Leadership Insights is a series of Q&As with the leaders of the Genesee Regional Chamber of Commerce. It is an opportunity for you, our members to get their perspectives on leadership and learn more about them personally.
A Conversation with Janice Karcher, Vice President of Economic Development
What is your responsibility at the Regional Chamber?
I am responsible to ensure that our economic development objectives are met by supporting our staffs, outreach and response to project opportunities. I also work to ensure that we are monitoring trends and new opportunities, and positioning the community for future growth.
What experiences have best prepared you for this position?
We work with businesses a lot, so the opportunity to have worked with companies from the area and attraction prospects from all over the country has contributed to the role that I play here at the Regional Chamber. This work requires that I provide information and resources to the staff. They are on the front line on projects. In addition, my past studies have included logic and computer programming. This has contributed to my ability to help my team think through process steps; how to start at the beginning and determine where we want to end up. Exposure to best practices has helped to prepare me recently. For example, I participated in the German Marshall Fund study tour that took place last year in communities in Germany and Spain that are transitioning their economies. This allowed me to learn about some of the strategies that they are using. It has been very thought provoking and has given me a chance to contribute to development strategies for our own community.
What is your leadership approach?
I liken my role to a “water spider” in the Kaizen model of process improvement. Our front line staff are working with clients and a big part of my job is to deliver information and resources that allows them to stay engaged with the client. Under the Kaizen principles a “water spider” is the person who delivers information, materials and resources in a way that allows the staff to stay focused and engaged with the client as much as possible.
How has your leadership style evolved over the years?
My original thinking was focused on leading by example. I worked hard to set a pace for the organization. My leadership style has now evolved to not only leading by example, but thinking more strategically, and serving in a more consultative role with our team.
What role do partnerships play in a leader’s success?
Partnerships are so important. Collaborative relationships are built with clients and also with fellow service providers who, when you work collectively can help strengthen your ability to respond to client and community needs. I would also add that I value partnering with my fellow Regional Chamber business unit leaders, department heads and Economic Development team members to make sure that we’re all aligned. This helps us deliver strong results for our clients.
What phrase do you most overuse?
“Is this reflected in CRM?” Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a client tracking software.
What three things do you never leave home without?
Cell phone, credit card and coffee.
What activity would your co-workers be surprised to learn?
I’ve been serving as the team photographer for my son’s wrestling team and have become quite good at it. The biggest challenge is to capture the wrestlers when they are looking up so you can see the expression on their faces.
What is your favorite food/snack?
Sushi. Love the spicy tuna roll.
What is the best lesson that you learned this week?
I always come back to the importance of setting the vision and working with the team to ensure that we are all working toward the same end goal; then getting out of the way so people can execute.
What put the biggest smile on your face this week?
Two things come to mind: first, I really enjoyed the atmosphere at the recent ATHENA Awards Banquet and the opportunity to celebrate the great things that a lot of women in our community have achieved including leadership and mentoring of other women; second, coming home to find that my husband cleaned the garage. My car actually fits now.