Professional Development

Hidden Strengths

Julie Causey, Chairman Emeritus of Western Bank, has stayed quite busy since her banking days

By Sue Hawkes
07-27-2016

Julie Causey, chairman emeritus of Western Bank, has always been “driven by challenges” — some of which you wouldn’t expect. Looking at her, it’s clear she’s a sharp business woman; passionate about teams, a catalytic force wherever she’s engaged, but it wouldn’t occur to you that she’s a serious athlete.

Finding a new challenge

Just three years ago, Julie successfully led the sale of her family’s 100-year-old bank. During her 12 years as chairman, Julie built a team of phenomenal executives and used their expertise to leverage the talents of the bankers and employees. “Our goal was to have the whole thing be intact, to sell the impact and legacy of Western Bank so it could move forward in big, bold ways,” says Julie. Since the sale, Julie pours her professional energy into the boardroom, including HealthEast, in which she is heavily involved on the Executive Committee and as Chair of the Audit and Finance Committee. 

What you might not expect is that Julie commits that same intensity to her health, and is focused on mastering CrossFit — an intensive proprietary strength and endurance regimen. Through her work in the gym, she’s built new muscles in her body and life. What most people wouldn’t realize is this buttoned-up banker could kick your ass in the gym.

Julie has been doing CrossFit for over three years, since having some time outside the office to commit to the gym. A self-proclaimed “math nerd,” she’s had to buckle down to the discipline it takes to learn how to compete in the games. “There are a lot of areas in our lives where things can just come naturally,” says Julie, “but CrossFit is one of those things where it doesn’t matter. Even if you bring a strong healthy body you still just have to learn the stuff.”

Always goal-driven, Julie set her sights on the CrossFit Open — a five-week fitness test — to find her place in the global competition. The first year, she placed in the top 25% of women in her age group, the second year, she placed No. 157 (the top 5%) and this year, she placed No. 132 of 4,146 globally. After breaking the top 200 last year, Julie knew moving up would be a stretch. Her ultimate goal is to be in the top 20, which qualifies her for the CrossFit Games.

Numbers don’t lie, and Julie feeds her inner math nerd by tracking her workout progress by each rep and weight completed. This objective data offers clear areas in which to improve. When Julie shares her latest stats, you can’t help but wonder how she does it. When asked, she reiterates, “You just have to do the work. The key for me is to remain coachable and just consistently keep doing the work.”

Julie spends hours each day working with her coaches at the Power House at Highland and Side Door CrossFit to perfect her squats, pull-ups and muscle ups — an especially demanding strength exercise. What is her current progress? She deadlifts 236 pounds, back squats 210 pounds and does 100 pull-ups in sets of five each minute on the minute for 20 minutes straight. Her overall health is an important part of the equation as well, which she says includes “chopping a lot of vegetables.” During Julie’s training, she watched workout videos of the women she is competing against to get an idea of who they are and what to expect from them. She watched the video for the woman who was No. 190 and thought “Wow she’s doing a phenomenal job for No. 190. It turns out this woman played ten years of professional basketball and is now currently a CrossFit coach for others,” says Julie. While some of us might be intimidated, this didn’t slow Julie down; it was the fuel to keep working amidst the pain and bruises that result from her workouts.

Aside from putting in the hours, Julie relies on her coaches and fellow athletes to improve. She believes “being coachable” can be difficult for already successful people to practice, but it’s necessary for success in every area of life. “As women in leadership who have had a lot of professional experience and also parented and mentored a ton, how do we all make sure that we are still coachable? Whether it’s athletics or business or mental health, how do we do that so we can learn and be coached and mentored?” asks Julie. CrossFit has been an opportunity to practice being coachable, and it paid off this year when Julie achieved her goal by becoming a Master’s Qualifier in the CrossFit Open. That puts her in the top 200 of this elite group — many of whom have been professional or Division I athletes. Julie feels honored to be among them. “It’s just a blast,” she shares. Whether in the CrossFit Open, board work or throughout her banking career, this math nerd has been driven by and succeeded while “doing the work.”

Bio

Sue Hawkes, CEO of YESS!, is a Certified EOS Implementer, Certified Business Coach, WPO Chapter Chair, bestselling author and award-winning entrepreneur. She has been helping entrepreneurs and leadership teams succeed for the past 20+ years.

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