spoke with Handy about how to build up the community you work in and how to set the tone for your company culture.
Build up the community you live in. I believe that the strength of our company is directly tied to the strength of our communities, and if we’re not giving back and doing everything that we possibly can to help out, then we’re missing the mark, and I think that ultimately, we have a huge instance of volunteerism in the company. It’s promoted, it’s constantly discussed, and we make sure that our colleagues know that it’s not just something that will be appreciated in the community; it will also be appreciated internally.
It’s critical for everyone to spend some time recognizing that there are those that are less fortunate and they can help. In our case, it gives us a chance to work together outside the company, but it’s also a good thing for an employee to do the work outside of the bank and come back and be able to share those things and be celebrated at the bank. And it’s a good chance for not just them, but also for the colleagues to see the passion of the company and what we can do.
We have a [Sabbatical] program where we dedicate a colleague for three months for a not-for-profit company and then come back to the company and tell people about the experience and how meaningful it was. A big part of [our Champion for Action program] is we give money, but it’s recognition that we do with a media partner, it’s a big part of volunteerism, and we get to know that agency that we work with. And I can’t think of a better way to build the moral fabric and a positive feeling throughout the company.
Help employees by making them accountable.
My style is to let them run the business and keep me informed as necessary and make use of me as necessary but to empower them to be leaders themselves.
It’s ownership of budget, it’s ownership of their markets, it’s management of their people, it’s maintaining an open door so that they and their reports can get access to me as they need, but basically, it’s making sure that they take responsibility for both the good parts and bad parts of their operations.
Accountability can take many forms. We have budgets that we adhere to, and we count a lot of things and keep track of how we are doing on a very regular basis. The key is that I listen well to what they are telling me and communicate back to them on a very regular basis, and that gives us very open lines of communication. We don’t manage for the people who report to us, we lead through great communication.
Look deeper during the interview. We want people who get great references from business partners, and we want people who are willing to work hard but who are open-minded and who also listen well.
In an interview process, I ask a lot of questions about specific topics, whether it’s about their community projects or work-related, to make sure that what’s said is real, and I make sure that I can confirm this with the outside references.
We also look for ability to listen, [we] want to make sure that people are not over-selling and are willing to talk honestly about themselves and their own qualities because that shows a willingness to accept the fact that they might learn something new at anytime because they are not the be-all, end-all.
Lead the path to communication. Leadership by example is a huge part of leadership in general. If people see me willing to listen and be patient with what’s being communicated, then they’ll follow suit, and I think it fosters a sense of community, a sense of working together across the whole leadership team.
Set a tone for the company culture. Develop a set of core beliefs that are focused on engaging colleagues and the community in a way that will benefit everyone. We have credo meetings, and I have regular meetings with as many as 100 people to talk about the things we believe in. One of them is being proactive with the community and also with our customer base.
Its continually discussed, made a part of the fabric to a point where we can discuss actions as to whether or not they are credo-like. It even develops in a way that’s sort of a language. It’s treated very much as an empowerment tool where if you feel like you’re doing the right thing, that you see that it’s recognized and it’s more than just a mantra, it’s reinforcing a set of beliefs throughout the company.
Be the public face for your company. I insist on my leadership team being available to our staff and being in the marketplace and watching what’s going on. Whether it’s spending time with the colleagues on a local level or doing something bigger like working on the Harvest for Hunger campaign, I’m involved in those things and take advantage of every opportunity I can to work with those things.
Spending time with colleagues to the extent that I can, and to the extent that my leadership team can, is invaluable. It’s difficult to see everyone as much as we’d like, but it’s so valuable when you can make it happen, so you have to find time to do it.
HOW TO REACH: Charter One Bank, Ohio, (877) Charter or www.charterone.com