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Being Agile, Adaptable, and Accountable -- Part 3 of 3 of Our Conversation With Ed Wehmer

During our recent conversation with Ed Wehmer, President and CEO of Wintrust Financial Corporation, we discussed maintaining a culture in the face of external pressures, such as outside regulations. We conclude our 3-part chat with this Leader With Courage by asking how leaders in his company share the workload effectively and evaluate others.

Value Drivers:

One of the problems leaders face is the prospect of doing too much and instead need to learn the what, how, when, and to whom to delegate. I wrote a blog post about how "I can do that myself," is one the scariest statements a leader can make.

Ed Wehmer: Yes, I used to do it all myself. But if you're a growth company, you want to rewrite your job description every year. What are your objectives? What do you want to do this year? If you want to grow, you can't hold all of it. You've got to let people do their jobs. Hire them and give them the authority to do their jobs.

Is it about rewriting the job description or revisiting your vision?

All of the above.

You're doing that all the time. We have to be very agile to take advantage of what the market gives us. We're at an inflection point right now. We bought a lot of little banks. That’s inexpensive right now, but the price expectations are going up and there's an inflection point where organic growth is cheaper than doing that.

You've got to be able to adapt and what you did yesterday may not be right today. We do a lot of that where we're always challenging ourselves. It boils down to the people. We go to great lengths once a year to evaluate all our people.

What if someone isn’t working out?

We have an obligation to those people. I tell our guys, "If you hired this guy, and he's not working, that's your problem. You made the mistake. Either you didn't help him, or you hired wrong. You are accountable and responsible for that, so you should be working with the person. What's the plan?" If he doesn't work, cut him. It's all part of the accountability. Take the blame.

You've really got to be in touch with every level of the organization. You've got to make sure all your people are heard because often those are people dealing with the customers every day. If you don't listen to them, well, they're the ones who are hearing it or seeing something. They've got good ideas. You've got to be able to make sure those ideas are being filtered up.

Excellent. To wrap things up, Ed, I've got a few lightning round questions. They’re based on the 10 questions from a French TV series, "Bouillon de Culture" hosted by Bernard Pivot. They're better known in the U.S. as the questions that James Lipton asks every guest at the end of his show, "Inside the Actor's Studio.”

What's your favorite word or phrase?

It's actually a little poem that goes:

"Somebody scoffed, ‘Oh, you'll never do that. At least no one ever has done it.’

But he took off his coat and he took off his hat and the first thing he knew, he'd begun it.

With a lift of his chin and a bit of a grin, without any doubt or quiddit,

He started to sing as he tackled the thing that couldn't be done and he did it."

That leads into my second question, which is what's your least favorite word or phrase?

It's not my fault.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? What really gets your juices flowing?

Doing the right thing.

What turns you off?

Doing the wrong thing.

Here at work, what do you like to do the most?

Dealing with people.

What profession would you not like to do?

Be a regulator.

And the last one: When you retire, what would you like to hear the master of ceremonies at your retirement party say about you?

He did the right thing for his shareholders, his customers, the communities he served and his employees. Above all, Ed is a good husband and father.

Leaders With Courage can delegate to others without experiencing trust issues because they know that they’ve not only hired well but they also can hold managers accountable for making things right when change is needed. Ed Wehmer exemplifies that here, but how well are you following through on delegating and holding others accountable? Take the next 5 minutes to complete the Leaders With Courage Self-Assessment. That will give you a baseline of 26 attributes of leadership that you can then use to dive deeper into a 360 Assessment. The road to self-improvement for leaders runs through here. Take the next step on your journey to being a Leader With Courage today.

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