How Jim Weddle grows Edward Jones by empowering his leaders to make a difference

When Jim Weddle was hired as managing partner at Edward
Jones in January 2006, he didn’t come in with the attitude that he
had to have all the answers. Instead, he placed a great deal of
responsibility on the leaders in the company whose expertise in
specific areas exceeded his own knowledge. In his view, the way
to effective leadership is not through knowing the answer to
every question but through assembling and managing a team of
people who could provide the answers needed to move the
organization forward.

“I’m not the expert in technology, I’m not the expert in compliance, and I’m not the expert in operations,” Weddle says. “I
spent my career on the client side of the business.”

Instead of pretending to have all the answers, Weddle
embraces a culture of responsibility-based management in
which he expects people to use what they have learned to do
their job to the best of their ability.

“I want to be in the loop on big things, and I certainly want to
have the right performance measures in place so that we can see
how the different areas of the firm are doing,” Weddle says. “But
for people to be coming to me for decisions in the areas of the firm
where they are more expert than I am, that’s ridiculous.

“If you want my opinion, I’ll give you that. But you need to come
to me with your recommendation. I need to know what you as the
expert feels like we need to do. Usually, I’m going to agree.
Perhaps sometimes, I will not. But don’t come to me and ask me
to make the decision because I know less about it than you do. I
want them making the decisions and moving on.”

By promoting a culture of shared responsibility, Weddle has
enabled Edward Jones to maintain its standing as one of the best
places in the nation to work, which is evidenced in the fact that
the company has been ranked by Fortune magazine as one of the
“100 Best Companies to Work For” for eight consecutive years. The
investment firm now has about 30,000 employees working at more
than 10,000 branch offices around the world, and it generated $3.4
billion in 2006 net revenue.

Success in the future relies on Weddle’s ability to maintain a
culture in which senior leaders feel empowered to make
important decisions in far-flung offices, and employees feel
they have a means to speak openly about the way in which the
business is operating.