Fairygodboss

“I’m a firm believer and practitioner of the idea that we shouldn’t have circles of people but a horseshoe of people,” says Kristy Powers, Assistant Vice President of Site Operations, Navy Federal Credit Union. “Instead of a closed ring, there’s always open space for others. I like to say, ‘If you need people, I’m your people. Please join me.’”

“Being and feeling included strengthens fundamental human connections and is so important for our success and well-being,” Powers continues. “My horseshoe has offered me the opportunity to learn from, teach, celebrate and advocate for people I may not have interacted with otherwise. Even if we’re independent, we still need others. My horseshoe always has open space. If I see you sitting by yourself at a table, I might sit beside you and bring my friends if you’ll let me.”

And, maintaining a horseshoe of people is only one of many pieces of advice Powers has for supporting other women. In this Q&A, Powers talks leadership, uplifting other women and more.

To start, how have other women aided in your career growth?

My first job was as a server at a very popular restaurant in my town. I learned that there were payoffs for being attentive to people’s needs and creating memorable experiences for them, while making sure being a server was profitable for me.  

With a little anticipation, I could create really special moments and provide a break or safe space for customers. In return, they would reward me with good tips, which allowed me to support myself. I look back at that job and remember that I had women who encouraged and showed me techniques for giving incredible service and managing my money. 

Waiting tables is just one of the many experiences that started me on my career journey as an executive leader. It helped me discover that I love being in service to others. My role in leading our campus allows me to create engaging experiences that I hope make others always feel welcome, safe, valued and encouraged. I no longer work for the reward of a tip, though. The reward is in seeing people flourishing in their careers, growing our business and supporting our community.  

Just like other women helped me, my role as a leader is to develop future leaders. In Girl Scouts, we used to sing a song: “It only takes a spark to get a fire going…” So many women gave me sparks from their fire that lit a blaze in me. I aim to be the spark for someone else

What career move are you most proud of?

With each new role, I learn something about work, life, people and myself. I LOVE the job I’m in now. Coming to Navy Federal has been my best move. We are a mission-driven organization that walks the talk of putting people ahead of profits. Something I’ve heard consistently since joining the organization is “Take care of our members and team members, and the money will take care of itself.” 

I also love being involved in our community. Navy Federal has opened opportunities for me and our employees to engage the community in ways that really make a difference. The impact will have long-lasting results for generations to come.  

What’s been the role of mentorship in your career?

I’ve had some incredible mentors along the way, both formal and informal. The ladies I worked with at the restaurant took me under their wing. I was the youngest server there, many of the others were career servers who knew all the tricks of the trade. 

I’ve had incredible bosses guide me, and a dear friend who mentors me with no agenda.  She’s a retired executive and author — one of the smartest people I know. We’ve walked around a local lake together for about 15 years solving the world’s problems, and all the while, she has stealthily mentored me. She’s great at asking questions that make me think, and she has solid advice when I ask for it. My life would be different without her, and I appreciate her so much!  

What are your top tips for how other women can help advance the careers of those around them?

Get WILD.

  1. W —  Welcome people into your horseshoe. 

  2. I —  Introduce the people in your horseshoe to each other.

  3. L — Lift people up by sharing their talents, so others can see them.

  4. D —  Devote time to your people, and give them the opportunity to shine.

What books would you recommend women read to help them better support other women? 

The Inspiring Leader by Zenger Folkman is one book I recommend often.  It takes a research and data-driven approach to narrowing down the competencies that can help leaders be their best.

I’m also a big fan of memoirs of people who inspire me. My Life in Full: Work, Family and Our Future by Indra Nooyi was so inspiring. Helping other women boils down to knowing yourself and not buying into thinking that other women are competition. There’s room for everyone to use their strengths. When we lift each other up, we all rise.

How does NFCU support women?

Our CEO is a woman, my amazing boss is a woman, our company is made up of 66% women and 60% of our leaders are women, so there’s natural support built into our culture. 

Our maternity leave is generous, and we also offer parental leave for non-birth parents/dads/adoptive parents anytime during the first year of bringing their little one home. We also offer paid sick leave, which can be used for employees’ own care or to care for their family members. Having that safety net of time off makes it easier for women to support themselves and their families and have a great career.

Is there anything else that you’d like to mention?

Organizations talk a lot about engagement and culture — ours does too.  Even as leaders, the best control we have is of ourselves, not of others.  As leaders, we are accountable for modeling how to treat and engage others so that our influence has reach.  I take accountability for being a catalyst for our culture. Each of us has this mantle of responsibility, regardless of our title.  To help take on this mantle, I ask myself daily, What can I do today, to provide an opportunity to an employee? How can I include more people in my horseshoe?  How can I get WILD today?  I hope others join me. 



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