I’ve been running my whole life. Long before I started a career in finance and business that would eventually lead me to OneAZ Credit Union, I ran competitively in high school, college and even after college at a nationally competitive level. That was a long time ago, but I still run each day. Most days, I start before sunrise and love to put in some miles on rolling trails.
Running is one of those things you either love or you hate. Plenty of people don’t understand why I still spend mornings like that — and honestly, when it’s summer in Phoenix and the air is heavy without a hint of a breeze, I have my own doubts. But I’m always up the next morning ready to go again.
I do it because, for me, running is about striving to meet your potential. When I trained competitively, the focus was never on one single mile or even how I felt after completing a day of rigorous training. If I logged a personal record on a Monday night run, it didn’t matter much to me — I knew the end goal was not about a small personal achievement in that moment, but about a potential for greater success in the future. I was driven to know how much I could give and how fast I could go!
During that time of my life, I had awesome coaches and trainers. Each of them saw potential greatness in me that I wouldn’t have seen in myself, and they motivated me to push forward and realize that potential during every single training session. I carry their lessons with me each day as I lead a team of 500 associates at OneAZ.
In my opinion, the greatest thing I can do as president and CEO is inspire each associate to live up to the promise of their potential. This is the essence of servant leadership — leadership focused on the growth and well-being of the people we work with every day. To achieve that at OneAZ, we are creating a model of leadership that breaks the traditional hierarchical regiments that mire many companies in creative stagnation; we recognize that leadership doesn’t always have to come from the top down. Instead, we want to empower each of our associates to be leaders within their teams, and that means providing them with an environment in which they feel a sense of safety and belonging, one where their ideas are respected and welcomed. My goal is to unleash the collective intellect of 500 people each and every day — that is all about tapping into massive organizational resources!
When I speak with our associates, I tell them I expect only one thing from them. It’s not that they meet their monthly goals for auto loans or our goals for acquiring new members. I tell them that the only thing they need to do is bring their best thinking to the office each day.
Sometimes, associates — especially new associates — look at me sideways when I tell them that; it seems so simple, and it is. Yet, it’s also a challenge and I recognize that. However, I tell associates to think about the power of bringing our best thinking to work each day. If we do that, we don’t need to worry about those loan goals or how many new members we acquire each month because we’ll be living up to our mission “to truly improve the lives of our members, our associates and the communities we serve.” And if we’re improving lives each day, those outcomes will follow — guaranteed!
Creating this environment of collective empowerment has led to tremendous growth for OneAZ. When I started at the credit union, one of my colleagues enthusiastically described OneAZ as the “best-kept secret in Arizona.” At the time it was true — we were keeping ourselves secret and not doing enough to get the word out about how Arizonans could benefit from banking with us. I wasn’t alone in noticing that OneAZ had so much potential. Our entire team of associates could feel it because they believed in the power of our mission.
Now, the cat’s out of the bag! Arizonans are joining OneAZ and discovering the benefits of banking with a credit union in record numbers. That growth is a direct result, not of my own individual leadership, but of the collective leadership that each of our 500 associates demonstrates on a daily basis. It’s a testament to the power of what can be achieved when each of us realizes that we’re running toward greatness together.
Community Is Key
- OneAZ has its roots in serving state employees, but now membership is open to anyone who lives, works or attends school in Arizona.
- A key pillar of OneAZ’s mission is giving back to the community. Since 2016, the OneAZ Community Foundation has provided $750,000 in grants and donations to Arizona nonprofit organizations that improve lives in neighborhoods across the state.
- Credit unions are all about improving lives by promoting financial wellness among their members.
Did You Know: OneAZ Credit Union was founded more than 70 years ago as a credit union serving employees of the State of Arizona. Rose Mofford — who served as Arizona’s first female governor — was a founding member and was instrumental in spreading the word about the benefits of banking with a credit union.
Photo courtesy of OneAZ Credit Union