EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — Sharing detailed information with employees about the performance of the business they work for is an important empowerment tool, Joseph Colalillo, chairman and chief executive officer, Wakefern Food Corp., told attendees at a dinner at the Sheraton Meadowland Hotel here last month hosted by the Network of Executive Women.
“I share all our financials with the people in the stores,” said Colalillo, speaking about his role as the owner of three-store ShopRite of Hunterdon County, N.J. “They see the same financials that I see. So many associates think that every dollar that comes into the register goes to the bottom line.”
He said he shares the information with all employees on a quarterly basis.
In his presentation, called “Leadership: A Passion for People,” Colalillo told a large crowd at the Metro New York chapter of NEW dinner that it is important for leaders to stay in touch with their store-level workers, and vice versa.
That is why he also stages annual meetings for all 1,100 employees of his company's three stores.
“We want to make that connection with our associates, and we want them to stay in touch,” he said. “If you have a culture of trust and respect, people will want to succeed.”
It is incumbent upon leaders to set an example, he said, and for that to happen, a leader must “have clarity about who they are.”
“When people look at you, they have to know what you stand for,” he said. “Our actions, or our inactions, are really going to have an impact on our culture.”
At the same time, leaders must also show humility, he pointed out, and must be receptive to ideas that come from all areas of the organization.
“We have to be good listeners, because the bottom line is that we, as leaders, don't know everything,” he said. “Employees have to know that they have the ability to suggest changes.”
Colalillo gave credit to his predecessor as chairman of Wakefern, Tom Infusino, for teaching him about how to be a leader.
“Our guiding principle is that we want people to succeed, because when they are succeeding, we are succeeding,” Colalillo said.
In opening remarks, Bobbie O'Hare, vice president of business development at brokerage firm Johnson O'Hare, Billerica, Mass., and regional event chairwoman at NEW, said it was important for the female leadership in the audience to take responsibility as mentors for up-and-coming leaders.
“Most of us have been mentored by men, and now it's our turn to provide that leadership for the next generation,” she said.