Awards and Institutional Culture

Most credit union associations, many credit unions, CUSOs and even some vendors present periodic awards to individuals or credit unions. These honor specific contributions and reinforce values the groups want to celebrate. Internally, awards reinforce the culture an organization is trying to cultivate.

NCUA’s Awards in 1977

My first recollection of industry awards for results was in a 1977 NCUA press release. Details are now vague. But I recall two specific recognitions.

The first was for the agency employee(s) who had helped charter the most new credit unions during the year. The second was for credit unions that achieved the highest amount of savings growth.

Both awards embodied the agency’s view of its mission and results. The contrast with today’s absence of new charters, promotion of mergers and idolatry of net worth is stark.

An Insight from Police Reform

The Denver Police Department’s decade long effort at cultural reform included reviewing its award ceremonies.

Prior to this effort, every year officers were recognized for “justified use of force,” that is deadly shootings in the line of duty.

The new award, honoring efforts to deescalate encounters, was named the “perseveration of life.”

Awards Say Who We Are

Whether the action be a lifetime achievement or a one-year recognition for outstanding results, awards publicize organizational mindsets.

For many years NCUA and state regulators have viewed their primary task as a mortuary for credit unions they supervise. The announcements come on Friday evenings after reporters have gone home of another “justifiable homicide.” IBEW Local Union 712 Closes; West Penn P&P Assumes Loans, Assets, Shares

Might a new recognition change this regulatory mindset? Is now the time for the credit union community to honor the regulator, supervisor or examiner(s) whose present actions best exemplifies cooperative innovation, credit union ideals and most importantly, sustainability?

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