Yochem offers secrets to leadership success

Sandra ClarkGet Up & Go

Movie fan Carol Yochem enlivened a presentation on leadership with clips from three well-known films. The president of the Middle Tennessee division of First Horizon Bank spoke March 12 to a luncheon for women leaders at Cherokee Country Club.


She used a really spooky clip from “What Lies Beneath” to show Michelle Pfeiffer screaming at an apparition in fear and frustration: “What do you want?”

She showed a young Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber” pressing Lauren Holly about their chances for a relationship: “Like maybe one out of 100?” he asked. “No, more like one out of a million,” she answered. A pause of confusion, then a smile spreads across his face: “So you’re telling me there’s a chance! Yeah!”

Finally, there was a poignant clip from “On Golden Pond” when Katharine Hepburn tells movie daughter Jane Fonda to get over it. She said everyone feels regret about something in their childhood, but it should not ruin their life. “Life marches by, Chels. I suggest you get on with it.”

Carol Yochem speaking in Knoxville.

By then, Yochem had everyone’s attention.

Leadership, she said, is about organizing people to get results. She listed three imperatives:

Communicate effectively

  • It’s not what we say, it is what people hear.
  • Watch for nonverbal cues.
  • Don’t over-talk. “Use headline (short) sentences to make your case and then shut up.”

Pay attention to culture

  • Company culture is established at the top and rising leaders must be in sync. Understand that there’s an unofficial organizational chart of go-to people who get things done. “Technicians make machines run; leaders make people run.”
  • You are responsible for creating the culture of your team; it takes intentional care and feeding.
  • People use perceptions to make decisions about us. What is the culture of the team you lead?

Build relationships

  • Work with Emotional Intelligence, it is twice as important as IQ or hard work.
  • Trust your people. “If you don’t trust someone (on your team), get rid of them.”
  • Encourage constructive feedback.

Football coach Lou Holtz said people want to know three things: Can I trust you? Are you committed to excellence? Do you care about me? These are the questions people on a team have of their leader, Yochem said.

Based in Nashville, Yochem leads a team of nearly 400 employees and oversees a combined loan and deposit portfolio of more than $10 billion. She serves on the board and is immediate past chair of the Nashville Downtown Partnership. She also serves on the boards of the Nashville-area Chamber and the YMCA of Middle Tennessee. In 2019, she was one of five named as Nashville’s Most Powerful Women.

She was introduced in Knoxville by Pam Fansler, former president of the East Tennessee Region for First Horizon Bank. Audience members were asked to vote for one of three nonprofits to receive a $5,000 donation from First Horizon. Nominees were Women’s Fund, Girls on the Run and Girls Inc.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of KnoxTNToday.com.

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