fully engage employees as it narrows our focus to one set of goals. This is contradicting to the values of the credit union as credit unions strive to better the community as a whole.

When I think “how can I make a difference in my community?” extrinsic motivators certainly aren’t the first thing that come to mind. When credit unions provide their employees with opportunities to appeal to their own values and personal growth this fully engages employees to be the best they can be. As Holly Herman says “personal development is as important as specific professional development. It shows you (the credit union) care about developing better people, creating better employees.” This is more consistent with credit union values as creating better people and employees will help create a better community.

Dan Pink’s Drive video stands out to me as he discusses the connection between engagement and autonomy, and how self-direction significantly increases engagement. He argues that if organizations start treating people more like people, they not only have the ability to make work lives better off, but make the world a little better. When credit unions provide employees with volunteer time or opportunities, such as participating in the SYL community, they are giving employees the chance the make their own decisions outside of their regular daily work and effectively motivate themselves. This autonomy contributes to not only developing the employees within the credit union system, but strengthening the credit union system as a whole.

Do not overlook the personal development and volunteer opportunities that are available to you. I challenge you to participate in more activities outside of your day-to-day tasks, in order to develop yourself and your community. Although there may not be a monetary benefit, at the end of the day you’re given a chance to grow yourself and help your community grow. As giving is one of the post powerful gestures, you will be surprised at how fulfilled you will feel. As Shannon said in SYL’s February blog post, “if we take time to step outside of our own lives and look for ways to help others that is truly where we find fulfillment.”

Climb photo – https://owbaz.com/blog/personal-development-action-plan-career-counseling/
Dan Pink Drive Video – https://youtu.be/u6XAPnuFjJc