October 24, 2011 | last updated May 21, 2012 1:09 pm

Work Hard And ΓΆβ‚¬ΛœAlways Do Right'

Tina M. Sbrega

President and CEO, GFA Federal Credit Union, Gardner

From Nomination Form: "Tina is an amazing leader and mentor. While she is a powerful, accomplished businesswoman - intelligent, savvy, skilled and polished - it is her warm smile upon first meeting her that you don't forget and her steady encouragement and confidence in you that leaves (a) lasting impression."

Q: Who is your most influential role model, and why?

A: Throughout my childhood, there were two very special people who were most influential: my uncle and my mother. My uncle was an Italian immigrant who came to this country when he was 13 years old. He braved this journey alone and with little in the way of possessions. He was an entrepreneur who gained much success and did it with an unassuming modesty. My mother taught me how to deal with life on life's terms, and from her I learned strength, courage and perseverance. Both my uncle and my mother were hard-working, modest people and they were most influential in teaching me core values of integrity, hard work, kindness and love.

I was also fortunate to have a great mentor in my career. That individual taught me many things about becoming a successful professional and he provided me opportunities to stretch, to dream, to believe — and most importantly, to have fun with whatever I was doing.

Q: Why are you good at what you do?

A: It's easier to be successful at what you do if you have a passion for your work. I love everything about my job — the variety, the responsibility and the challenge.

I possess strong organizational skills and am always preparing myself in advance for challenges before tackling them. I am resourceful and have the vision to see where we need to focus our energies. I also recognize that to be good at what you do, you must be constantly evolving and reinventing yourself. I am fortunate to have a great team and a supportive board of directors, and together we work tirelessly in continuous process improvement for a greater impact.

Q: How does your organization give back to the community and what role have you played in those efforts?

A: Giving back to our community is part of our mission. At GFA, we give our time, talents and treasures as it is our responsibility to give back to those communities who have given so much to us. We provide financial assistance to many worthwhile community projects and organizations. Our management team is encouraged to participate in community activities and they serve on numerous boards. We have a robust financial literacy program that provides money management skills to consumers and our youth. Through our civic engagement program, all employees are provided one paid day off per year so they too can assist a non-profit organization and gain a greater sense of community.

The role that I have played is to personally offer my assistance as well by serving on numerous boards both within our community and our industry.

Q: When the stress level gets too high, what's your secret remedy?

A: I think stress is an overused term. If you can manage your time well and have an ability to prioritize your work, stress occurs less frequently. When the stress level rises, I try to compartmentalize and organize the multitude of priorities and take the time to refocus my attention and energy. Sometimes I do find the need to "jump off the roller coaster" and find an escape. Those escapes are usually time spent at home without a to-do list or spending time with family and friends. In the summer months, I find golfing and kayaking to be relaxing.

Q: How have you tried to balance your career and your personal life? Give an example or two.

A: To be honest, this is difficult for me and one that I am constantly trying to improve. I think it is easier today because employers recognize and allow for work/life balance, but that wasn't always the case. When I began establishing my career, I was a single parent raising my son and balancing the two was no easy feat. There were times when work came before family and this was always a personal struggle for me.

When my son was growing up, I tried to involve him in work-related activities and I have done the same with my granddaughter. I think it has helped them recognize why I was absent at times, and they came to respect and appreciate the work I was doing and the responsibilities I had.

Between the hours worked and my external community activities, there just aren't enough hours in the day to do all I want to do, so quality time trumps the quantity of time I spend with family and friends.

Q: What's your primary motivator, or if there is one thing that makes you tick or ignites a passion within you, what is it?

A: When I think of what motivates me, I think of something that Mark Twain once said, "Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest." In my approach to life and work, it is important to me that I place greater value over doing the right thing vs. personal success. My personal motivation is to do better today than yesterday and to strive to be the best I can be because mediocrity is not an option. A passion inside me is ignited when I am confronted with a challenge or when I have an opportunity to create a successful endeavor.


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