One of my first jobs was at a pizza place where we would sometimes wear costumes for kids. I was Chip the Chipmunk for an 8-year-old's birthday party. Her mother, a teacher at my high school, took a photograph — no big deal. But, later, the school newspaper ran the photo on the front page of the paper — with a caption identifying me. My buddies gave me grief about that for a while.
Christopher Hernandez endured some ribbing from friends in high school but took it all in stride, because, as he now explains, “To be successful, you have to remember where you came from, while assuming the positive intent of others.” He also praises the value of friendship and the importance of good relationships at work. “If you treat people right and form a deeper relationship,” he says, “positive performance will follow. Loyalty will grow, and success will come — for both of you.”
Daryl Hunt, Executive Vice President for UMB’s Operations and Technology Group, says that Hernandez is uniquely talented when it comes to inspiring performance and engagement. “Chris has a passion for people and ensures their ongoing development, engagement, and career advancement,” he says. “He has a passion for leading and motivating people and — despite the challenges faced — he consistently maintains a positive outlook and energized approach.”
Hernandez currently serves as Senior Vice President of the Bank Operations division within UMB’s Operations and Technology Group. In that role, he leads a multi-regional team, handling day-to-day operations. It is the most diverse team in the organization, with responsibility for check processing, loan operations, and customer account services.
Hernandez also participates on the Corporate Executive Board Operations Council and serves on nonprofit boards throughout Kansas City. He has been a Board Director at Big Brothers Big Sisters for the past three years and is an active supporter of United Way as a Leadership Giver. He performs fundraising for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and plays a key role in UMB’s internal and external diversity initiatives. Two years ago, he was also honored with the UMB Outstanding Leadership Award, after being with the company for only two short years.
He attributes that success to the fact that he tries to bring positive energy and an approachable style to work every day, combining that with humility and utmost respect for others. Hernandez recently volunteered, for instance, to lead an enterprise-wide data-enhancement project. The task was complex and plagued by delays and team disagreements. But, by meeting with key contributors, listening to their issues, championing their concerns, and providing appropriate resources, Hernandez was able to drive improvements. People opened up to him because of his own passion and respect, and that led to a valuable team solution.
Hernandez derives inspiration from many sources, including his grandfather. “He came to the USA when he was 18, without knowing the language, and worked on the railroad. He exemplified what a strong work ethic is and truly sacrificed more for others than anyone I know.”
Hernandez ran his first marathon last year, which was an extreme physical and mental challenge. After six months of intensive training, he finished the marathon on his 32nd birthday. Now he takes lessons about goals, determination, and discipline that he learned from that experience into his mentoring sessions.
“The opportunity to be a leader is not only a gift but also a responsibility,” says Hernandez. “Others are counting on you, and you need to be their advocate. If I can successfully lead others, their lives will improve.”
CareerFOCUS Magazine and the National Eagle Leadership Institute® salute 2012 Eagle Award winner Christopher Hernandez.