Best company leaders learn by listening to their workers
Being a top leader in today's corporate world takes a good ear, strong communication skills and a willingness to trust your workers, traits shared in abundance by chief executives William S. George, Corey Schiller and Michael Rappaport, according to their employees.
Each was named by his workers as the the best leader in area business for a company of their size as part of the annual Top Workplaces survey. The poll, conducted by WorkPlaceDynamics of Exton, lets employees anonymously evaluate their bosses and corporate cultures by answering 22 questions, which the survey firm later scored.
LARGE COMPANY: WILLIAM S. GEORGE
At Health Partners Plans, one worker called CEO William S. George "a great leader" who works hard to grow the medical insurance plan but still takes time to "personalize every birthday card with a meaningful comment."
This in a company with 605 workers. That's a lot of birthday cards. HPP's size puts it in the large business category of the survey alongside much larger companies. Yet, it ranked third in this year's survey and topped the list in 2012.
"He cares about (our) bonuses, how to improve the results and then goes back to the (Board of Directors) to get it," the worker wrote. "What President/CEO does that?"
During his nine years as CEO, George admitted, "At times, I have to go head-to-head with the board to get the best results for the company."
It probably isn't too tough a sell. HPP already insures nearly one in every 10 Philadelphians and "we're growing like crazy," with more than 185,000 members receiving medical services from 10,000 providers, George said.
"Our approach is real basic, we want them to be happy with us. And it starts with our employees," he added. "We operate 24/7 and get thousands of calls every day. I won't tell you what to say, only to take the occasion to rise above and to do the right thing and I will be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with you when you make that statement."
Asked for an example of the "right thing", George said, "If we underpay a provider and discover it, we call them and send them a check and tell them it will never happen again."
As for patients, he said, "Improving the health outcomes of our members is the theme in everything we do here," from helping diabetics keep their blood-sugar in check, to reminding aging members to get routine checks like colonoscopies.
Workers called George "visible," "very approachable" and "very genuine."
"He walks the walk!" one wrote.
George insists it's nothing special. "I'm doing what I think everybody should be doing day in and day out," he said.
One employee was a bit critical, praising George for making "good executive decisions" for the company's direction while being "unafraid to try something new with no guarantee of success. However, I do not feel he realizes just how miserable some of his lower management staff make his employees feel."
MIDSIZE COMPANY: COREY SCHILLER
Corey Schiller, CEO of Power Home Remodeling Group of Chester, said the survey's good and bad comments provide "very valuable insight for us, and we're responsive to it."
The company ranked second in this year's survey of midsize companies and won in 2011.
Many in power at Power can empathize with those below them on the corporate ladder. Schiller said he started there right after college, and in a decade, went from making sales calls in customer's homes to the top boss.
"A lot of our leadership came through the business the same way I did," Schiller said. "We're all still connected."
It showed in the survey of the company's 451 employees.
"Leaders at Power HRG command respect and inspire those who work there," one worker wrote. "They have created a great place to work where I look forward to going every day."
Another agreed, "The leadership at Power is able to intertwine themselves with the employees. They are (aware) of what is going on and are always there to help and make things easier, whether it's with work or on a personal basis."
Others singled out Schiller for making "smart, logical business decisions" and said he "promotes growth as a company/family and individual growth helping to create great people."
Schiller countered, "I appreciate the personal accolade, but it's really the organization. We attract a really high caliber of worker here."
SMALL COMPANY: MICHAEL RAPPAPORT
Michael Rappaport, CEO of Chariot Solutions in Fort Washington, is this year's top small company leader.
But he might as well have been named "Coach of the Year."
"My number-one job is to maximize the happiness of my team, even before maximizing the effectiveness of my team," he said. "Low turnover is critical to our success. I treat people very well and with respect and it's all genuine."
Chariot was the top-ranked small business in this year's survey and in 2010.
Rappaport founded Chariot Solutions 11 years ago, after serving a decade as managing director of a software company.
He said his time at Chariot has helped him broaden his skills, placing a renewed emphasis on opening his ears - and his mind - to suggestions from peers and workers alike. He calls his 50 employees his team of All Stars.
"Now, I'm more like a coach, and not a coach that knows all the answers," he said.
He knows at least some of them, workers said.
One singled Rappaport out for helping to "foster a culture of respect and concern for consultants as well as clients."
Another noted in the survey, "The Chariot management team does a great job finding the right people for the right projects. They really care about ensuring that there's always a good fit and that both the consultants and the clients are very happy with the arrangement."