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
“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.
Talk about the past
A healthy, productive culture requires continuous reinforcement
from the leader of the organization. This is even more critical during a period of fast growth when new personnel are being added
to the organization.
“Growth is a challenge to your culture,” Weddle says. “As you
bring new people into your culture, into your firm, it’s an educational opportunity but also a necessity. You have to teach people.
You have to hire the right people, but then you have to teach them
the history and communicate the values. A lot of that has to do
with the ‘why you do things,’ not just the what. It’s not something
that you can sit them down for an hour and do an associate orientation and tell them everything they ever needed to know.”
Weddle doesn’t miss an opportunity to teach employees about the culture and history of the firm. When people take a break from
a meeting he’s in, he uses a video clip to get everyone back on time
— and to teach them something about the company in the process.
He shows a clip of Edward “Ted” Jones Jr., son of the firm’s
founder, or retired managing partner John Bachmann or another
prominent figure from the firm’s past talking about what Edward
Jones means to them.
“We’ll have a video clip that we’ll play at the end of the break
and, by golly, if you want to see it, you’ve got to get back in the
room and back in your seat,” Weddle says. “It’s a way to get the
meeting restarted, but it’s also a wonderful way for people to
hear a little bit of the history of the firm. You make it fun, and
I think people appreciate it.”
History can be an important aspect of culture as it often shapes
the decisions the company has made or will make in the future.
“You can teach people what we do or how we do things, but very
important is an understanding of why we do certain things or why
we don’t do certain things,” Weddle says. “A lot of times, history
has guided the decisions that have made us who we are today. ...
It’s all wrapped up in what we refer to as the culture of our firm.
We teach it, and we talk about it.”
Get out there
With thousands of offices, Weddle can’t just talk about culture
through e-mail or video clips. He has to take the message directly
to employees, and that means getting out of the corporate headquarters.
Weddle schedules regular visits to branch offices in the United
States, Canada and the United Kingdom. The meetings are an
opportunity for Weddle to share, face to face, what is happening in
the company, but they also provide a chance for him to hear questions and engage in dialogue.
“We’re not out there giving speeches,” Weddle says. “We’re out
there asking questions. It gives people the opportunity to provide
input, and I think they appreciate being asked.”
Members of Weddle’s management team are also part of the
process. This allows for more offices to be visited, which gives the
company’s leadership more feedback than Weddle could get on his
“We want to know how we are doing and what are your suggestions for things that we can make better,” Weddle says. “What are
your suggestions for things that we’re not doing at all but, in fact,
should? Can you provide us some input in terms of how the home
office is meeting your needs and supporting your efforts to service
In providing opportunities for feedback, you must keep an open
mind when it comes to the responses you get.
“You have to solicit input, and you have to ask,” Weddle says.
“When they provide it to you, accept it for what it is. It’s feedback.
You may agree. You may disagree. But listen to the feedback. Don’t
criticize. Don’t argue. Some you may think is accurate and some
not, but you asked for the feedback. Be open about it.”
Post-meeting discussions are critical to connect the dots on what
was heard and to coordinate action plans to get the best ideas
The series of group meetings also provides Weddle with a natural launch point to talk with regional leaders about the importance
“Let’s help each other to be successful,” Weddle says. “If we’ve
got four offices in a community, let’s do joint seminars. Let’s advertise together. Let’s attack this market opportunity as a team and
not just as four individuals. We’re far stronger. We’re looking for
people that fit and want to be part of a larger organization that has
a good reputation that they can be proud of but that they can also
Give everyone a chance to talk
In order to be truly open, the culture also needs to have a forum
for lower-level employees who do not always get the chance for a
direct conversation with the boss. Weddle has found the firm’s
electronic suggestion box particularly useful. It has the advantage
of being accessible to people at all levels of the organization and is
completely anonymous, providing the opportunity for some very
“They can send a suggestion, and that can be a good idea or it can
be a cheap shot,” Weddle says. “Or it can be just a creative thought.
If they choose to sign their name, that’s fine. If they want to remain
anonymous, they can.”
The box was the brainchild of Bachmann, who thought employees needed a means to express themselves.
“He said, ‘You know what, you’ve got to have a way for people to
speak up. If they don’t feel comfortable speaking up one on one,
and that can be kind of intimidating, I appreciate that. So let’s create a way for them to do so.’
“It’s a release valve. If somebody gets angry, they send in a message and kind of pop off. Don’t sign it. Don’t go home and kick the
dog, and, most certainly, don’t get angry at a client. Send me a ‘sugg
box’ and blow off a little steam, and then feel better and go back
Fortunately for Weddle, Edward Jones continues to have a
lot of positives to focus on.
“Growth creates opportunity and growth creates an excitement
and an energy in an organization with that opportunity to move
ahead,” Weddle says.
In December 2006, Edward Jones had a limited partnership offering that included 11,500 of the firm’s 30,000 employees.
“I believe it’s a strategic advantage to have one-third of our full-time associates as owners of this firm,” Weddle says. “All those are
ways of us saying, ‘Hey, we respect you as an individual, and we
appreciate the contribution that you’re making toward the success
of our firm.’”
Weddle says the limited partnership program helps ensure
the future of the firm, as well.
“If you’re a limited partner of Edward Jones, you don’t want
to bring somebody in who doesn’t work very hard or isn’t going
to treat the place with the respect that it’s due,” Weddle says.
“You’re going to bring in the best because you own a little piece
of this place. You want it to be better.”
Identify your leaders
Finding leaders who can work in this type of collaborative
culture requires a lot of effort in the interviewing process. In
addition to educational background and work history, Weddle
says he wants to know what type of management style potential executives bring to the table and how they are able to work
“You do some situational kinds of discussions,” Weddle says.
“You ask them about their leadership style. You ask them who was
the most effective person they were ever responsible to and have
them describe that individual.”
Weddle says he is looking for people who want to be part of
a team and can readily accept that they don’t always have all
“You can almost always do it a little bit better,” Weddle says.
“You’ve got a lot of proofreaders out there. Every decision, every
bit of correspondence, every statement, every decision that you
make, there is no lack of critics. They can tell you pretty quickly,
‘Boy, you didn’t do this one very well.’ I appreciate that.”
Weddle says he looks for people who are good listeners. He also
relies on his instincts in determining who would be a good fit in
terms of their personal values and how those values match up with
those of himself and the company.
“You’ve got to sit down with those people and think, ‘Do I
want to spend 10 or 12 hours a day for the next 20 years working with this person?” Weddle says. “If the answer is no, I don’t
care how smart they are, it’s not the right fit.”
HOW TO REACH: Edward Jones, www.edwardjones.com or (314) 515-2000