April Clements is Senior Vice President II of Human Resources at MIDFLORIDA Credit Union. She has worked for the credit union for 17 years and during that time has held a variety of positions within the organization from Retail Delivery to Recruitment and ultimately to Human Resources. April has a passion for people and helping others to develop their talents. She was born in Thomasville, Georgia and raised in Lakeland, Florida, which she calls home. April earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of South Florida, her MBA with a concentration in Executive Leadership from Southeastern University and is a Senior Certified Professional with the Society of Human Resource Management. April is married to David Clements and they have three daughters. In her free time, she loves to travel with her family. Servant leadership is a core value for April and we recently discussed how putting people first creates success for employees and customers.
In January of this year, you became MIDFLORIDA Credit Union’s, Senior Vice President II of Human Resources. As you reflect on your career, what prepared you for this new opportunity?
Throughout my career, I’ve always been in service to others. I started in our retail delivery as a part-time teller, moved on to a banking role, and then into management. During my journey with MIDFLORIDA, my focus has been on how I can best serve those around me, both inside and outside our organization. That service-oriented style has opened many doors and allowed me to prepare for my new role.
Additionally, a passion for learning has helped me continue to grow personally and professionally. My parents instilled the value of education and the importance of curiosity in my sisters and I at a young age. That has helped me develop new skills, seek out mentors, and pursue new opportunities that prepared me for an executive-level position.
As you considered this new leadership opportunity, did you have any self-doubts?
I am my toughest critic, and self-doubts crept in as I started this position. I stepped into this role after someone who had worked for the credit union for 40 years. This person was a legend within our organization, and I was concerned about my ability to fill her shoes. I’m fortunate that she built an amazing HR team that supports me and the organization’s values. I’ve learned to trust myself and my abilities, as well as have the confidence to seek guidance from my predecessor, all while continuing to make decisions that reflect my unique leadership style.
What are the most valuable leadership lessons you’ve learned over the past six months as a first-time executive level leader?
The most valuable leadership lesson is to take the time to listen first, then ask questions. Listening allows me to better understand how a situation or environment affects our employees and questions like “How can I best assist?”, “What constraints are you working under?”, ” What options are available ot us?” help me dig deeper into what the root cause of an issue might be before I try to solve it. It’s also critical to recognize that every situation and employee is unique, so there are no one-size-fits-all solutions. We might not always get to the perfect answer, but often we can find a middle ground that’s beneficial to both the team members and the credit union.
What’sthe biggest mistake you see women leaders make and how can they avoid it?
Listening to your inner critic and creating roadblocks to success are two mistakes women leaders must try to avoid. When women listen to the voice inside that tells them what they can’t do and why they can’t do it, they hold themselves back. Women can get stuck when they create roadblocks by turning life into an “either-or” situation. For example, many women think they must choose between a successful career or a meaningful family life. When the reality is that you can have both. You might not have both simultaneously, but you can strike a balance where multiple facets of your life are successful and fulfilling.
Women need to devote time to themselves daily. I try to take time each morning and before I go to bed to do something just for me. Whether it’s exercise or listening to a new podcast. Spending time exploring my interests and investing in my well-being helps me serve everyone in my life to the best of my ability. Women may have to be patient with the timeline as they balance different aspects of their life, but there are ways to achieve your goals without sacrificing what is important.
What sense of purpose guides you in your life and work?
Two things guide my life and work. First, I want to be a positive resource for those around me. It’s important that when people in my life have an issue or a problem, they know they can come to me for a solution. Second, I want to be an example for my children. I have three daughters, and I want them to know that no matter what goal you set, you can achieve your goals if you work hard and dedicate the time needed to succeed.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Emily Rogers, Founder & CEO of Emily Rogers Consulting + Coaching, is an executive coach, team coach and keynote speaker. She strategically advises and supports individuals and organizations in growing and realizing their full potential in purposeful and balanced ways. You can connect with her at emilyrogers.com.Want to strengthen your capacity to lead with excellence and grow with purpose? Consider enrolling in Emily’s Leadership Development Programs.