CEO, JFC Staffing Companies
Part 1 of 3
Jim Carchidi is CEO of JFC Staffing Companies, but unlike others who carry the title, he’s put his stamp on it by calling himself the “Chief Enthusiasm Officer.” “Enthusiasm is your assessment that you could attain something you valued. It calls for effort to achieve the desired objective. When we channel enthusiasm into concrete actions, we increase the probability of achieving our objectives.” Kofman, “Conscious Business,” p. 253.
Jim is a bringer of enthusiasm and has channeled it into a company where the entire leadership team is aligned with his vision around customer commitment and impacting lives. In fact, JFC’s email signature proudly lists number of lives impacted (3,536 last year) as one of their Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).
A second-generation leader, I interviewed Jim in 2016 and again in 2018 to get his take on leading and what he had learned since 2007 when I first met him.
Geoff: Jim, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Tell me about you.
Jim: I was born in Central PA to Jim and Linda. I have a sister who’s five years wiser than me. My parents were starting a business and it was a great upbringing.
I played sports in elementary school, but in high school, focused on basketball and soccer. I attended Trinity High School in Camp Hill and Loyola University in Baltimore. During my sophomore year, I got serious about my education and how it might impact my future in the family business.
Having grown up in it, I never wanted to look at the business as a career option. But during college, my folks called and told me they had been approached by a business broker and were thinking of selling the business. I came home at Thanksgiving and jokingly asked where the bags of money were. They told me they decided not to sell because they couldn’t turn their backs on the people. They turned down a sizable amount of money so they could support those who helped them build the company. That’s something I could stand behind.
I did some interning in HR and the Recruiting industry and loved being able to make an impact on people’s lives.
Geoff: Why are you a leader? Why do you do what you do?
Jim: I started at a young age leading. I enjoyed being around others and being a positive influence. I’ve always been the champion behind people. I’m extremely passionate about developing others so I can develop myself. I care about setting others up for success.
The first group I led was a branch team in Harrisburg. I felt like I had to have all the answers and that added stress to me and alienated the people I had to lead. I learned to invite them into the conversation. I had all the technical skills and training but that’s not leadership.
I learned I wasn’t the best leader. I had to be open to feedback and constructive criticism. The most important group you’ll ever lead is the smallest – yourself. Now I empower others to win the game.
Geoff: What do you do that makes you a leader?
Jim: Asking questions and listening before I make declarations. You have people who are compliant if you don’t. You can manage compliance but you can’t lead unless people are committed.
Inspiring is a huge component of leading – being the voice to inspire others to stretch their own capacity and be a positive influence. Genuine care for the well-being of others is another. Too often leaders only focus on the returns. Tending to the needs of the people gets results. People feel like they’re results if you don’t. They’re people.
Geoff: Who influenced you in your leadership development?
Jim: My folks, being founders of the organization, gave me a strong foundation. I had to take on a 21st century model of leadership and answer the question, “How can you instill happiness in the work environment?” I’ve also been influenced by positive psychology research that informs some of my practices.
The team that I walked into are phenomenal people who took me under their wings and gave me strong guidance. I continue to learn from them every day.
Geoff: Tell me more about how you lead?
Jim: You have to communicate the reality of things with the optimism of the future. Walk the delicate balance of being a leader and being a doer. You have to have candor and influence the spirit of the organization and enthusiasm for what we can become.
I visit every location to foster connectedness. It’s huge to develop trust. I actively engage them in questions and make sure they’re heard. Their suggestions will influence decisions. It can’t be faked; they know the genuine care I have.
I demand transparency from me and from staff. I grew up through the ranks and earned my stripes, and I’ve never forgotten what it’s like to be in the trenches. Knowing the “why” is important to everyone.
Geoff: What’s your leadership philosophy?
Jim: Defining positive experiences. The #1 customer is the internal team. I spend more time with internal team than external customers.
Geoff: What are some of the greatest challenges you face as a leader?
Jim: Competing realities – figuring out why we see things differently. Others treat their view as “the truth” when we need to acknowledge what others see. Being able to express empathy and bridge the gap between competing realities. If you mishandle this, you can lose people. Why do we see things differently and what are the conversations that are missing?
You also have to be cognizant of the organization’s “fiscal fitness” but not hyper-focused on it. It’s a challenge to see numbers that influence the future. Fear is not a good way to lead, so I’ve learned to focus on what we can control. People want to use extremes. I say focus on what we do and we’ll control our future.
Geoff: What’s your greatest success story?
Jim: The JFC work family. The transition of our culture has been amazing. It truly is a place where people come to work motivated and looking forward to their work. There’s excitement and enthusiasm sparked by a great group of talented leaders. The level of engagement has energy with it.
In our work, we’re at the beck and call of our external customers who bring stress to internal teams. Our culture allows us to reduce that stress. When the Great Recession hit, we had the opportunity to say we cared about our employees and were committed to support their well-being. It was tough. We had to say “no” to some big customers. But what was the cost to our organization and employees? By standing firm, we created a happier place to work. We made a conscious decision of who we wanted to partner with in order to build the company and employees saw it.
Geoff: What’s your biggest failure?
Jim: Externally, believing I needed to have all the answers. I can’t. People know you can’t. Internally, allowing myself to become anxious. Constantly struggling to know the things we don’t know we don’t know or how the future will turn out. It affected my work, the people, and my family. I’ve worked to improve my self-awareness and presence.
Next post, we’ll continue to look at Jim’s view of leadership and some great examples of the results he’s been able to facilitate.
© Geoff Davis 11/9/18