It got my attention. What was a Gwinnett Credit Union doing working with a Polish credit union?
So we contacted Marshall Boutwell, president of Gwinnett Federal Credit Union of Lawrenceville. The Gwinnett FCU is marking some 15 years of collaboration with SKOK St. Brother Albert, a credit union of Szczytno, Poland. Over the years, the two credit unions have cooperated in a variety of ways.
Of the partnership, Boutwell says: “We have learned that there is no substitute for leadership at every level. ” Actually, Boutwell has worked with two different credit unions in Poland. He says: “One has achieved much more success than the other. I attribute this level of success to the leadership of that credit union’s CEO. ”
That Polish executive spent months in jail as a 30 year old for agitating for freedom as a member of the Solidarity Movement in the early 1980s. “He also withstood years of austerity and hard times. In my mind he is no less a patriot than any of us who have served in combat wearing the uniform of our country.”
Boutwell maintains that “By surviving difficult times in our lives we learn that challenges in business can become easily managed problems rather than insurmountable obstacles. The older I get, the more I see this type of experience as a defining difference between younger, less experienced managers and us old guys who have been around the block a time or two.
“The experience doesn’t have to be military or combat-related, but you do have to have been knocked down a time or two and been willing to get back up and pursue your objectives (even if they weren’t clearly defined at the time).”
He adds: “I am also convinced that our motives play a huge role in our success or failure. When we focus on personal gain it is amazing how quickly we seem to run into problems. On the other hand, when we focus on the success of the organization and others, good things just seem to happen without explanation. Did all this knowledge/wisdom come solely from the Polish Partnership? No, but it has caused me to think about why we have success and how we can help others gain from our experiences.”
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What this tells me: you can learn from anyone, and that leadership skills are universal.