The One Secret to Becoming a Leader

A few days ago, I was presented with a challenge that was
new to me – could I write an insightful article that will attract people to a
website (insightful and interesting – no pressure there!)?   The person asking the question is a member
of the SYL Committee and explained that they wanted to draw traffic to the Sask
CU Advance website and felt having some insightful articles from credit union
executives would be a good way to do that.

 Corvyn Neufeld Corvyn Neufeld

So I thought quite a lot about what insight or advice I
might be able to put forward to aspiring leaders.  I’ve spent over 20 years in human resources
and have seen and experienced quite a bit of stuff over those years – both good
and bad.  So hopefully I know something
of value that is worth sharing.  Here’s
what I came up with.  It’s
up to you.
 That’s it.  Before you stop reading, let me explain this
a little more.  What I’m saying is that
it’s your career.  It’s your life.  No one else is responsible for you.  Only you are responsible for you.  Only you control what decisions you make each
day – the things you choose to do and the things you choose not to do.  Only you control your attitude.  It’s up to you.

If you are an aspiring leader wanting more from your job, why
aren’t you getting it?  Is it because
“they” haven’t given you the right opportunity or because “they” don’t
recognize your talent?  Or maybe “they”
never told you to go for it.  I firmly
believe you make your own opportunities.
Sure it helps a lot to have a senior person “in your corner”, who
supports you and believes in you.  I’ve
had some of those people over my career and I’m very grateful for the support
they gave me.  It also helps a lot to
have groups like the Sask Young Leaders who are working hard to create
opportunities for you.   But in the end
it’s up to you and only you.

What I mean by this, is you need to take initiative –
when your manager gives you a task, project, assignment, whatever it is – don’t
wait for all the “how to’s” – figure it out and do it.  Don’t wait for him or her to ask you for your
work – show it to her.    If you see something that you know needs to
be done and you don’t see someone doing it – do it.  If you see something that can be done faster,
easier and cheaper, do it.  If you feel you
need education – go get it.  If the
credit union won’t pay for it, pay for it yourself.  If you need experience that you can’t get
with your current employer – go get it somewhere else (odd for an HR guy to say
that isn’t it!).  And then come back
later in a more senior position.  Don’t
wait for the perfect opportunity.  It may
never come.  Take advantage of everyday
opportunities to make your mark.  They
don’t have to be big things.  Little things
matter and get noticed.

Now there are a few things to remember – there are always
some limitations and realities you need to pay attention to.  If you see an opportunity to do something but
there could be significant impact to the credit union (cost, risk, member
service, etc.) – you should get permission first before charging ahead.  And don’t forget that you have a job to do
too – it can be easy to be distracted from your day-to-day job by an exciting
new/different project.  No one likes the
co-worker who ignores their day-to-day job and spends all their time chasing
the “cool” stuff.   Also remember to be a good co-worker – people
who are obsessed with career advancement often alienate themselves from their
co-workers.  And people who don’t support
their co-workers often end up without the support they need to be successful.

So why doesn’t everyone “just do it”?  The biggest barrier I’ve seen over and over is
fear.  And especially fear of making a
mistake.  I think everyone can think of a
time when they missed an opportunity because they were too afraid to go for it.  That’s perfectly normal.  But so is making mistakes.  We all make mistakes.  Every successful person can probably tell you
about mistakes they’ve made in their career.
And some were probably really big ones.
Really successful people will also remember what they learned from those
mistakes.  And they’ve probably not made
that same mistake again (they’ve just made different ones!).  So don’t be afraid to make mistakes.  I heard someone say once that if you aren’t
making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough.
So when you do (and you will), admit you made it (really important),
apologize for it (also really important), learn from it (really, really
important) and move on (really, really, really important).

Life’s a journey.
Have dreams of what you want from that journey and create that
future.  Grab opportunities that are in
front of you.  If they aren’t in front of
you, get in front of them.  Don’t be
afraid to make mistakes and learn from the mistakes you make.  It’s up to you.

Corvyn Neufeld
Cornerstone Credit Union

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