karen-church-headshot-2015“Always make time to meet with others outside the credit union.” advises Karen Church, CEO of ELGA Credit Union, especially if you are new to the industry.

In the years she has been CEO she concedes that sometimes making that commitment can be a challenge. Somehow, though, you have to make that balance between developing a powerful network and getting your work done on a day-to-day basis. Fortunately for her and those who work at ELGA, they made an organizational commitment to networking more than five years ago. Now it’s a matter of course to maintain great professional relationships with their vendor partners, communities, and, of course, their members.

In fact, Karen doesn’t limit her networking to only those outside the credit union walls. Those same skills have helped her and her team build ELGA from one branch and five employees to the eight-branch, 150-employee powerhouse that it is today. As CEO she sees her responsibility is to remove the obstacles from those who work on the front line helping their members. In order to achieve this she makes a point of networking with her own people. After all, they are the ones who have the best information about what their members need.

It really goes back to the fundamental philosophy of the credit union: People Helping People. She applies that same concept to her networking. It has to be first about helping others with no expectation of immediate return. Keep that in mind and the benefits always seem to come back around.

What’s the secret to her success? “Talk less, listen more, and ask good questions.” In short, take the time to focus on the other person and their needs. That’s how you develop the great professional relationships which can propel your team and your career forward.