Part 2 of 3
Last post, we shared a portion of two interviews held with JFC Staffing’s CEO, Jim Carchidi. Jim calls himself the Chief Enthusiasm Officer of JFC and he exudes a mood of enthusiasm – the emotional state where we can see infinite possibilities in every situation – and his mood is infectious, infecting his leadership team, who impacts their staff, who share it with their customers.
Geoff: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about leading?
Jim: Everyone you lead will know something you don’t know. It’s important to connect with people at a genuine level. You learn from people and it’s a collaboration. You have to ask questions and genuinely want to learn about them in and out of work to get to their hearts. What people struggle with outside of work, they bring inside. Positively influence their personal lives.
Geoff: What’s one thing you wish you knew how to do that would make you a better leader?
Jim: How to take the “chief problem solver” hat off and listen to the people. Leaders can dominate the conversation. We need to let others in on the conversations that matter and stop the “back seat driving.” There are better outcomes than when I try to solve something myself and we’re developing problem-solving abilities throughout the organization.
Geoff: What’s your purpose in leading?
Jim: I love seeing people have “aha” moments. There’s nothing better than seeing breakthrough moments, when the student becomes the teacher. They become stronger in their roles, making more contribution to the mission.
Geoff: What’s the kind of culture you’ve wanted to create? Why is that important?
Jim: I call it a culture of Customer Commitment. Always deliver a positive experience to everyone – customers, vendors, peers. 68% of customer leave because of the way they’ve been treated. We have 100% control over how we great them. It gives a sense of control in a climate where we feel we don’t have control. That sense of control creates happiness and less panic. Lack of control is one of the biggest reasons for panic, anxiety, and stress.
Geoff: Tell me more about Customer Commitment and your passion for it
Jim: Customer commitment became important during the Great Recession. It was a pivotal moment. I was taking the leadership reins. We were seeing record unemployment and it was a quagmire. What did we need to focus on? Was it price? Were we going to be the Walmart of our industry?
I thought we could control the customer commitment. It was something that came out of Tony Hsieh’s book, “Delivering Happiness” – a concept where everyone had a seat. Everyone participated in a brainstorming and we came up with the idea. From that meeting, we decided our business is delivering positive experiences. It helps us grow our business.
Let’s not provide anything but what matters to customers and candidates. We’ve been recognized as one of the top 3% in our industry in Net Promoter Score in North America.
Geoff: Why else do you think customer commitment is so important?
Jim: It’s the road map to our future. Integrity, trustworthiness, compassion, and happiness are our core values. We live them and express them. One way we express them is through our ACE program – Acknowledge and Celebrate Employees – anyone can ACE someone for exhibiting core values. Each person receives an ACE chip each time someone “ACEs” them.
They can exchange the ACE chips for prizes at the end of the year. But the real value is it’s widely promoted and others can emulate it.
Geoff: What do you believe about people and how is this reflected in your leadership?
Jim: Most people get out of formal education and stop learning. Our biggest opportunity and obligation is to inspire people to learn. People have untapped potential if they can read. There are so many opportunities to learn today. Proactive learning is always a path to happiness. Life is a learning journey.
Geoff: What’s the one thing you see where leaders get it wrong?
Jim: When I got the title of CEO, I was almost embarrassed. Many leaders stop learning and feel they’ve mastered their craft. They have closed minds to possibilities. That closes the doors for people beneath them in the organization. You need to check your ego and keep a “rookie” mindset.
Geoff: How do you continue to develop your personal competencies and fluencies?
Jim: It’s an individual responsibility. I work with a business coach. I read a lot about leadership, the application of neuroscience to leadership, and the philosophy of coaching. I also network a lot, seeking out people I admire and connecting with them. Twitter is a big tool where I get insight and wisdom from anyone in the world. I listen to podcasts.
But coaching has been the most powerful tool. Everything’s come through coaching. Things like identifying cares and concerns, what motivates and demotivates people, that each person has their own unique fingerprint.
Geoff: What would you say are the key skills and abilities that leaders need to have?
Jim: Self-awareness and self-management – emotional intelligence. It’s one thing to realize you’re drowning — you have to swim. A lot of leaders admit flaws, but don’t stop to improve. People aren’t going to commit unless they know you care. Focusing on individuals and showing empathy.
Curiosity leads to a growth mindset and openness. If you’re not curious, you end up close-minded and shut down organizational opportunities. Leaders today need to be in a constant learning mode, so a thirst for knowledge is important.
Geoff: What are the characteristics that make for a successful leader?
Jim: The strength of the team around them. Bringing in people stronger than you. Always asking for honest feedback. The genuine discovery of blind spots. Always checking the pulse of the organization as well as their own pulse. Actively involved and present throughout the organization. Being approachable. Reaching out to everyone, having intimate conversations with them. Actively involved in the communities they’re serving.
It’s imperative that they be visible. I mail letters to each employee’s home and touch their families – their biggest support systems. I have multiple touch points. Conversations with staff. Ways to engage families. Once you’re stuck in your world, you fail at leadership.
Geoff: How do you measure customer satisfaction?
Jim: My number 1 customer is the JFC staff. If we treat them well, they’ll treat others well. We measure that through the Best Places to Work in PA and the survey each employee completes. We share the data with the entire organization and show where we rate and what people like or don’t. Transparency is important. That’s how we gauge our internal customer satisfaction.
Externally, we rely on the Net Promoter Rating – every customer and every candidate we place. We know both from our two, main customers – the candidate and the customer company. Are they promoters or detractors?
Geoff: One of your great ideas over the years is to create what you call the “Leadership Pipeline,” which allows you to build internal bench strength. How did you establish the idea of the Leadership Pipeline? What is it, how does it work, and what has it done for you?
Jim: You train your people and they might leave. Everyone’s a leader today. We try to get every JFCer to be leaders and foster their development so they can be their best selves.
We’re always trying to let people know that learning is the journey. It’s far more valuable to have mentors. We’ve institutionalized coaching conversations with each manager and each employee once a quarter. They’re career conversations to help people develop their own thought processes about the long-term vision.
The results have been phenomenal. We’ve seen people blossom into powerhouse leaders with a curious mindset. We’ve been able to replace many key positions with internal candidates who have prepared for the job.
A lot of organizations make the false assumption that it’s expensive. Being a small family owned business, we’ve been able to do it organically. You can tap into resources within your organization and spread it to your peers. People love it. It’s more important than sending them out of state to a high expense training.
We were recently ranked second out of five hundred companies that were interviewed for core values and culture. They had access to every JFCer for a month-and-a-half. Our staff raved about it and it was a learning experience for them.
Next post, we’ll finish the interview with Jim, see an example of this culture in action, and hear from some of Jim’s leadership team.
© Geoff Davis, 11/16/18