CEO, U.S. Private Bank, JPMorgan Chase

Sometimes speaking up can be intimidating, but Kelly Coffey did not want to lose out on the valuable insight that others might be reluctant to share. So she set about making it easier for employees at all levels to reach out to her.

"I think that one of the things that's most important to do in business is listen," said Coffey, CEO of the U.S. Private Bank at JPMorgan Chase. "Everybody who works for me, who's doing everything from wiring money for a client to designing a new estate plan, they're doing the business every single day and they're the most valuable resource we have to figure out how to do things better."

The problem, she said, is that despite a travel schedule that takes her around the country to meet with many of the private bank's 2,700 employees on a regular basis, "sometimes people sitting in front of me don't want to tell me specifically what's wrong."

Whether it's discomfort raising an issue during a meeting, or a worry that maybe a particular problem doesn't rise to the level of the CEO, Coffey found that employees were holding back rather than sharing concerns so that they then could be resolved to everyone's benefit.

To overcome that resistance, Coffey has taken steps to encourage more feedback from her team.

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One of her most effective tactics is also relatively simple. Coffey set up an email account called "Tell Kelly" and encouraged employees to send her their thoughts. "Any problem, large or small, that you see, just send off an email," she told them.

Coffey said the information she has gotten through this process is helpful in many ways, resulting in smoother, more customer-friendly processes and resolving management issues before they could become more serious.

None of the emails ever go unread, she added. "We go through every single one get back to every person."

Among the greatest benefits is assuring that many voices, which she might not otherwise hear, are able to get her attention.

"In wealth management in particular, our clients are all sorts who have made their money very different ways and come from many different walks of life," she said. "Having a wide range of voices and perspectives within the bank itself — and making sure they get heard — is vital.

Rob Garver

Rob Garver has been covering the intersection of public policy and the private sector for more than 20 years.