Jim Lynch is passionate about having a culture that empowers employees and says that is a key to retaining people and maintaining a solid company.
“If internally, we are constantly adding people and losing people, that the culture is such that folks don’t think that they are valued and their contribution is valued ... then you’ve always got stops and starts, and you’re not going to have any level of continuity,” says the founder, president and CEO of Leaders Bank, which posted 2007 revenue of about $30.5 million.
Smart Business spoke with Lynch about how to create a positive culture that makes employees want to stay.
Q. How do you create a culture that helps you retain employees?
First thing is that we hire, first and foremost, for fit. I’ve had an opportunity, probably a half dozen times, to hire people that I think would have been terrific new business developers for us but wouldn’t fit. They might run roughshod over the administrative folks, and I’ve never hired one of those folks.
It’s important we hire for fit. In the hiring process, I speak with everybody that is potentially going to join us and talk to them about how passionate we are about culture, how we treat each other, how we treat our customers.
I suppose it’s not too strong to use this word I warn them if they’re not passionate about that, that’s OK, but then they shouldn’t work here because we talk about culture a lot, and we work on it a lot. If you’re not passionate about it, you’re going to be rolling your eyes and you’re going to say, ‘Oh, there they go again talking about culture.’
Well, it’s important to us. As I said, we do work on it. So, we make sure, first and foremost, that we hire for fit.
Then we do a number of things to make sure that we work hard on the culture.
As an example, everybody knows here that the rules are, use your head and think, and then do what you think is right for the culture. I reserve the right to go back to our people after the fact if I disagree with a decision they made, just so I can understand it.
We’re open eight-plus years, and I’ve never had that conversation with any of our people because our experience tells us when you hire adults and you treat them as adults, they act like adults.
Q. What advice would you have for someone who wanted to implement a similar culture?
In my experience, I’ve worked for people who are ... very accusatory, and they like to point fingers and shift the blame to somebody else ‘That wasn’t me.’
Well, that doesn’t foster a really good team environment. It has the opposite effect of what you are trying to accomplish. That is ... you are trying to allow people to use their head and make proper decisions, when, in fact, you scold them publicly for making a mistake, which, of course, everybody makes.
You make them more reti-cent to making decisions down the road, and that will ultimately cripple the organization because you don’t want one person or just a handful of people making decisions. That’s fine if you want to be a five-employee organization, but if you want to grow, you have to empower people to use their head and make decisions. There’s no other way to do it.
If somebody chooses to point fingers and to publicly rebuke folks for making mistakes, that’s a toxic culture. I doubt that person could change. The only way to change that culture is to get rid of the people that think that way.
Q. How do you create an environment where people aren’t afraid to make mistakes?
We’ve been talking about this from the day I opened the bank in May of 2000. That is, here are the rules. You think, use your head, and after you think through a situation, you do what’s best for the customer. That’s what I’ve told everybody from day one, and that’s how people operate, No. 1.
No. 2, they have never seen me rebuke anybody or correct anybody in public. That doesn’t mean I haven’t had tough conversations with employees over time, over the years from time to time, on a number of issues. But, if I do that, I do that privately. I do it in my office, and I make sure nobody is embarrassed.
Lastly, no one has ever been fired here just for making a mistake. People have been let go for performance issues, and everybody understands that. So, the actual practice is, they’ve never seen it happen and ... I can say until I’m blue in the face, ‘Go ahead and use your head and make decisions.’
But, if somebody does that and I lose my temper and chop their head off in public, well, actions speak louder than words.
HOW TO REACH: Leaders Bank, (630) 572-5323 or www.leadersbank.com