Lean into the soft stuff. It works.
The importance of the “tone at the top” is business school 101. We all know how important the CEO’s example is for setting cultural norms, and the resulting impact on productivity and results. When the CEO’s behavior is integrous with the company’s stated values, it’s easier for everyone to pull in harness. When it’s not, personal satisfaction and business performance suffer.
Since I announced my retirement in October, I’ve been overwhelmed by the outreach from team members throughout Pinnacol who have thanked me for bringing back the sense of “Pinnacol Proud” in my eight years leading the company. Many talked about the sense of caring and connection they’ve felt from me: remembering names of all our 650 employees, reaching out to individuals when they’re having a tough time, my communication and actions after George Floyd’s murder, being there for them week after week during COVID with video messages that seemed to anchor people and give them a sense that they were truly cared for and that we’d get through this together.
As our team members talk with pride about how we’ve achieved our strong results, none has pointed to our Tiger Team cost initiatives, Lean processes or Agile decision-making. Instead, they’ve pointed to feeling valued, important and understood. That has created an open space for curiosity and passion for what will take us to the next level. It is both our secret sauce and our rocket fuel.
These concepts of care and connection stem from how I was raised. They sound soft, and they’re often given short shrift in business circles. But they have been competitive distinguishers for Pinnacol, and energized our people, particularly over the last 18+ months of a slow-motion crisis. Indeed, during this time of remote work, our team members embraced our culture of caring even more fully, notching unprecedented industry-leading satisfaction scores from injured workers and policyholders.
Over the years, they’ve also helped mobilize our team members around addressing our business challenges. Connection builds trust and trust breeds a sense of commitment to not let anyone down, whether it’s a customer or a teammate. It generates a virtuous cycle that leads to constant improvement. Whether it’s identifying ways to take on market share challenges or transforming our systems to improve efficiency, it’s a foundation that gets results.
In this, my final blog for the EDC, I wanted to share this most important lesson I have learned over the years, particularly in my time as CEO of this exceptional company. Emily Dickinson wrote “Only connect.” Meaningful connections are what fueled me over the years, and the best advice I can share with you, my colleagues and peers, is to connect with your people. Lead from a place of caring. I assure you, your business – and you – will be better for it.