Climbing to the top Featured

8:00pm EDT May 26, 2007

Tom Petro has a simple approach to establishing goals for his 150 employees.

“I don’t set any,” says the president and CEO of Fox Chase Bancorp Inc., which posted 2006 revenue of $20 million. “I let folks establish that themselves. When you give people the opportunity to set their own goals, they will generally set a higher bar than what you would have set for them. If they don’t, you go back and simply say, ‘Is this the best you can do?’ If we see someone who is low-balling, we’ll have the honest conversation.”

Smart Business spoke with Petro about how to monitor goals and how to evaluate potential employees.

Q: After goals are set, how do you follow up?

We follow it up in writing to say here is the goal that has been set and let’s make sure we are all in agreement.

We do a lot of monitoring here, in terms of, ‘Here’s what you said you were going to do, and here is what you are actually doing. Are you ahead or are you behind?’ Then there’s support for you if you are falling behind. If you are ahead, we don’t just let you run away. We want to get together with you, find out what you are doing that’s working, and how can we help others learn from you what you are doing well, so, they can give that a try and see if it works for them as well.

Q: How do you find employees?

I like the personal touch. I tend to do all my own recruiting for people that are going to report to me.

I would like my people to use the personal touch for recruiting people that are going to be working for them. It does involve being active in our professional trade groups and in the community and keeping an eye out for talent all the time. There’s something to be said about a culture of people that are confident and bright, and work well are results-oriented. That kind of culture tends to attract the people that want to be a part of it.

Q: How do you know what people are capable of?

I think about it like a ladder, and there are different rungs on the ladder. The rungs on this ladder set a trajectory for somebody’s ability to contribute and the level of contribution they can make to your organization.

The rungs follow this order: The first rung is aptitude. Aptitudes are native to us. We are born with them. We don’t choose which ones we have. We can choose to exercise our aptitudes. An example of an aptitude is analytical thinking or special reasoning.

The next rung is measurable IQ intelligence. We don’t get to choose how much of that we have. We can only choose to exercise the part we’ve been given. Having an understanding of that is important. The third is more subjective. I would call that EQ, or emotional intelligence.

It’s that notion of how much awareness do you have of what is going on in the people’s lives around you. There are people with huge intelligence but low emotional intelligence, or people who have high EQs and low IQs.

The fourth rung is interest. What is it that the person is interested in both vocationally and avocationally? Interest ends up being the motivational fuel. Understanding that is very important. The fifth rung is skills, and skills are things we acquire. It’s much easier to acquire a skill if the skill is founded on aptitudes that are native to you and intelligence native to you.

The last is experiences. By experiences, I think about it broadly. I’m not just interested in somebody’s work experiences but their experiences outside of work, as well. That is part of what shapes the whole person.

You can argue that each of those is subjective. But you can almost get a pretty good sense of using that ladder of coming to an understanding of who the person is.

Q: How do you know if you have the right person when recruiting?

There’s always some risk that you are going to be wrong. You can have a pretty good sense of whether or not somebody is going to fit by climbing that ladder in terms of understanding who they are and looking at places where they have been successful in the past.

It’s not just that they were successful in the past, it’s that when they were successful in the past, there were certain environmental characteristics that your success was inside of. Understanding that and making sure that if there are significant differences in this environment versus that environment, that they get vetted and talked about. You can take somebody that is not really successful in one set of circumstances and put them in a different set of circumstances and have a whole different dynamic.

HOW TO REACH: Fox Chase Bancorp Inc., (866) 369-2427 or