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VIProfile: Rebecca Stone




By Sadie Fowler

Tough and tenacious, kind and compassionate … smart — and dedicated to serving the people with whom she interacts. Those are a few ways to describe Rebecca Stone, a child prodigy banker who has spent her entire life in her field of expertise — currently serving as president and CEO of Service One Credit Union. It is a post she’s held for 10 months, having served as COO for over two years. Though numbers are indeed her specialty, Stone is equally as good at psychology and people, having a keen understanding of and concern for human beings.

Perhaps this is her best trait of all and one that has equally been a large factor in her incredible success in business and life.

“I’m faster than a locomotive-leaping tall buildings in a single bound- potty-trained at two,” laughed Stone with quick-wit charm as she described herself in a nutshell. “I went to college on a music scholarship with a psychology minor and got into the financial industry because I was bored.”

She’s gone through many phases in her nearly five decade career, traveled the country, made mistakes — and owned them — and generally thrived in what she describes is, unfortunately, a man’s world type of career.

The Texas native began her career at a bank in Corpus Christi, which was bought out by a large corporately owned bank. At that point, she had the choice to remain in Texas and start fresh with another local bank or continue with the large corporation, which required an immediate move and several that followed the first one.

“I could stay and start with another bank, or I could go to Charlotte and see what the big boys do,” she laughed. “It was an entirely different experience.”

Reflecting back to her early days, Stone says she was a generalist who barely was considered good enough to file checks — and she loves that. She’s thrived on growth and overcoming stereotypes and challenges her entire life.

In terms of working in what is still a predominantly male industry, Stone says she believes anyone has the potential to do whatever it is that they desire.

“I have seen mentally and physically challenged people do unbelievable things because they didn’t limit themselves,” she said. “I refused to ever limit myself.”

In other words, she has never cared or worried about being a professional female leader in a man’s world. Not then, now not … Not ever.

She thrives in her leadership role. As much as she loves serving members, she is passionate, and incredibly talented, at leading and inspiring associates who work for her today.

“I think it’s important that our associates get up in the morning and are happy and challenged to come to work,” she said. “I want them to love what they’re doing.”

Compassionate leadership, part of Stone’s goal, is always making her employees feel valued, heard, and making sure they’re in the right role at her organization, a concept she derived from one of her favorite books, Good to Great.

“I want our associates to feel valued and know their success is important in helping achieve success for our members. No one is perfect, and sure, mistakes happen. You can’t beat down an associate when mistakes happen. My approach is let’s fix the mistake, learn from it, and move on.”

What are the key factors to Stone’s success as a leader? Aside from valuing members and employees, Stone leads by example. She believes in ownership, and that it’s a leader’s responsibility to teach what this means to their employees. “Our motto here is ‘Make It Happen,’” she said. “This is important to our organization. We constantly ask ourselves ‘How do we make it happen for our members?’ When something is broke, we ask ourselves how do we fix it? When we’ve made a mistake impacting a member or even when we didn’t, we need to listen to their issue and make it right. As a leader, my job is to figure out how our make it happen philosophy is spread throughout our Credit Union.”

She believes in encouraging associates to speak up about things that are going wrong or right, and praise fellow associates for the positive things they bring to the table.

Stone describes her ideal organizational chart to be a big circle, with a big dot in the middle of that circle representing the member. “A credit union is a good fit when service is important to you. When you have the freedom to be able to serve the member, who owns the credit union, it makes a difference in the culture you are trying to build around you.”

Stone says she has not always been the compassionate CEO she is today, one who takes time out or cancels meetings to prioritize the needs that may arise with her associates. She said she woke up one day and didn’t like who she was as a manager, so she reached out and began a journey to improve herself.

One of the things she learned was to empathize more with others, and help employees find their niche.

“You can’t lump people into categories,” she said. “My role is to leverage the uniqueness of individuals and help them apply it in a way that helps them succeed. … Think of it like this (from the book Good to Great) … If everyone is in the wrong seat on a bus it’s a miserable experience for everyone. I try to think of my associates like this. If you’re having challenges, you don’t have to get off the bus. I can find you another seat. Your job is to make sure you’re on the right bus. My job is to help this person find the right seat on our bus.”

There’s something refreshing about Stone’s simplicity and approachability. That secret mix is likely what’s brought her to the top. Thankfully now in the Bowling Green community, she loves interacting with community members, serving non-profits (she’s a member of Kiwanis), and educating students on her home-base campus at WKU.

“I’m just a normal person who feels very strong that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be at this point in my life … Actually, I’m probably a pretty darn complex person but if you want to reach people and get a message across you have to be humble and simple. I have never gone out with a mission to be successful because the opposite of that is failure.”

There again, Stone’s mission has always been to serve.

Deriving great joy and satisfaction from the root word of service, Stone loves sharing advice with young professionals just starting out.

“My advice above all else is to be passionate about your work,” she said. “Don’t limit yourself. Try things out, think about who you are … Make sure you’re on the right bus … Don’t spend too much time worrying about things. Own your mistakes, learn from it, let it go and move on”

Outside of work Stone loves her family and friends, loves photography, nature, reading, and making her mark on the world — finance or otherwise.

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