In the opening of his book “The Requisite Organization,” Elliott Jaques states that “decisive value-adding managerial leadership is the true key to competitive effectiveness in business.” The aim of managerial leadership is to provide an environment where employees “come to work each day with a high sense of positive expectation, and leave at the end of each day with feelings of high accomplishment and progress.” Jaques adds that for employees in this type of organization roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and are coupled with the corresponding authority necessary to carry out all the work that needs to be achieved.
This philosophy is reflected in how CEO of Coastal Federal Credit Union Chuck Purvis views his role in the structure and operation of this member-owned financial institution. “It is really about building a team that can move the organization forward. I am one person. I can’t do anything today that is going to ensure exceptional service. What I can do is influence who we hire, how we pay them, how we motivate them, how we recognize them, and how we encourage them.”
Chuck Purvis has been the CEO/President of Coastal Federal Credit Union since July 2012 and was named the Triangle Business Journal’s Man of the Year in 2016. I sat down with him in his office in March to hear his thoughts about how 2017 will be different from previous years and how the changes will impact leadership in organizations. “It’s a year filled with uncertainty and we have got to have the patience to see how it all plays out”.
When he was promoted to his role as CEO, Purvis was tasked by his board to fix what wasn’t working. “We had a pretty aggressive agenda for the first couple of years.” One of the ways that he turned the organization around was a focus on employee engagement. “If we don’t have a highly engaged workforce, they are not going to do a very good job taking care of our members.”
The five attributes a “requisite organization” should expect from its employees are:
- Integrity – to behave honestly
- Commitment – to express one’s full potential capability and energy at work
- Reliability – to be counted on consistently to do what is expected or required
- Initiative – to originate new ideas or methods without being asked
- Cooperation – to work together with others toward a common purpose
Of special interest to every CEO and manager who wants to run a successful achievement-based organization is ensuring that every person is performing at maximum capacity. Purvis explained that there isn’t a single ladder up to the top of an organization. “The ladder zigzags all over the place. Employees who can demonstrate success in multiple areas of the company, or in multiple roles in the company, are the ones that are most valuable.”
Accountable managerial leadership establishes the conditions for substantial productivity and bottom-line results. Jaques proposed that the right employees at every level in the company engaged in the right role, doing the right work, will unleash enthusiasm and commitment. Fixing the organization (structure, role relationships, policies, systems of work, managerial practices) frees employees to work at their full potential creating increased efficiency, effectiveness, and employee satisfaction.
“Each level has complexity associated with it,” Purvis said. “A teller’s role is very procedure based with very little deviation. Then as you go up the organization it gets more complex. As I started evaluating and looking at the talent we had in the mid-management range, it was obvious to me that we had added a level that wasn’t creating value.” Recognizing this and correcting the structure of the organization wasn’t easy. “To make your company successful, you have to continually raise the bar when you know that things are changing so rapidly if you don’t want to be left behind.”
Asked about what advice he would give someone stepping into a leadership position for the first time, Chuck Purvis said “Talk to everyone you can who has been in one. Get lots of perspectives. Make sure there is clear agreement as to what the role is and what the expectations are.” He said it is easy to get caught up in what is going on inside your organization but you need a broader view. “To me companies have to be learning organizations continuously. It is too easy to get lost in the trees here. I try to spend a big part of my time wandering around in the trees out there.”
The big takeaway from our conversation is that Purvis is one of those leaders who loves his job and is excited to come to work every day. As CEO, he is well matched to his role and responsibilities and has created a workforce that contributes its best to the company. “I tell all my employees, try to work a little bit smarter tomorrow than you did today.”