"We've got to make a difference in people's lives," says Lochridge. "We need to help them understand how they can become the best they can be, both personally and professionally, as individuals and as adding to a collective team.
"We're going to spend an inordinate amount of time in this work environment, which I'll call a laboratory for personal development, to assist people to understand how they're behaving and what it's going to take for them to become the best they can be."
Lochridge says that when an employee's positive behavior is reinforced and mistakes are pointed out and corrected, that employee "becomes not only a stronger performer in our business, they also become that to their families and out in the community."
ComDoc, an office equipment provider with more than 400 employees in offices in Ohio, West Virginia, New York and Pennsylvania, encourages open communication from the top down. From orientations for new employees to weekly sales meetings at each branch, communication is a constant theme at the company, whose vision is to be a great place to work and a great place to be a customer.
"You just can't communicate too much, especially when things are going not quite so right," Lochridge says. "All communication offers an opportunity to ensure that everyone's voice is heard, such that what you have is a more diverse perspective than you would have had, and thus the vitality of your organization and the clear thinking, complete thinking of your organization is better."
Communication isn't always about what's going right -- it's also about finding what's going wrong and fixing it.
"It all starts with having ... an open relationship, that dissects personal encounters, that dissects transactions for a learning opportunity," Lochridge says. "And when we catch ourselves doing something wrong, or not so right, that is a great investment in our future. When we get feedback that is critical, that's food for growth.
"When we catch someone doing something right, that's an opportunity for a compliment, that's an opportunity for confidence, that spurs people on to doing even more."
As president and CEO, Lochridge is not exempt from praise or criticism.
"If I can accept criticism, if I can be critical of myself and do it in a way that is healthy for us, it's so much easier (for employees) to share the same of themselves," he says. "We have a saying here that we try to celebrate the gap between who and what we are today and who and what we're in the process of becoming. An openness and a sense of development and excitement over who and what we can become collectively makes it so much easier to share differences of opinion. ... I think we're pretty darn good at that in this organization."
When employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions and know they will be heard, they are happier in the workplace. And that openness creates a strong bond between employees and the company, Lochridge says.
"If people feel as though they're working with an organization that has their best interest at heart, it becomes a lot easier to want to stay and a lot more difficult to want to leave," he says. "If people make the whole thing go, and they do, and the culture is a culture where people are encouraged, appreciated, they're cared for and cared about, they're held accountable, then they learn how to perform more effectively. This is a good place to be."
And when employees feel valued as an important part of the company, they begin to think, walk, talk and act differently, Lochridge says, creating an attitude and an atmosphere that ultimately benefits the customer.
"I've seen it over and over again, people that walk into a room and they know -- and they didn't used to know this -- they know that the people in that room ought to be really happy that I've just arrived, because I bring something to the room," he says. "And just as I'm pleased to be here, they should be pleased that I'm here, because together, we're going to craft something that we would not otherwise craft, that moves the individual and this organization forward.
"When that happens, I've taken two individuals that become three and four and eight and 16 and 64, and eventually, in our case, 420 people that all understand that there are 419 other people in this business that care very deeply about you as one of our workers."
ComDoc's employees -- who own stock in the company through an employees stock ownership program -- find the company such a good place to work that they are the company's No. 1 recruiting source. Referrals by employees, who receive bonuses if the company hires someone they've referred and that person stays for at least six months, are trailed by Internet and university recruiting.
"The nice thing is that when you do get a referral, now you have an individual other than the new hire who has a vested interest in seeing to it that our new hire performs well and finds this organization as we hope they would find it, as a place that's attractive to work," Lochridge says. "(The company) just got that much stronger."
Lochridge says ComDoc's open communication model has worked well for it, and he offers this advice to other CEOs who want to promote a more open culture in the workplace.
"For starters, you have to understand that you better be patient about getting started. This does not happen overnight," he says. "This is something that happens over years and years. And if you conduct yourself in a very open and giving kind of way, which is steeped in servantship ... the people will respond."
And leaders must understand that they can no better than the people the employ.
"The best that you can be is the equal of the people. You can be worse, but the best that you can be is the equal of the people," he says. "And they need to understand you care about them, you care for them, you make decisions that are equitable and competent, that are steeped in the values of the organization, that they are always made with the interest of your people, individually and collectively, the best interests of your people."
And even when a leader's self-interests suffer as a result, he or she must continue to act in the best interest of the employees.
"People will go through walls for you if they know you're behind serving them and they know you're looking out for their best interest," he says. "Even when your own (interests) need to suffer as a result. Because in the long run, they don't, because people who give and give and give some more seem to get a lot back." How to reach: ComDoc Inc., (330) 899-8000 or www.comdocinc.com