Hefren-Tillotson Inc stays accountable

Kim Tillotson Fleming might love her job a little too much.

“I love what I do; I have an absolute commitment to our people,” says the president of wealth management firm Hefren-Tillotson Inc. “That level of commitment that’s required, it can be all-consuming.”

So in order to stay accountable to her 140 employees, Fleming starts by finding a balance in her own life.

“Running a business is a very demanding thing,” she says. “Especially if you love it, it’s hard to separate yourself from it.”

She does that by complementing her work with outside involvements and having plenty of people keep her accountable along the way. As a result, she has earned her employees’ trust and maintained her sanity, all while doubling Hefren-Tillotson’s revenue in the past five years.

Smart Business spoke with Fleming about how to establish accountability and trust with your employees by finding your balance.

Build your employees’ trust. In order to gain the trust and keep your integrity, you have to be honest, you have to be fair, and you have to be consistent in the kind of things you do. [Trust is] certainly not an entitlement; it’s something that’s earned over time by showing the kind of skills they can count on.

In order to earn the trust, you have to set that example every day. Do it through your actions; you do it through your words. If we’re going to say, ‘These are our values,’ then a leader can’t earn their trust unless they follow those values.

You have to be accountable to other people. Make sure you have good people around you, that they can keep you accountable and you keep them accountable. We’re a flat organization in leadership because we count on everyone to take a leadership role in one way or another.

A lot of that comes through the interview process. Look for the way that they’ve approached difficult situations. We really look for people that have a good attitude and people that take personal responsibility for things.

I need people that can come to me and say, ‘Hey Kim, you messed up here,’ and I can know that there are people watching what I do if I’ve made mistakes. Part of being a leader is also having the humility to recognize when you’re wrong and acknowledge it.