Business Leaders Work Alongside Employees _ Social Capital
Capitalism should guarantee that human respect and dignity will be equally distributed. One of the best ways CEOs can make sure that happens is to get on the frontline with their employees. iStock photo/skynesher

Capitalism does not guarantee that everyone will collect the same paycheck or that money will be distributed evenly in our society – but doing it fairly (and the way it was intended) should guarantee that human respect and dignity will be equally distributed.

One of the best ways CEOs can make sure that happens is to get on the front line with their employees. This month’s honorees are all about that.

Equality of treatment means each and every one of us from the top to the bottom of the economic and occupational ladder should be recognized, appreciated and respected for who they are and what they do. But sometimes when people are at the top of the ladder it’s too easy for them to look past the contribution of those below, especially those on the lowest rungs of that ladder. Whether intentionally thoughtless or unintentionally so wrapped up in the madness of running the company that they look past the most important aspect of their company – their employee experiences – sometimes self-absorbed CEOs sit obliviously at the top or hidden away in the cushy confines of their palatial offices completely unaware of what is happening in the trenches.

One of the best ways to prevent that is, obviously, to go to the front lines yourself, and even better if you don’t just show up for a look-see but actually instead put some work time in there. Doing what those employees do, seeing what they see, and feeling what they feel on a day-to-day basis will transform you, your employees and your company.

The opportunity to learn valuable information about your company and your product from such a practice is clearly inestimable, as you are doing away with the filters and the obstacles that can get in the way of all that important intelligence trickling up to the top. This could mean powerful opportunities for you to quickly assess and augment your procedures and processes, potentially making them better or saving your company from potential disasters.

But more importantly, the most powerful reason for doing so is how much Social Capital you will garner. The effect on your employees, and therefore ultimately your product and your customer, will be mind-blowing as evidenced by the actions, stories and reflections of this month’s honorees. What they discovered is that getting out there like a general on the field with their troops sends a powerful message of unity and support that galvanizes a loyalty and solidarity in the company that is priceless. And it goes both ways. The CEOs now feel more connected to their employees as well.

Finally, in an economic environment where capitalism is often under attack of late for allegedly being a tool for the greedy and the wealthy to subjugate those less fortunate, there can be no greater refutation and proof of the opposite intention.

So, hats off to all these frontline CEOs who are proving that capitalism works not just for the owners but for the workers too – and for the whole of society.

Social-Capital-June CEOS
Social Capital CEOs for May 2021: John A Solheim, chairman and CEO of Ping; John K Solheim, president of Ping; Dr. Angelo Falcone, president of the US Acute Care Solutions East region; Kenneth Lin, founder and CEO for Credit Karma; Chris Van Gorder, CEO of Scripps Health; Talia Mashiach, CEO of Eved; Bill Marriott, chairman of Marriott International; Fred Hassan, partner and MD at Warburg Pincus; Philip Bowers, president at Advanced Cabinet Systems; and Lynsi Snyder, president at In-N-Out Burger. IBT graphics

John A. Solheim and John K. Solheim: Karsten Manufacturing / PING Manufacturing

It’s really no wonder why the CEO and president of PING are so in touch with their frontline – because that’s where they started out. And they never left.

John A. Solheim, the current chairman and CEO of PING, began making putters with his father, the company’s founder Karsten Solheim, in the family's garage when he was only 13 years old. When the company began to grow successful, the elder Karsten focused mostly on new ideas and innovation, while his son John took over all aspects of production for the company -- even though he was still in high school!

When the company finally hit pay dirt, John A. also took over product design and relationships with the USGA, the R&A and the PGA Tour, but still continued direct involvement with the manufacturing processes, and still does as chairman and CEO.

“If we are behind on orders and need help keeping up, you will see him out there on the production line,” says one appreciative employee who has been there for decades. “That’s the kind of thing that really makes you proud to work for him.”

Still, while doing all that, John A. is also incredibly involved in pushing the company to new heights technologically, with more than 170 U.S. patents to his name. His devotion to every aspect of the company’s success is obvious on every level, as it also is in the company’s current president, John A’s son, John K. Solheim.

Like his father, John K. is often seen working on the production line whenever they need a helping hand, but being a bit younger, he has no qualms about pushing the envelope to deliver long hours when needed. In fact, John K. says he is trained on “about five or six” roles on the line, and he finds the work therapeutic compared to his role as president.

“Everybody rotates … I was using the cut saw early this morning, and now I’m screwing in the back weight,” John K. recently shared after a particularly long shift. “But I’ve done lofts and lies. I’ve done the ferrule grinding. I’ve installed Arccos sensors.”

Bottom line is that when demand is high for PING, “the clubs won’t build themselves, so somebody has to do it.”

And until PING is caught up, John K. and other volunteers plan on working overtime and weekend shifts to help the production staff. John K. admits the regimen can be tough but feels that’s all the more reason he shouldn’t expect his employees to do something he isn’t willing to do.

“This is a six-hour shift, which is great,” John K. said on Saturday morning. “Put me in here eight hours -- and I’ve done it a couple times -- you start seeing sideways. But you build up endurance.”

You also build up an incredible connection to your employees. And that connection doesn’t stop on the production line but extends itself through every level of the company for both father and son.

Recalls one employee, “I had a medical situation a while back that I took some time off to take care of, and when I returned the CEO walked right up and asked me how I was doing. That’s a big deal.”

Another powerful tool for staying connected to their employees is the employee meetings where all employees are welcome to hear and interact with both John and John K. These continued even throughout the pandemic, although the meetings were held outside for safety reasons.

One of the other interactive highlights of being a PING employee is being able to meet some of the most famous and successful golfers in the world. The president and/or CEO will routinely walk these stick stars through the company’s headquarters in Phoenix, allowing them to meet with employees at every rung and sign autographs.

“It’s really a highlight of working here,” says a longtime employee. “That really makes you feel special, and people really get a charge out of it.”

All of that is probably why the average PING employee tenure is 15 years. Ultimately, the closeness they feel to those at the top keeps any of the employees from feeling like they are at the bottom. That’s a whole lot of Social Capital.

Dr. Angelo Falcone, M.D., FACEP: U.S. Acute Care Solutions and Dignity Integrative Health Solutions

It is difficult to overstate Dr. Angleo Falcone’s devotion to being a frontline CEO. But we will do our best not to understate it. As a top doc in his field for the last several decades, he rose up the ladder quickly from being an emergency physician in one of the busiest emergency departments in Maryland to founding and leading a regional physicians group -- MEP Health -- that cared for 500,000 patients a year in multiple states, to eventually leading a group that was treating 6 million patients a year in the U.S. when that company was integrated into US Acute Solutions. However, incredibly, during the whole time he ran those companies he also acted as an emergency room physician.

Why did he devote his life to being on the front lines even as he has enjoyed the reigns of running companies? For Dr. Falcone, there were three main reasons, the first of which was that he loved what he was doing,

“Having trained for so many years to become a physician, it is almost impossible for me to walk away from it,” explained Dr. Falcone a few years back while he was still pulling double duty as a CEO and ER doc. “I still love stepping into a patient’s room, introducing myself as an ER doc, and starting the conversation about what ails them and how I can help them today. There is almost something magical about the interaction to me. It is a privilege to care for patients and I still find great satisfaction in it, period.”

But beyond his own personal gratification, being on the front lines allowed him to see what other leaders could not. He explained how there were things that can only be seen as they are actually happening rather than being reported or chronicled later in a report.

“There is no better way to “ground truth” than to walk in the shoes of a clinician,” explains Falcone. “You get a sense of the health of a company by how it functions under stress, and there are few more stressful environments than a busy emergency department. Sure, the information could be conveyed in a memo or an incident report, but it loses some of its fullness.”

Finally, and maybe most importantly for the focus of this article, it allowed him to earn the respect of those he was leading. “Knowing that your CEO is willing to put a stethoscope around their neck and show up on time for a shift makes a statement unlike any email or policy ever could,” declares Falcone. “This is all not to say that there aren’t trade-offs. There are and they need to be weighed appropriately. I clearly cannot work a full complement of clinical shifts, nor can I work at every one of our locations, which are now spread across three states. That is a reality I had to face as our company grew.”

What that reality meant was, while supporting almost 70 sites in eight states, he was on the road almost every week to meet with teams, senior leadership at hospitals and new groups interested in joining the company, all the while squeezing in his clinical shifts on Fridays and Saturdays.

He gave up being on the front lines of medicine briefly a few years ago only due to family concerns, before ultimately also stepping down from the leadership role at US Acute Care Solutions.

Yet, true to form, despite his need and desire to being able to devote more time to his family, he still couldn’t bear the thought of not being on the front lines of medicine for very long, so much so that he started his own smaller practice, Dignity Integrative Health Solutions.

No doubt his years of being so personally connected to the customer while running a major healthcare company inspired him with the desire and ability to offer a very special level and type of care in his new practice.

“The traditional medical system is good at treating symptoms of disease once they become a problem, but less so at addressing the whole person and root cause,” explains Angelo. “I realized that integrative medicine, and particularly a focus on nutrition, sleep, daily movement, and mental resilience, provided the framework for addressing the root causes of the symptoms of chronic disease.”

In fact, he was so dedicated to providing that level of care that he went back to school to be able to do so, completing a Fellowship in Integrative Medicine through the Academy of Integrative Health and Medicine.

​“My practice is a partnership,” says Angelo. “I do not have all the answers, but I believe that by respecting each other as whole individuals we can find the right path to individual health, wellness and longevity.”

If that is what front line leadership makes possible, then it’s crucial not just for the employees but the leaders who learn and grow from it.

Business Leaders At The Frontlines_Social Capital
The opportunity to learn valuable information about your company and your product on the frontline is clearly inestimable. iStock photo/Drazen Zigic

Kenneth Lin: Credit Karma

Credit Karma founder and CEO Kenneth Lin runs a multi-billion-dollar that he just cashed in on with a windfall profit selling the company to Intuit. But he still operates the company with an open-door policy for his employees, which he calls a "keystone for good company communication."

On the road to riches, he was willing to do whatever he needed to do right alongside his cohorts in capitalism – his loyal employees. And that has a lot to do with why he was able to grow his company from a startup with a small group of devoted employees and a shoestring budget into a billion-dollar company in just a little over a decade.

"I want new employees to feel like this is a mission we're all in together,” explains Kenneth. “An open-door policy sets the tone for this. Whenever I'm in my office and available, I encourage anyone to come by and share their thoughts about how they feel Credit Karma is doing."

That strategy helps loop him in to what Credit Karma employees are talking about, which increases morale and lets employees know that he's a part of the team.

One of the reasons for his humble connection to his employees probably has to do with his own humble beginnings. He immigrated to the U.S. from China when he was four, landing in Las Vegas, where his dad worked late hours, six days a week, and where his mom held multiple jobs in addition to cooking for local bakeries.

And he has consistently embodied the work ethic he learned from his parents. When the 2008 financial crisis hit, just a year after launching his company, Kenneth personally emailed several personal finance bloggers to raise awareness of the company and, while scrambling to keep the company from running out of money, filled whatever role he needed to.

When the company needed to run a TV ad to attract users, and an ad agency said it would cost around $500,000 -- which was all they had left in the bank -- Lin instead went out and bought $25-worth of props, recruited employees to be hand actors, and rented a budget recording studio to tape the voiceover. It was a smash hit that took the company to the next level of success.

Even today, his chief revenue officer and founding team member Nichole Mustard says she has seen him break down boxes at the office if needed. “It’s still the right thing to do,” says Nichole.

Credit Karma has helped more than 70 million Americans discover financial services and products to help them handle their financial lives. Lin achieved that success by always putting the financial needs and concerns of the consumer first, creating a simple way for Americans to manage financial identity.

But behind the scenes and on the front lines, Kenneth made that happen through his incredible solidarity with his co-workers.

Chris Van Gorder: Scripps Health

When Chris Van Gorder was named CEO of Scripps Health in 1999, the organization was bleeding $15 million a year and employee and physician confidence was in the gutter – and the issue that immediately confronted him was demands by the physician group for a hefty raise for their work in taking emergency room calls. This could easily have been a no-win situation, since there was no money for raises but the hospital could not operate without physicians on call.

He decided to lead by inviting the physicians to help him lead the organization away from that disaster. To do this, he began meeting with division chiefs and medical staff-elected representatives and suggested the formation of an advisory group of physician leadership captains. “If we could find a way to fill the gap with information and transparently share our challenges with each other, then smart people would reach the same conclusion,” Chris says.

With access to that information, the doctors studied the problem and acknowledged things were more dire than they’d realized. Chris was able to negotiate an agreement. “When physicians owned the issue, in the end we got a better decision,” Chris explains.

This is a leadership style that relies on trust – which is facilitated by, if not dependent on, person-to-person connection. As a connected leader, Chris lets his guard down and shares a lot with employees, so they view him as a human being who is not so different from them. He does, of course, insist on no HIPAA violations, and also no nondisclosure agreements and no personal information about other colleagues. This approach makes people feel comfortable sharing both their concerns and aspirations with him.

As CEO, Chris invests his time in talking with people at all levels of the organization -- from board members and front-line employees to patients and their families. He sends a daily email to those in leadership positions that provides market news and trends, so they’re aware of what’s going on outside of their organization, and responds to employees at all levels when they email him. In fact, he answers every single one of the hundreds of emails he receives each day.

Trust extends both ways, and Chris eschews micromanaging for delegating. “I surround myself with good people and respect them enough to let them do their jobs,” he says.

A key to his effective connections-based leadership is his ability to read facial expressions and body language, a skill Chris honed in his previous career as a police officer where it is crucial in helping to mitigate potentially violent situations and other conflicts.

As it is with more than a few of our front line CEOs, Chris brings an unusual job history to his ascent to CEO of a health system. He served on the police force for eight years, leaving it only because injuries from an attack while responding to a domestic situation were so severe he could not return to active duty. His next career move was as security director – ironically, for the hospital where he had spent time recovering from the aforementioned injuries. It was there he became interested in hospital administration, and he applied to graduate school. He is now board-certified in healthcare management and is an American College of Healthcare Executives Fellow. In fact, he served as 2010 chairman of the association, which is an international professional society of more than 40,000 healthcare executives who lead hospitals, healthcare systems and other healthcare organizations. He has led Scripps to numerous awards for both quality of healthcare and workplace culture, and has earned recognitions for himself, including being named multiple times by “Modern Healthcare” as one of the nation’s “100 Most Influential People in Healthcare.”

But the skills from his earlier career stand him in good stead as a leader, as he is able to use body language as information and adjusts his communication style based on the visual cues he gets from people. “My training as a police officer enables me to defuse situations and make decisions quickly,” he says.

Chris shares his insights and strategies in his book “The Front-Line Leader – Building a High-Performance Organization from the Ground Up.” These include another unusual focal point – the power of storytelling, which Chris learned and demonstrated first hand during the response to Hurricane Katrina.

Scripps had created a medical response team as a result of 9/11 that would allow volunteer staff to go into communities in disaster situations, and that came in handy after Katrina, when the surgeon general asked Scripps to respond to the crises in the Gulf. Scripps sent three teams, and Chris went along with them in the role of chief storyteller. As the George Bush Convention Center in Houston filled with hundreds of survivors, the teams ran the medical center there for a period of time. There were countless inspiring stories. Chris used his Blackberry to collect the stories and photos, and then emailed them each night to the thousands of employees and doctors back in California.

“It was amazing how the culture shifted almost overnight,” he says. The power of storytelling filled everyone with pride. It reminded them of their collective purpose -- to help people in their times of greatest need– and reinforced Chris’s belief that “community work builds culture.”

But maybe most importantly for everyone in the company, it was their CEO who was actually connecting them to these stories and to himself.

They Want You On Their Team-Social Capital
In an economic environment where capitalism is often under attack for allegedly being a tool for the greedy and the wealthy to subjugate those less fortunate, there can be no greater refutation and proof of the opposite intention than frontline leadership. iStock photo/Yuri_Arcurs

Talia Mashiach: Eved

“The greatest lesson I’ve probably learned is from a mentor who taught me that everything in life, but especially in business, revolves around your relationships with other people,” says Talia Mashiach, founder and CEO of a FinTech company whose breakthrough payment platform enables large enterprises to process invoices for conferences they host in such a way as to gain real-time transparency into company-wide expenditures .

She operates from a belief that in managing people, building new sales, working with clients or dealing with investors, it is crucial to take the time to understand the person as an individual, what is important to them and how they get value from the relationship. “I learned that focusing on the other person and adjusting my style for them is what will make me successful, instead of assuming that everyone else should adjust to me.”

It’s a leadership style that leads to her own continued growth. “I have had the privilege … to work with many different kinds of people; the hard-working banquet staff at a hotel to a hotel general manager; CEOs of large corporations to owner-operated small businesses; strategic partners and investors,” she says, noting significantly, “I have learned something different from all of them.”

It’s that connectedness to her people that makes her the perfect honoree for our Social Capital section this month.

She keeps a weekly team meeting and weekly one-on-ones as part of her schedule as a way to keep in touch with the individuals in her company as well as provide a forum for any kind of conversation. “The dedicated time helps me keep information transparent and provides the opportunity to connect about business performance, how people are feeling, and what they’re up to in and outside of the office,” she says.

Indeed, people and relationships are at the core of her life. And her life is an amazingly important reminder that we cannot and should not separate the way we live our personal life from our business life, but to lead both with conviction, integrity and respect for ourselves and those around us.

Referring to her roles as a mother, grandmother, wife, daughter, sister and friend, she says, “I struggle like many female entrepreneurs to navigate a business world built for men with stay-at-home wives. Add to it that I’m an Orthodox [Jewish] woman who values my role in the home as a wife and mother raising children to live a Torah life; who wants [to create beautiful experiences around the Jewish festivals to share] with guests; who tries to find quality time with each child; who’s very close to siblings and their families and has special friendships … you can imagine my daily challenge.”

She is driven by the belief that it is possible that women won’t have to choose between a fulfilling life of family and friends and the big career; indeed, she is an example of it even as she asks, “We should not have to make a choice but should be able to do both. So how do women build great companies and raise wonderful families?”

The answer lies in redefining what a “successful CEO” means. “Instead of meaning ‘at the office 24/7,’ never taking vacation, the first one in and the last one out, it should mean leading by example with values, compassion, genuine relationships and purpose, so that others want to give you their very best every day to help accomplish your vision.

“That is what I believe is my larger mission for Eved, and I hope to set a great example of what is possible,” Talia says. With many qualities that drew our attention to her for our Social Capital section, her attention to “genuine relationships” is why we chose to include Talia in this month’s feature.

“A lot has to do with how you make people feel when they interact with you,” she says, observing management style can have a particularly strong impact in spurring innovation. Things she as a leader tries to consider are how open she is to a discussion, how available she makes herself to those who don’t report directly to her, and how to react when someone gives her a suggestion to improve something.

“Even if you don’t like it, you don’t want to say, ‘I don’t like your idea’ -- especially in front of other people -- or they will never bring you their next idea. You want to at least think about and consider the ideas that are brought to you,” shares Talia. And, she adds, to offer positive encouragement while giving new direction: “OK, well think about it a little bit differently. Have you thought about xyz? And come back to me.”

The value Talia places on relationships in her business environment owes its roots to her parents. And the seed of her management style can be seen as she describes the home environment she grew up in: “The unconditional love from my parents, their belief that I could accomplish anything, their encouragement to follow my dreams, and their beautiful Torah home have been foundational in setting me up with the emotional health, confidence and drive to be the person I am.” In fact, she recalls her mother always telling her she was a ‘can-do’ person. “I knew I wanted to give my family the home my parents gave me while satisfying my inner drive and passion for business.”

Talia also places a high value on honesty and integrity. “Growing up, only the highest level of honesty and integrity were acceptable. If there was ever a question that something may even be portrayed as unethical, I was always taught to go above and beyond the letter of the law, to uphold the highest level of integrity.

“I developed a system to make sure I’m not going against my values: I imagine that I went ahead with whatever I was contemplating and the next day it was printed on the front cover of the newspaper and on a viral WhatsApp feed. Then I ask myself, ‘Would I be embarrassed?’ If I would, I know I’m rationalizing -- and I got my answer.”

Bill Marriott, Jr.: Marriott International

“Success isn’t final.” This provocative statement is one of the guiding beliefs behind Bill Marriott Jr.’s success. As he also notes, “Change is good. Not always easy, but good and necessary. Getting too comfortable with the status quo can set you up for failure.”

Still active as executive chairman of the board at Marriott International after more than 40 years as CEO of his family's hotel chain, Bill always practiced a famously a hands-on style that he called "management by walking around." Nearing 90 years old, he still does plenty of walking, visiting upward of 200 hotels a year.

The No. 1 reason, he says, is “ it is very beneficial to me because I get to see what’s going on.” And the most important part of all is “to visit with the people and let them know that there’s a guy named Marriott around and that I care about them and I’m interested in them. It’s in my DNA. My father used to visit the restaurants. I’ve been doing the same thing with the hotels ever since I became president in 1964.”

He makes it a point to meet all his associates, guests and managers. He also ensures that he talks to everyone involved in the running of the hotel -- from the top associates to the bellman.

Often asked the secret of Marriott’s success, he credits the Marriott philosophy, which is to really care about every single person working for Marriott. Talk about Social Capital ! And that includes caring about their opinions. “If you don’t consult your staff, your advisors -- and even your opponent -- you will be the only one left in the room.”

Despite being the founder’s son, Bill credits his people skills with his ascension to CEO upon his father’s retirement, and some of that clearly had to do with his willingness to get his hands dirty – literally.

“When I became the head of Marriott, in 1964, many people were surprised,” he relates. “I was only 32 and had worked at the company full-time for just eight years [starting as kitchen staff for four years]. My father, who’d started the business in 1927 with a root beer stand in Washington, D.C., before moving into restaurants and then hotels, had an experienced executive vice president working for him who many thought would succeed him. He was 20 years older than I was, and when it came to finance, he was brilliant. But he was a micromanager. He spent a lot of time marking up contracts, redoing the work of the company’s lawyers. He didn’t have good people skills and didn’t understand the operation of the business.”

A senior director on the board, on whom Marriott Sr. relied heavily, believed the VP would be the wrong choice and urged the retiring founder to make Bill Jr. the CEO. “After all,” Bill continues, “I’d literally learned the business visiting restaurants with my father as a young boy, and I’d worked part-time in different jobs at the company since I was 14. My father was worried that I was too young, but Marriott was still small at the time -- we had about $85 million in annual revenue-- and I think he figured he’d be around long enough to bail me out if I got into trouble.”

People skills continue to be of the utmost importance. “ At Marriott, our culture is focused on people, because treating one another well is essential to creating an atmosphere in which everyone treats guests well, and that’s the most fundamental element of our business,” Bill says, noting also, “If you treat people well, they’ll want to stay. That’s especially true at Marriott, where we fill most jobs from inside, which gives people an awareness of the potential to move up.”

The leadership aspect of treating people well goes right back to the quality we are focusing on this month for Social Capital – CEOs getting out there with the employees and being accessible to them.

Bill has often counseled that the four most important words in business are "What do you think?" This comes from an experience he’d had in the Navy when he’d relied on his position in command hierarchy to get stewards to adopt his suggestions but was simply ignored. Relating, “I didn't ask the stewards in the Navy, ‘What do you think?’ I said, ‘Here, do this,’” he says, “I found out it doesn't work very well.” He encourages the “What do you think?” approach with his managers, and of course models it himself. In one instance, he recalls, “We were faced with a big decision and I'd pretty much made up my mind and everybody was on board. But one person in the back said he wasn't on board. And I said, ‘You weren't? You're not on board? You tell me why.’ And he told me, and he was right. So, we cancelled the project.”

The importance of listening to your people is one of the reasons he visits so many hotels every year to learn directly from the front line “what's going right, what's going wrong.”

Being out there in the midst of the business also enables him to see things that he might not otherwise find out about. For instance, during one visit to a property in New York, he found out they had the wrong guest chair in the room. “I told them, ‘Get rid of them; let's go buy some more guest chairs.’ They said, ‘Well, nobody's told us that in the last five years,’ and I said, ‘Well, here I am; let's do it.’"

Spending as much time as possible in his hotels enables Bill to gauge the challenges his employees face in the industry as well as how they feel about their employer and their work environment. With nearly 3,200 hotels in the Marriott family, it is not possible for him to visit all of them very frequently, but through his hands-on style of leadership he ensures his managers follow his leadership strategies and at the same time keep him informed through email or letters as to how things are moving on and what areas need improvement.

We honor Bill Marriott Jr. this month for the inspiring example he sets in getting out on the front line with his employees to listen, to value and to interact with them in a meaningful way because he believes they are important.

Or, in his own words, “I love this business. I think it’s one of the most rewarding industries in the world because it does so much to help people. We open a world of opportunity to people who wouldn’t otherwise have it. At Marriott, we have 50% of our general managers who came out of the hourly ranks, and that’s pretty impressive. A lot of our senior officers, too. If you look around this industry, there’s a lot of leadership that’s come out of our company.”

In fact, Bill shares that among his accomplishments, he is proudest of “opening the doors of opportunity to a lot of wonderful people who have been able to provide for their families. Whether they are a chef, a general manager or a senior executive, I like to think we’ve taught them something and helped them to excel.”

Fred Hassan: Warburg Pincus

Fred Hassan long ago established himself as a leader in the pharmaceuticals industry, and has more than three decades as an investor, board member and executive of global pharmaceutical corporations. That kind of renown indicates knowledge of the industry itself, and his leadership impacts the performance of his company within the industry at the macro level. For our Social Capital section, we recognize him for his leadership within a company and his relationship with employees.

“The job of the CEO is to bring out the best in their people, not only in terms of their willingness to give their best to the company but also in setting high goals for themselves and actually believing they can achieve more than what they thought they would achieve,” he says, noting that the most frequent advice he gives people is about how they behave as CEOs with their own management team: “It’s about getting people to be more confident in themselves and having their sights raised as much as possible.”

Engaging Frontline Managers _Social Capital
Frontline CEOs are like a general on the field with their troops, sending a powerful message of unity and support that galvanizes a loyalty and solidarity in the company that is priceless. iStock photo/gilaxia

His record is testament to the power of that approach. Evidence the turnarounds he orchestrated at Pharmacia-Upjohn and Schering-Plough when they faced what looked like insurmountable problems. “In both cases,” he says, “I made engaging and motivating frontline managers a cornerstone of my turnaround strategy.”

Fred has found that few CEOs think it’s their job to mobilize frontline managers. At most, they may practice some version of “management by wandering around” to stay in touch with different parts of the organization. He believes it is critically important to, instead, actually single out frontline managers and spend significant personal time in direct interactions with them, and use those interactions to mobilize the entire organization. “I call this approach ‘ leading through the front ,’” he says.

After all, it is the frontline managers who must motivate and bolster the morale of the people who do the work -- those who design, make and sell the products or deliver services to customers. Not only do they oversee the execution of a company’s business strategy, but they are an all-important feedback loop that allows the CEO to stay abreast of the latest developments in the business – which may even go counter to prevailing wisdom.

Fred recalls one instance involving the sales force when he worked at a company that developed a glaucoma drug for the Japanese market, but since that was not their core business, they wanted to partner with a Japanese distributor.

“But when I talked to our salespeople in Japan, they told me that being able to offer the glaucoma drug would really help them with their customers,” recalls Fred. “They also believed they could do a better job than the Japanese distributor because they were better trained as sales professionals. We took the courageous step to give the product to our own people, which turned out to be a wise decision. The glaucoma product sold very well in its own right, and sales of other products also benefited because salespeople were motivated to do the best they could.”

So, the first step for a CEO who wants to lead through the front is to make time for regular interactions with selected frontline managers. But it’s important the CEO be willing and able to get into the nuts and bolts of the business when doing so. “If you’re in a meeting with frontline managers and don’t know what makes their part of the business tick, they’ll sense it immediately. They may even call you on it,” he explains.

Fred admits he is often met with skepticism when he suggests executives lead from the front, as they are concerned it would undermine their company’s middle managers. Admitting it’s a legitimate question that applies to senior managers as well, he says, “You have to strike a delicate balance between empowering frontline managers and making sure your actions and responses don’t short-circuit the formal chain of command.”

However, he likes to recall a moment with one company when he first realized the notion of leading through the front had taken hold. It was soon after they had rolled out a companywide frontline-management training program and he was worried it would be difficult to persuade senior managers to make time to host the kickoff meetings for the three-day training sessions.

“To my surprise, there were so many volunteers that we had to turn people away. They realized that empowering the front line had the secondary effect of empowering them as well. What leader could ask for more?”

Philip Bowers: JGBowers, Inc., Advanced Cabinet Systems

Verbalizing the very quality we are showcasing this month in this Social Capital section, JGBowers president Phil Bowers says, “Leadership has changed so much over the years, but I still believe that the more a leader can connect with people and get their buy-in, the more successful the entire organization will become.” He believes this to be true no matter how intimately the leader knows the business.

In Phil’s case, that is intimately indeed, as his father acknowledged in 2012 when he announced his plans to step down after 30 years of leading the company he’d founded and pass its leadership to his son: “Phil has been working with me since he was a kid,” Greg Bowers said.

JGBowers Construction's core business is performing interior build outs in the commercial, medical, retail, and educational markets. Its dba Advanced Cabinet Systems' core business is manufacturing plastic laminate casework and fixture products for educational, medical and retail facilities. And there is also BDP Real Estate, an investment firm.

Phil believes leadership goes hand in hand with innovation. In fact, for the business itself, he say, “ To be an industry leader, we must never stop innovating our products and processes.” And more broadly, he says, “Innovation in all things is necessary to leadership.” In fact, he notes that a company slogan is “Keep Calm and Change the Game.”

He applied that slogan to himself when, feeling he needed to “switch some things up in my daily schedule,” he decided, “I need to ‘change the game’ and get creative with my leadership style.”

In his quest to make that happen, he brainstormed with his management team on a slew of different ideas, from a rotating CEO program, which they decided was way too complicated, to a CEO for a day program for different employees, which they decided would drive everyone crazy. Finally, they asked, “What will be effective and transformational and at the same time be looked at positively by the entire team? We got it! Send me down to get my hands dirty -- let me lead from the trenches.”

He describes a cartoon he’d seen that had a tremendous effect on him. One frame showed a man sitting on a throne being pulled by three other men; the caption read “Boss” with an arrow pointing to the man in the throne. In a second frame, the picture was similar but had one major difference: The throne was empty and there were four men pulling the throne; its caption read “Leader” and the arrow pointed to the man at the front of the tow line. “That had a very powerful impact on me,” Phil says. “I had an epiphany!”

Phil takes the opportunity to learn how each part of the business is run first-hand by those who do it every day. He makes it clear that this is not a matter of getting a lesson from the manager or running department. “I will be doing work with the team until I learn how it’s done and how, or if, it could be improved. From there, we will work together and ferret out any inefficiencies that need to be addressed, tie up any loose ends that are currently dangling, or reward for jobs well done,” he says. And he adds, “Another benefit from doing this is camaraderie.”

Leadership like this requires trust. “You must have a huge amount of trust in your leadership team. They must support this and must be willing to put additional effort into helping run the business.” For himself, he says, “There is no way I would be able to do something like this if I did not have a stellar leadership team on my side.”

Phil’s approach to building not just that leadership team but the company overall is the reason we are honoring him in this month’s Social Capital feature: “We are passionate about our people and the culture we all create together,” he says. And, noting that staying ahead in business requires a willingness and ability to adapt to constant change, he says, “We believe that investing in our people is our single biggest competitive advantage.”

Lynsi Snyder: In-N-Out Burger

Burger heiress Lynsi Snyder may have inherited billions of dollars and the mantle of In-N-Out Burger, but not without a lot of suffering and hardship. And that may have something to do with why she leads so humbly, always bending over backward to help and empathizing with her frontline employees.

She also has plenty of experience being one of them, starting when she was 17 at the store in Redding, California, where her job was leafing the lettuce. She continued working in actual stores well into her twenties and was actually kidnapped while working a shift as a manager when she was 24. Talk about being on the front lines!

After her parent’s tumultuous divorce when she was 12, then the tragic deaths of her father to a drug overdose and her uncle in a plane crash, Lynsi Snyder succeeded her brother-in-law as the chief operating officer of the American regional fast food chain in 2010 and eventually took over as CEO.

Work-life balance_Social Capital
So, hats off to all these frontline CEOs who are proving that capitalism works not just for the owners but for the workers, too – and for the whole of society. iStock photo/BlackSalmon

She has never forgotten her struggles, and uses that to make sure she does right by the employees. She is the only biological granddaughter of Harry and Esther Snyder, who founded the restaurant in 1948. And since taking the reins of the company, she has run the chain like she believes her grandparents would have wanted it run.

“We have a special culture at this company,” explains Lynsi “I really believe that it’s my job, and the job of the whole management team, to make sure we nurture that culture and keep In-N-Out the unique place to work it has been for all our associates -- from the 30-year veterans to the ones putting on their aprons for the first time.”

The result is that for six consecutive years, In-N-Out Burger has landed a spot on Glassdoor’s Best Places to Work list, this year ranking No. 4. Lynsi credits their people-focused values and team-oriented atmosphere.

And even though she makes sure they have competitive salaries and impressive perks, like free meals while at work, that’s not enough to make employees feel valued on a personal level. In-N-Out is constantly helping its employees develop through extensive and powerful training programs so that associates can keep growing and learning -- and then are provided opportunities for advancement.

“I’m personally involved in upgrading our management training program as we try to make it more effective and flexible for each manager,” declares Lynsi proudly. “Our programs include both interactive learning and one-on-one, hands-on training. Our managers participate in onsite classroom sessions at our In-N-Out University.”

Or, as one recently hired employee said of Lynsi’s many training videos in which she personally appears to give pointers and tips on how to handle different situations, “She makes you feel like she is really out there with us.”

Employees who reviewed the company on the jobs and recruiting site Glassdoor said they loved the chain and considered it the best restaurant to work for, thanks in large part to Lynsi’s initiatives and leadership. She received a 97% approval rating on Glassdoor from her employees.

That’s especially amazing considering In-N-Out, with nearly 330 restaurants in six states and was valued at $1.1 billion in 2013, ranked fourth on Glassdoor's 2018 list of best places to work.

"Listening to our associates is a serious priority for me," Lynsi says. "My hope is that anyone who spends time as an In-N-Out associate finds the experience valuable -- an opportunity to learn and grow, and to have fun."

According to Glassdoor's data, associates at In-N-Out earn, on average, $12.27 an hour. By comparison, McDonald's crew members earn an average of $8.45 an hour, and that rate is $8.25 for those at Burger King.

But Lynsi says it takes more than pay and perks to show employees you are invested in them. "We spend a lot of time doing activities together -- we have annual trips, we play sports, and every year we have several trips to my Dad's ranch, sometimes for workshops and play, sometimes just for In-N-Out family time," she says.

Of her employees, Lynsi says, "They are the reason for our success, and they deserve to enjoy coming to work, to feel appreciated and to be treated like family, which is what I consider them."

Maybe that’s the perfect wrap up to an article about being on the front lines -- the realization that your employees are your family – and why would you ever want to let your family go to the front lines without you?