There is a YouTube video that Kathy Neyman absolutely loves. As she describes it, the video opens on a man who walks out alone onto a field and starts moving, trying to get people to join in. “He dances alone for quite a while,” she says. “He’s that lone nut trying to get movement started. Finally, after several minutes, another person joins him, and soon, others follow.”
This video can serve as an apt encapsulation of what Neyman sees as her role with Redstone Federal Credit Union as senior assistant vice president of culture and leadership development. “I’m the lone nut,” she says with a laugh. “I’m the one who gets up there and says, ‘This is what needs to happen.’ The movement doesn’t really happen until others join in. When I see other people get passionate and engaged, I know our corporate culture can live on.”
Neyman defines culture as “the way we think and behave here: it’s the way we greet each other by name, it’s the way we show up at work, how we dress, how we make eye contact.”
She calls Redstone “one big family of 1,300 employees,” and it is her job to motivate and encourage people to be the best they can be both individually and working as a team moving ahead with a single purpose.
“During our time working with Kathy, we’ve witnessed her consistent commitment to Redstone and its 1,300 employees,” says Ryan Millar, senior partner at Culture Partners. “Kathy has unleashed the power of culture at Redstone, and they’ve experienced phenomenal growth thanks to her leadership.”
Neyman was an influencer long before there was social media. She grew up fairly poor in Gadsden, Alabama, but she had high expectations for herself and others. “I grew up wanting to inspire people to be the best that they could be,” she says. “I like to see people achieve their potential.”
When she was around eight years old, she recalls, she would invite neighborhood kids to her house to sit in her little room, where she would preach to them. Tellingly, she was cheerleader in junior high and high school. She was on the honor society. But her family could not afford to send her to college.
She worked in retail for six years and put her faith in God to take control of her destiny. “I was committed to not living in poverty,” she says. “I knew if I worked hard, I could make something of myself.”
Neyman learned about an opening at Redstone from a friend who told her it was a place she could find a career. Despite not having a college degree, she was persistent in interviewing for the position. “After four visits, they hired me, and everything else is history,” she says. She has been with the company for thirty-nine years.
After one year at Redstone, she had moved up into management as a cashiering supervisor. Within seven, she had managed five different branch offices. In 1997, she moved into a position in the training division. She found her niche. “I can be impactful not only to my peers but in coaching the executive team,” she says.
This year marks Redstone’s seventieth anniversary. With over 600,000 members, more than $7 billion in assets, and 26 branch locations in Northern Alabama and Southern Tennessee, it is the largest credit union in Alabama.
Culture, Neyman emphasizes, is an integral part of Redstone’s success. “A weak culture will sabotage a strategic plan,” she explains. “A strong culture aligns an organization in the way it gets things done so it moves forward united.”
This was brought home to her during the pandemic. Going into 2020, she says, Redstone had surpassed its own benchmarks three years running. “We were knocking our goals out of the park and winning awards, including Credit Union of the Year,” she notes.
Thus, the company was well-positioned when the pandemic began and the country was forced to shut down. “The impact on us as a credit union wasn’t so much from the perspective of getting things done,” Neyman says. “We were impacted in our ability to stay connected with each other.”
As a solution, Redstone instituted such programs as “Java and Jabber,” a periodic Zoom meeting for anyone who wanted to join and talk about things other than work, such as favorite movies or sharing new things they’ve done during the pandemic.
Neyman has a favorite quote by motivational speaker Brian Tracy: “Aspire greatly, for anything less than a commitment to excellence becomes acceptance of mediocrity. We were given talents to use, and we’re expected to use them to our utmost ability.”
This is at the core of her own personal mantra: BeTTY—Be Better Today Than Yesterday.
“If we can learn from the day before,” she says, “whether you had successes or failures, we can be better today, and live today so you’re not filled with regret. This is what I try to instill in others.”
To that end, she says, she focuses on coaching to people’s strengths, while managing their weaknesses. “Some people think they’re not good at anything,” she says. “When you start working with people and putting a name to what they’re good at, you see the light bulb come on, and all of a sudden they become a star performer in the credit union.”
Neyman counts herself as a leader who mostly prefers to stay in the background and let others shine. “I like to be recognized,” she says, “but I get a personal feeling of accomplishment by making a connection with other people over our culture that ties together accountability, mission, vision, and values. What I really enjoy is when others I have helped become successful.”
One of Neyman’s mentors and Redstone’s president and CEO, Joe Newberry, once asked Neyman what legacy she wanted to leave at Redstone. It didn’t take long for her to respond, she says: “When I leave Redstone, I just want others to be able to say that in some small way, Redstone was a better place because of me.”