How To Develop The Next Generation Of Leaders

A Tennessee credit union is boosting performance with a program geared to support up-and-coming leaders.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • In January 2020, Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union launched an emerging leaders program that allows employees to shadow departments to understand how each area contributes to the cooperative’s growth and success.
  • After a pandemic hiatus, the program has resumed and expanded in 2021 with even bigger plans for the future.

Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union($3.3B, Knoxville, TN) is near the top of its peer group in several key performance areas including loan growth, member growth, and return of the member, Callahan & Associates proprietary scoring system of member value. Knoxville TVA Employees L.E.A.D. Academy is a new offering that helps the credit union achieve such results by facilitating team membersunderstanding of each person’s impact today, thereby paving the way for continued success tomorrow.


In 2020, Knoxville TVA Employees rolled out LEAD Academy, a program to support the development of emerging leaders. The program consists of four sections geared toward different leadership levels. Each section requires 12 months to complete and builds off the teachings of the previous sections. The sections are:

  • Learn

  • Empower

  • Analyze

  • Drive

Learn more about each of these sections in the credit union’s L.E.A.D. Academy info sheet.

It Starts With Learning

L.E.A.D. Academy begins with a 12-month learning component in which participating employees shadow each department within the credit union. Participants must have 12 months of credit union employment, complete an application explaining why they want to enroll, and secure their manager’s approval.

The pandemic forced Knoxville TVA Employees to cancel the 2020 program, but that didn’t deter interest for 2021 more than 40 applicants vied for the 15 to 16 spots available. The executive team decided who would participate, and the program pivoted to Zoom for a modified course in 2021.

Originally, the program was all day, but we cut it down to a half-day and incorporated more breakout sessions to keep it engaging for remote participants, says Rene Cooper, director of training and staff development at Knoxville TVA Employees.

After learning from department heads and managers during sessions that last an hour and 45 minutes, participants must answer four key questions about each department:

  1. What are the responsibilities of this department?
  2. How does it contribute to the success of the credit union?
  3. What challenges do you see for this department in the future?
  4. What is one takeaway from today’s session that you can use in your current role?

Each session in this part of the program runs five hours and coursework consists of departmental presentations as well as personal development. Participants generate their own ideas for personal development, which can include simple exercises such ashow to write a business email or how to create a PowerPoint presentation. Sessions take place monthly and include a capstone presentation that participants deliver to the executive team.

Want to learn more? Download Knoxville TVA Employees’ Learn Schedule and Learn Final Presentation rubric.

Then Comes Empowerment

The next component of L.E.A.D. Academy focuses on empowering participants. Coursework covers the fundamentals of how to develop as a leader as well as lead and empower others to do the same. This component delves heavily into personality and leadership styles.

Participants must have two years of credit union employment and have completed the Learn coursework. They must also complete an application. The credit union considers all of this as well as any disciplinary action to ensure it is getting people who wantto drive the organization forward.


Knoxville TVA Employees Credit Union
Data as of 09.30.21

HQ: Knoxville, TN
ROA: 1.40%

The 12-month Empower course begins with a discussion about leadership what it looks like and participants own good and experiences with leaders.The course then explores mindsets and self-awareness before moving into the Enneagram personalitytest.

It’s a very thorough test that helps you better understand how you operate as a person and what your tendencies are says Kimberley Trimble,senior vice president and chief people officer at Knoxville TVA Employees.

The credit union incorporates the results of the personality test throughout the rest of the Empower course, which explores topics such as communication, coaching, motivating others, creating and executing goals, and recognizing biases.

Toward the end of the course, participants meet with the executive team for a panel discussion in which each participant asks the panel three questions. Finally, after practicing their presentation skills throughout the year, participants wrap up theirEmpower coursework with presentations on leadership, including defining a good leader and action steps to prevent toxic leadership. The interactive presentations must last 13 to 15 minutes, use PowerPoint, and showcase the personal development work they’ve undertaken during the past year.

Want to learn more? Download Knoxville TVA EmployeesEmpower Schedule and Empower Final Presentation rubric.

Next Is Analyze And Drive

Knoxville TVA Employees has not finished developing the final two modules of the L.E.A.D. Academy, but it has outlined certain aspects.

The third section, Analyze, will focus on the credit union’s financials. The training and development team is working closely with the credit union’s chief financial officer and comptroller to create the course, which will help participants learn about ratios, financials, and budgeting for the organization.That course will last up to 12 months and will likely include ALCO meeting attendance when it rolls out in 2023.

Knoxville TVA Employees plans to launch the final section, Drive, in 2023 as well. This final piece of the program will consist of shadowing all the members of the credit unions executive team and will require the pre-requisites of Learn, Empower,and Analyze. The credit union will limit participation to assistant vice presidents and higher to ensure graduates will be ready to transition into senior-level positions as openings become available.

The credit union requires all employees newly promoted into management as an assistant manager or higher to complete the coursework for Learn and Empower. It also is considering offering supplemental opportunities to help existing managers keep growing and learning.

All our employees see the credit union’s goals each year but gaining an understanding of how each area contributes to these goals helps ensure we’re all moving in the same direction,Trimble says.

Both Cooper and Trimble advise other credit unions considering ways to develop leadership bench strength to start small with a program that is manageable and identify what emerging leaders needs to know.

At Knoxville TVA Employees, we took the program we had previously and split it into two smaller programs, says Trimble.If you start small, it allows more employees to participate and get that basic understanding of how departments function together to make a better workforce.

November 9, 2021

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