Your secrets are safe with Harry Cendrowski. He holds himself to a high standard that revolves around integrity, and he runs Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC with a similar philosophy.
As managing director, he holds his employees accountable to that standard — and asks them to do the same with him — both personally and professionally.
“You have to keep people accountable,” Cendrowski says. “As it relates to the professional goals, that’s going to be through either daily or weekly communication. But it’s really on a monthly and quarterly basis of reviewing what the goals and objectives were.”
Smart Business spoke to Cendrowski about leaving your integrity turned on and keeping employees accountable to their goals.
Q. How do you hold yourself accountable?
The key to being a good leader is to practice what you preach and to hold yourself to the highest standards because whatever you do, that’s what people are going to see. We have a motto in the firm that says, ‘Whatever we do, will we be proud of what we did two years from now?’
I do have other people in the firm — either at the partner level or at the senior manager level — review things that I’ve done. I explain to them I can make mistakes and that I sincerely want their input. Since we do a lot of work that is scrutinized by other professionals and by the courts, we need to make sure that whatever we are saying, writing, presenting can be held up to the strongest light.
If you look at all my partners and my senior team, I probably have the least [extensive] academic background; most of the people here have master’s degrees and law degrees and Ph.D.s. So what I’ve tried to do is surround myself with people who have significant achievements both in academic and professional life to fill in gaps and to make sure that we don’t have just clones here.
Q. How do you hold your employees accountable?
You have to be clear and consistent in what you want from them so they understand how and where they have to be accountable. It’s being clear about your specific message. What I mean by that is you have to actually get into a fair level of detail. You can have an overarching goal and talk about those things and what you want to accomplish, but you have to get into the detail of that and be very consistent every single day that that’s what you expect out of the organization.
If you practice what you preach and you hold yourself to a higher standard, they understand the standards that you’re holding them to, and it then doesn’t allow a lot of that miscommunication. You’re doing that in the fashion, though, where you’re encouraging ideas. Even if we say, ‘This is our goal and this is how we want to get there,’ if someone identifies something 20 percent of the way in and we’re going to have to modify our course, you want them to tell you that, and not tell you, when you’re 80 percent into something, that it’s not going to work.
Q. What are the keys to clearly communicating expectations?
We actually come up with a plan for the entire fiscal year about what is expected of each person in management. We have what I call a master calendar of events with respect to the profession, articles, professional associations or charitable endeavors. That’s one of the ways that we communicate.
We allow [employees] to participate in that process so they can discuss their strengths and weaknesses and where they think they’re going to be able to achieve some of their goals. [That’s at] the senior level, but we do bring the professionals below that manager into the process because we’re trying to encourage ideas.
In December, we had all of our senior managers [meet] and then we would call in people at certain points when we were going to be discussing how that could impact them. They’re responsible for their end, but they’re also responsible for the process. When we call people in for their areas, we also will show them the complete master schedule so they understand what the firm is doing.
We ask people for input. We ask them, ‘How can we make things more efficient? What’s working for you? What’s not working? What do you want to accomplish this year?’
So then we try to encourage people in achieving those things because it’s not only good for them professionally, it’s good for the firm and it continues to demonstrate our insatiable desire to learn. Sometimes you even give people assignments even if they might be not as proficient in that area to allow them to grow and give them some time to work on that.
So it’s a process; it’s not just, ‘Here’s your plan. Let’s go out and execute it.’ We have to talk about it either on a monthly or quarterly basis to see how people are actually coming along.
Q. How do you monitor employees’ progress toward goals?
The way we really monitor that is asking in January, ‘Where are you on your March goals? Is everything going to be in on time?’ We’ll go out and have an informal lunch and say, ‘You’re signed up for this. How’s it going? Do you need any support? What else can we do to help you?’
So we’re trying to monitor it not at the last minute. We’re trying to be proactive in making sure that whatever goals were supposed to be met are being met, and if they’re not being met, then we can have enough time to take corrective action to do it.
You can’t do it in isolation. You have to have a relationship with them. It has to be a real relationship, an understanding what makes that person tick and knowing what their goals are, what’s their passion, why do they want to do it.
We try not to micromanage people. We try to set goals, and we expect those people then to discharge their responsibilities with a balance. So, for example, we have general office hours; however, what we tell our professional is, ‘If you need some flexibility, just tell us. And as long as the clients are not negatively affected, then we expect you to act as a professional and to fill in that time as appropriate.’
So I’m not here at 8 o’clock in the morning saying, ‘Where are you?’ Our philosophy is you understand the job that you need to get done within a certain prescribed time period, and if you have to leave early because there’s a child situation or whatever the case may be, I don’t need to know the details. I just need to know that you understand what your responsibilities are, and then we treat you as a professional.
Q. What advice do you have for holding employees accountable?
You have to do it in a fashion where you’re trying to encourage people and try to let them see how it’s going to benefit them without them feeling that you’re micromanaging what they’re doing, so it is a balance. There are certain techniques that you might use with one professional that with another might not be as acceptable, so you need to understand their personalities and how they respond. I don’t think you can say there’s one magical way.
You try to get to know the person. There might be certain words that are very sensitive to them when you’re trying to constructively critique what they’re doing. So you understand the way they talk and the way th
For example, there are some people I can go up to in an open office and say, ‘Where are you on these professional goals?’ and other people wouldn’t respond to that well, especially if they were behind. So even if it would have just been a normal question, you know if somebody’s a little more sensitive about being judged by others. Then you need to adjust your approach.
Generally, you’re going to be a little more reserved or conservative on how you approach them originally. So I wouldn’t take the liberty of saying that in front of someone who was new until I got to know them. Trial and error would be not a good thing because you could lose someone’s confidence very early on for something that you should have known better. That’s part of a leader’s job is get a feel for what is going on and that just doesn’t mean in general — it means with each individual.
Q. What role does integrity play in this?
Even if someone didn’t follow what you wanted them to do [and] they made a mistake, you don’t embarrass them in front of the rest of the professional team. You talk to them in private: what happened, how it happened. So you’re respecting them as a professional. That’s where you really get the trust in the relationship, both at the professional and personal level.
It really starts at a personal level. They have to have some faith that when they tell you something, if they ask you to keep it confidential, that you will keep it confidential. When an employee comes and tells me something personal about them, I tell them, ‘I am not going to tell anyone else about this unless you want me to.’ People come to you in confidence to try to get some guidance just from a personal standpoint, and if they can’t trust you with that information, for sure they’re not going to trust you on the business side.
It’s a continuum of trust. You can’t turn it on and you can’t turn it off. It’s either there or it’s not. To me, integrity is respecting someone’s request that you keep something of a personal nature confidential.
When you’re working with someone on client matters and someone asks you to take an edge that you know really isn’t proper but you might be able to do it, that’s when I see the integrity come on. You say, ‘No, we have to call the client. These are what the standards are. This is what we need to follow and we’re not doing this.’ So it starts there professionally. It’s just a continuum of what you do every day in your professional and your personal life.
How to reach: Cendrowski Corporate Advisors LLC, (866) 717-1607 or www.cca-advisors.com