Tag Archives: leadership

RIMS 2018: What Did I Learn?

I’ve lost count of the number of national RIMS (Risk & Insurance Management Society) conferences I have attended over the years, but I’m guessing it is around 20 or so. I always come away from the conference feeling a bit melancholy as I am reminded of how important the relationship aspect of this industry truly is and how much I enjoy hanging out with my friends in this crazy and wonderful industry. Here are a few key takeaways from my recent 2018 RIMS experience:

  1. Be well-read. I had the honor of joining Chubb CEO Evan Greenberg for lunch after he spoke at Chubb’s annual leadership luncheon. I am always impressed at his worldliness as he speaks on world affairs, American politics, challenges in business, and Chubb’s strategies. Given the plethora of misinformation out there these days, I asked him, “What do you read?” He responded that he reads three newspapers daily: The Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and Financial Times. He also reads The Economist each week. I have been pondering this ever since, as this is an area in which I can improve.
  2. Relationships are important. In this industry, people prefer to do business with people they know and trust. The purchase of insurance for a large publicly traded organization is an important two-way transaction: While I need to rely on my trading partners to be there if the crud hits the fan, they need to rely on me and my team to manage our risks the way we say we do to mitigate that potential. There is much at stake for both of us. Part of my process is to personally meet every underwriter in my portfolio, and to get to know well those who take on the most significant risk transfer. RIMS offers me an annual opportunity to nurture these relationships, and this is one of the aspects of my role that I enjoy the most.
  3. If you need something, ask. I had a need in my claims program that had not been addressed to my satisfaction. At RIMS I had the opportunity to state my case to senior management of an important trading partner, and within a few days my need was met. One important reason was the foundational relationship between our two organizations and us personally. See number 2 above.
  4. You own your program. We risk managers rely heavily on our brokers for coverage placement and addressing any issues or concerns that may arise. They are an incredibly important leg on this three-legged stool (broker, insurer, client), and I value their experience and expertise. Sometimes, however, we must take ownership of solving a problem, not because our partners are deficient, but because it is my problem; I have the greatest stake in seeing it addressed. See number 3 above.
  5. Never stop learning. I recently joined the Board of Houston’s RIMS chapter. Along with four other Board members, I attended a Sunday morning Chapter Leadership forum led by national RIMS. There was much discussion of the RIMS CRMP (Certified Risk Management Professional) designation. I had heard of it, but never explored it. You see, I am fairly seasoned in my career, I have a graduate degree, and I earned my ARM designation many years ago. “What’s the point,” has been my response to earning CRMP. The point is, retirement is several years out (God willing). I have much work yet to do and my organization deserves the most well-rounded professional I can be. And learning is fun. So I’m going for it.
  6. RIMS is worth supporting. The Chapter Leadership Forum offered the opportunity to learn from many very successful chapters from around the US and Canada. We have great people in Houston and we have a great Chapter but we can be better. I have gained much from my RIMS membership over the years and now it’s time to give back. I’m looking forward to working with my fellow Board members on several takeaways we gained in this session.
  7. Work hard, play hard. OK, it’s not really a takeaway. Those who know me well know how much I enjoy the social aspects of what we do for a living. Yes, it’s fun. But it is also very important. In these social settings, we get to know one another personally. We learn about each other’s families. We talk about life’s struggles. We celebrate life’s successes. We build bonds of trust that are personally gratifying, but also business beneficial. Many who I consider my closest and dearest friends are friends through this industry, and for their friendship I am truly grateful.

I suppose these are not really “learnings” per se. They are reinforcements of things I know to be true and sources of inspiration from which I plan to drive my future success and professional development. Thank you, industry friends and partners, and thank you RIMS for being a very important part of my life. I am blessed.

Know Your Audience

“Did you know that workers’ compensation claims cost our company over $24 million last year!?” I asked incredulously. And, with that opening line, I lost my audience.

I had the best of intentions. I wanted to raise awareness. I wanted to achieve buy-in. I wanted my audience of operations vice presidents and warehouse managers to leave the meeting with a sense of purpose and a committed resolve to run their distribution centers in the safest manner possible. Unfortunately, I only achieved one of my three objectives, and that only in part: They all left the meeting.

This squandered opportunity underscores an often overlooked component of successful communication: the need to tailor the message to the audience. Truth is, we did have an opportunity to reduce workers’ compensation costs. Achieving the buy-in of the operations professionals who ran the warehouses and loaded the trucks was essential to our success. And, in this instance, I failed.

I joined Toastmasters to learn to organize my thoughts, tailor my presentation to the audience in the room, and deliver my message with confidence and authority.

Fast-forward one year. After the debacle of the year before I had to battle to get the risk management team a spot on the operations meeting agenda. Quite frankly, I understood management’s hesitance; my presentation the year before used an hour of valuable time and achieved nothing. I told them I had learned my lesson. I joined Toastmasters to learn to organize my thoughts, tailor my presentation to the audience in the room, and deliver my message with confidence and authority. I showed them a draft of my new presentation as I told them this year would be different. And it was.

“I want you all to close your eyes,” I said. “Picture in your mind the best order selector in your warehouse; you know, the one with the near-perfect pick rate and lowest error rating. I know that each of you already has that person pictured in your mind. Now, picture him at home because he hurt his back at work. He’s off for six months. Open your eyes.”

I had their attention. I asked, “How many of you have had this experience in your operation at least once during the past year?” Many raised their hands. I asked them, one by one, “How was your warehouse impacted by that employee’s prolonged absence from work?” All of a sudden, a discussion broke out! Operations VP’s and warehouse managers shared how overall pick rates deteriorated and overtime costs increased. Several even talked about reduced morale and reduced bonus payouts. “If I could show you three simple things you can implement now to help avoid this disruption going forward, would you consider them?” I now had their full attention. I had a room full of risk management deputies. Mission accomplished.

During that second presentation, I never talked about money. I didn’t preach the virtues of prevention as a means of reducing retained loss costs. Why? Because this audience couldn’t care less about those things. That is not the world in which they live and breathe every day.

I had the honor of addressing the attorneys and paralegals of Vernis & Bowling at their 2014 firm retreat in Orlando, FL.

I had the honor of addressing the attorneys and paralegals of Vernis & Bowling at their 2014 firm retreat in Orlando, FL.

That presentation, now some 20 years in the past, was the catalyst for some amazing results. And, for me personally, it launched a true appreciation for and enjoyment of public speaking.

I offer this glimpse into my career learning process in the hopes that you might consider (or reconsider) each slide in that PowerPoint deck you’re about to present. Persuading a Board, a C-Suite, mid-management colleagues, and operations professionals to support any given objective will typically require a different approach tailored to each of those groups. To whom are you presenting? I’m sure the content is important to you, but is the content important to them? How can you make your objective meaningful to your audience? Will your supporting facts resonate with them?

After several years of absence, I rejoined a local Toastmasters club two years ago. I believe strongly that well-honed communication and presentation skills are an essential component to any leader’s success. I know they have contributed hugely to mine.

Click here to learn more about Toastmasters and how it can help you hone your communication and presentation skills!

2015 Photo-A-Day 1.12.2015

These are the new officers of the Southlake Toastmasters Club at their installation this morning. Toastmasters is an organization that helps people from all walks of life and a variety of vocations hone their communication and leadership skills. I’ve been a member of this club since early 2013. They are a wonderful group of people from whom I have learned much.

“Ours is the only organization I know dedicated to the individual, we work together to bring out the best in each of us and then we apply these skills to help others.” ~  Ralph Smedley, Founder of Toastmasters

Southlake Toastmasters officers installation 1.12.2015

Southlake Toastmasters officers installation 1.12.2015

“Everybody’s Got an Angle”

Ah, the wisdom of the great entertainer Bob Wallace, portrayed by Bing Crosby in White Christmas. “Everybody’s got an angle.” Bob speaks this line in the context of discussing people’s motivation for the things they do. And, as I consider his statement, I’ve concluded that he is correct. Everybody, indeed, has an angle.

The immediate connotation of an angle tends to be negative. It implies that people use each other or misrepresent circumstances for their own gain. It implies that people’s motivations aren’t necessarily for good. In Bob Wallace’s case, he was talking about a letter written by Betty Haynes that lured Wallace & Davis to Vermont under a false pretense. Haynes was seeking an audition with Wallace & Davis, and believing they would not likely grant her request, she wrote a letter about her brother, an old army buddy of Wallace & Davis, that opened the door. Wallace understood that Betty Haynes had worked a false pretense (her “angle”) but was OK with it in the context of his world view because the end result was good for all four of them, as well as for General Waverly.

What do you seek, and what are you willing to do to achieve your goals? What is your angle? What motivates you?

Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” ~ 1 Kings 3:6-9

Before his passing, King David made his son, Solomon, his successor to the throne with God’s blessing. Solomon could have asked God for anything, yet what was his request? His request was that God would give him an understanding heart and wisdom to discern between good and evil, right and wrong. He didn’t ask for fame; he didn’t ask for wealth; he didn’t ask for a long life or even for world peace. His request was simply that God would make him wise so that Solomon could effectively govern the people. What was God’s response to Solomon’s prayer?

God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.” ~ 1 Kings 3:11-14

This was Solomon’s angle: that he be given wisdom from God so that he could be effective and God pleasing in his role as king. There is nothing negative here. This is a man who knew his place (king over Israel, but subject to the sovereign God) and simply wanted to serve honorably. Solomon prayed from his heart and God knew that; God therefore honored Solomon’s prayer, and then some.

Like most reading this post, I work for a living. I work for and with people whose motives are very honorable, but there are also those whose motives tend towards the selfish and dishonorable. Many in the work place are outstanding mentors to those whom they oversee, but others view colleagues and coworkers as rungs on the ladder of success, to be climbed over for one’s own personal gain. Some will misrepresent facts, as did Betty Haynes, to further their cause. We all know people who fit into both categories. Both types of people have an angle.

Business these days can be very competitive. How does one succeed in a competitive environment in which, for many, the accumulation of money and power is often the “be all, end all” of motivation? I thank God for the example He offers through King Solomon. I pray that God would give me a heart that seeks Him as purely and genuinely as Solomon did. I pray that God would grant me the wisdom to serve Him honorably in all that I do. I pray that He would show me my faults and help me correct them. I pray that God will put honorable people in my path from whom I can learn, while also giving me the opportunity to serve Him by serving others whether as husband, father, boss, or colleague.

Obstacles and circumstances will come, and each presents an opportunity to work an angle. No matter what obstacles or opportunities come my way, I pray that serving God will always be at the forefront of everything I do.

Everybody’s got an angle. What’s yours?

Godly Leadership ~ Acts 27:1-28:10

Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island.” ~ Acts 27:23-26

Storm at sea.

Storm at sea. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It is time for Paul to travel to Rome and face Caesar. He is placed on a ship carrying 276 passengers and crew that encounters a storm of hurricane force. The storm is so fierce that the crew abandons all attempts to steer the ship as they throw cargo and tackle overboard in an attempt to save her. As the storm rages, Paul encourages the crew and passengers by sharing with them a vision from God: each of them would be spared but the ship would be lost. He encourages them to keep up their courage as he shares the vision. Later he encourages them to take food, and taking bread, he breaks it, distributes it, and everybody eats their fill. For 14 days they endure this storm until running aground off the shore of an island called Malta.

The shipwrecked passengers and crew are shown “unusual kindness” (38:2) by the residents of Malta. They are cared for and fed. Paul, along with others who are unnamed, is invited into Publius’ estate (he is the chief official on the island). Paul heals Publius’ father and several others on the island. They are later provided with provisions and prepare to set sail.

When God appoints a leader, He doesn’t mess around. He has already appointed Paul to take the Gospel to the Gentiles. And now, in this perilous situation, the appointed man of God assumes a leadership role that ultimately saves the lives of 276 passengers and crew. This wasn’t something Paul did on his own; he did it in direct response to God’s message to him in that vision. This is another example of Paul’s steadfast faith in the Lord, but more so, it shows how God intervenes through the man of God who responds in faith. No matter what trials we face in this life, God is there. We must be tuned in; we must listen. And when God speaks to us, we must stand firm and be guided by what He tells us – even when we are outranked.

Ponder this: Do I trust God enough to listen for Him during life’s storms and trials? Is God calling me to Godly leadership?

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, thank you for teaching me about faith and Godly leadership through Paul’s example. Help me to seek you in all situations and circumstances and let me be a Godly leader according to Your good and perfect will. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

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