Not too long ago I addressed a meeting of Claims Team Leaders. All of them, I guess, were technically competent. Some of them will have superior management skills of planning, organisation and decision making. A small minority might have exhibited signs of future promotion potential.
How many of them deserved the title of “Leader”?
I am pretty sure that the final tally would be close to zero. A better title might be “Claims Convenor”, “Senior Claims Handler”, or “Chief Cook and Bottle Washer” (as my mother used to say).
In other words, we bestow the title and supposed functionality of ‘leadership’ in a cavalier fashion on people who do not deserve it. That is not to say that they are not good at their real job. Simply that leadership is not amongst the skills that they exhibit. In truth, if we had 20 claims ‘Leaders’ in a single department the result would be an anarchic mix of outputs reminiscent of an arcade pinball machine.
Leadership is not bestowed from the Human Resources department. It is not an automatic rite of passage amongst senior personnel. It is not even an intrinsic characteristic of the Claims Director, COO, or CEO.
To me, the skills of leadership combine original insight with strategic vision. A clarity of purpose and an overactive drive to achieve. A leader need not be the most popular person in the room, but they will have an ability to inspire and motivate. A willingness to make decisions and an equal willingness to accept the consequences. Someone who wants to be held accountable for their outputs and who desires acknowledgement.
A leader is not always the greatest manager, but a good manager can be a great leader.
At almost every level in every organisation you will find those who see things more quickly than others; who are sharper in their analysis and less likely to accept the norm. People who want to know more, understand more and who embrace change. Leaders from the Post Room to the C-suite who are not just passionate about what they do today but are equally passionate about finding new solutions for tomorrow.
Working amongst my colleagues in the claims arena I see plenty of people who “get it”. Genuine leaders in their field. Claims Directors, and those lower in the pecking order, who really do want to make a difference to their department, business or, sometimes, the industry as a whole.
At the same time though it must be admitted that many aspects of claims management require technical knowledge. Put one foot wrong and it could cost the company big money. It is not at all unusual therefore to find the Heads of Department having oodles of ability in understanding the intricacies of law, regulations, current practices, and myriad other aspects of the role.
But that does not make them leaders. It makes them great at the job and immensely valuable. It means that we can rest safe in the knowledge that what needs to be done is being done. Stakeholder money is being well managed. However, it does not always make them the best people to lead the claims transformation effort.
The role of a Claims Leader is not just to fix the present problems but to design a new generation of solutions that make current worries redundant. With the advent of the Fair Pricing initiative, we have a tremendous opportunity to bring claims to the fore of the insurance proposition. If price is to be less of a factor in customer renewal, then insurers will surely focus more on the service being offered, including the claims department.
In 2030 (less than 9 years distant) we will look back on the way we handle claims today and wonder how we ever managed. We will also identify those Claims Leaders who took the risks to make change happen.
Thank you, one and all.