We had the good fortune of connecting with Connie Miller and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Connie, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factor in my success and building my career has been to stick through the tough times, as they teach you more than anything learned in a leadership book. You are likely going to experience a time with poor communication, a difficult customer, exhausting schedule, coworker with an agenda, poor leader, or dysfunctional team. Studying what works and adopting best practices will always win over running to a new environment so you don’t have to work through challenges. So often, I’ve had employees leave because of something they didn’t like, when that obstacle changed soon after and they wished they hadn’t left. In my career, I had 2 1/2 years at a highly dysfunctional employer, and I chose to stick with it, eventually landing an incredible job with another institution that would have never become a reality if I jumped ship and went back to my previous employer who continuously recruited me after I left. It was the best decision ever made in my career.
The second equally important factor in my success is I saw the value in supporting my leadership and board of directors. Even if I disagreed, I stayed focused on supporting their vision, therefore building trust and confidence. I recommend you lead with their vision and create a strong loyalty to your organization. There is nothing that will break down trust and kill your career faster than creating side agendas while trying to take the organization down a different path than the owner or leadership desires. You might get away with it in the short-term, but it shows up eventually and creates major obstacles in the leader entrusting you to more responsibility. As a President/CEO, I invested a great amount of time in my team so they understood the culture values and the board’s and my vision. I took all new employees out for coffee, even our tellers, and shared these important elements. It was a big investment, but worth the time, even with 115 employees.
Can you give our readers an introduction to your business? Maybe you can share a bit about what you do and what sets you apart from others?
I recently launched a leadership consulting business, Credible Advantage, the culmination of leadership expertise ready to be unleashed to help others grow as credible and respected leaders. My journey of over 40 years as a professional accountant and CEO has led to this next journey as an entrepreneur. I am passionate about inspiring others and helping build businesses and leadership teams. It’s exciting to move from the large corporate world to being a small entrepreneur now. I use my years of experience to help build the personal brand and leadership skills to grow personally and in business.
I started my career as a young accountant for Girl Scouts of Silver Sage Council. It has always been important to me that I work for organizations with a strong mission. My original plan was to work at Girl Scouts for one year and build the confidence with the ‘real world’ of accounting, then move into a public accounting firm. But, 12 years later, I was still at Girl Scouts and loved my job. One day I found myself bored and knew there was more out there for me.
And that’s how I landed in the credit union industry. I moved to a wholesale credit union named Idaho Corporate Credit Union and immediately discovered one of the most dysfunctional working environments ever. There were many employees related to each other in some capacity, a disengaged leader, sloppy operations, and tremendous drama. I chose to stick through the tough times and learn how to stay professional, stay focused on what influence I had to improve the situation, and concentrated on what we were trying to accomplish as an organization. I invested time to learn the financial industry trade, and knew I would eventually move to another credit union, as I fell in love with the industry. Idaho Corporate Credit Union eventually merged out of existence, and I was blessed to go to work at Idahy Credit Union (which later changed its name to Icon Credit Union). I worked as the VP Finance for 10 years, and was then fortunate to be named the President/CEO, where I worked for 13 years building our culture and organization. When I started at the credit union, we were roughly $35m and one branch, and I left it at $370m and 9 locations. We were recently ranked #7 out of more than 5,400 credit unions for the healthiest credit unions in the country by Deposits.com, and were regularly named a Best Places to Work in Idaho, along with many industry awards.
I recently retired from the credit union industry at the age of 60. Retirement was a goal I had set many years ago when my father passed away too soon after retiring. I now have a strong desire to give back and transition to being an entrepreneur with a leadership consulting business, and am excited that Credible Advantage just launched. In over 25 years leading teams, I have gained tremendous insight into great leadership, and want to use my consulting business to help build leaders, boards, and personal brands.
In 2018, I published a book, Don’t Sabotage Your Career, to help leaders discover their blind spots that get in their way in building their career. I was inspired to write the book after mentoring many employees and peers with career development, and improving their poor communication skills that included creating drama and not supporting management’s direction, just a few examples. I observed this happening to great individuals with strong expertise and education, and I saw an opportunity to share insights about 11 power-filled tips to prevent sabotaging yourself. I am looking forward to doing more training and workshops with the book content in the future, as many teams have great employees who want to grow but are sabotaging themselves with inappropriate behavior. The book contains many self-assessments, which are proving to provide tremendous value to those who want to grow as a respected professional. Building a personal brand that is consistent and respected is the greatest asset one can have, and I want to be a part of other’s journey in how to do this.
Through my years working for a board of directors and serving on more than 20 boards and board committees, I also have a passion of helping boards and a philanthropic spirit. I am looking forward to providing consulting on effective board leadership and how to work for a board effectively as a CEO. I attribute much of my success as a President/CEO by leading the board with strong communication and supporting their vision.
I would be remiss if I didn’t share about my investment in building culture and investing in the community. More can be learned by volunteering with others who come with much expertise and different perspectives. Many of the pictures I posted have a story of a large staff event or commitment to a great cause. Examples, our team gathered annually for a camp retreat or a challenge course activity. The photo of I Love This Life is an event I spoke at about anti-bullying. I am asked to share in the community about leadership through building great cultures and showing up. I’ve received many community recognitions that I love to share with my team, such as CEO of Influence in Idaho. In 2021, I am honored to have received the Business Person of the Year for the Meridian Chamber of Commerce.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I would teach them how to play poker if they had any desire to learn. I love playing poker, and especially love teaching ladies how to play. I have won a seat to play in both the World Poker Tour and the Ladies World Series of Poker several years ago, and am looking forward to playing more poker in my free time today. Poker has some amazing strategy and much of it is about observing people and learning their nuances, something that has been helping to me in my career.
I have thoroughly enjoyed our little place in the mountains in Cascade, ID, and I love to include our friends in our little piece of paradise among the pine trees. It is quiet, beautiful, and surreal. It is also the best mental health break ever.
You will also find me in my awesome craft room in my home with groups of friends making wreaths or scrapbooking. It is the place I go to take my mind off of work and create great memories.
And finally, I love to share my hobby of metal detecting. I’m looking forward to a retirement celebration trip to England in 2022 to hunt the plowed field with archeologists to find very old artifacts.
What you won’t find me doing is watching tv, as I hate it, unless it’s a good football game. Go BSU Broncos!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I want to give a huge shoutout to the girl scout organization. As a girl, my girl scout leader, Mrs. Kadel, was influential in painting the path to college over 40 years ago. Mrs. Kadel encouraged me to seek college, even though I saw this as a monumental and unattainable goal, as my family had no means to fund college tuition. I graduated four years later with my Bachelors in Accountancy, while working more jobs than I could manage and with only one small student loan of $1,800. And that led to my first career job as a young accountant for the Girl Scouts of Silver Sage Council, where I worked for 12 years before moving into the credit union industry as a VP Finance.
Another shoutout would be my previous CEO at Icon Credit Union, Dave Berent. Dave taught me that my career was mine to own. He provided every opportunity to learn the President/CEO role in its entirety and I was ready to step in when he retired, after 10 year as a VP Finance. Dave taught me with much patience and expertise.
The speaking photo on stage with pink is from Women Ignite International.