Interview with Lisa Ginter, CEO of CommunityAmerica, Value-Centered Vision
Some CEO’s start with their vision for a company and others start with a vision for their professional careers. A few figure out how to merge the two and those often are the most successful leaders as their path to professional success is one of authenticity and genuine fulfillment. When Lisa Ginter, CEO of CommunityAmerica since 2015, started her career she knew she wanted to find a path that focused on people helping people. Her goal was to help others succeed in their life journey.
Shortly after joining CommunityAmerica in 1995, Ginter was asked to be COO and focus on member experience with the goal of surprising and delighting members. She knew she was where she should be and knew then that she had a vision to lead CommunityAmerica to the next level of success.
Self-awareness and authenticity key to career success.
What helped Ginter accomplish her goal of becoming the next CEO was having good self-awareness about who she was, what she did well, and her vision for success. “Don’t try to be something you can’t be,” Ginter says, “don’t try to be me. Be you.” She found her own communication style, developed her own leadership team, and deployed processes to achieve goals. Ginter is adamant that one is always learning and evolving and needs to be open to lifelong education.
As Ginter transitioned into the CEO role she spent an inordinate amount of time communicating with the employees. “It is the people who make us wildly successful. It is important to get everyone on board with where we see the organization going” according to Ginter. She created an open and intimate environment in which to chat with no more than 20 people at a time and no set agenda. She wanted to know what was on their mind and how could she help the company be better. If something was mentioned a couple of times, she took notice.
Strategic clarity critical component of company success
Early on, Ginter’s goal was clarity. She wanted the entire organization to know why they were doing what they did. The driver of the business wasn’t changing; the purpose was being more clearly defined. Ginter’s vision was to help the Kansas City Community not just build financial success but to create financial peace of mind, improving life’s journey. It was important that every employee understand and apply that sense of purpose to every operational detail.
Displaying that sense of purpose enabled CommunityAmerica to develop trust with members. That, in turn, leads to being the first call a member makes when they encounter a financial milestone. Ginter relates. She recalls a personal experience when her daughter was trying to manage college choices and needed help developing a plan that considered personal and financial goals. Today, she has put in place life planning digital tools designed to help members feel confident making these important decisions.
Engage employees in growth-minded culture
Ginter continues to up the game at CommunityAmerica. Record breaking performances combined with hiring strong talent and engaged employees raises the high bar each year. To continue the performance, Ginter envisions diversifying the balance sheet and developing new opportunities to engage with Kansas City. Her goal is to never be complacent and continue to generate growth-mindedness throughout the organization, thinking aggressively and methodically about new opportunities and how to extend financial peace of mind. Adding a boutique commercial division, run by Pam Berneking, is one way they are doing that.
At the same time, Ginter wanted to extend CommunityAmerica’s reach in the community. They had great brand recognition but weren’t top of mind. So Ginter placed a bet for the 2018-2019 season on the Kansas City Chiefs by becoming a promotional partner and scored big when the Chiefs won divisional playoffs for the first time since 1993. Consistent with their belief in hiring talent and inspiring them to be their best, they took a risk by signing Mahomes as a rookie quarterback . Now he is the first Chiefs NFL MVP and he is just getting started. Ginter says it is a great fit as “Mahomes and CommunityAmerica are having record performances.”
While the momentum is moving in the right direction, Ginter is the first to acknowledge that keeping it on the tracks is harder once you have established superior performance. “There are always distractions and things that can derail you, pulling you off to the side of the road with delays and repairs. You have to keep the engines going and look ahead, retaining and building talent” according to Ginter.
Confidence inspires bolder thinking
In summing up success, Ginter brings the focus back to people. It is her secret weapon. “What matters is how you bring your players together. I am very purposeful about the mix of skill sets, while encouraging people to believe in the mission but also to challenge the status quo” comments Ginter. She is also quick to cite a strong relationship with the Board which enables her to do her work with confidence. She promotes a culture that enables people to bring their heart to work while still taking care of business. “I am tough but I care. People have it in them to be better and it is my job to bring out the best in them. When you show people they matter, they want to work hard for you” Ginter says.