by Phil Kalin

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.

Phil Kalin

Phil Kalin joined Pinnacol Assurance as CEO in 2013. He has served as the chief executive of both public and privately-backed companies, including large hospital systems, as well as organizations focused on health care data, technology and education.

Related Articles

  • Leadership
Nov 3, 2021
by Phil Kalin

Last month, I announced I will be retiring as President and CEO of Pinnacol Assurance at the end of March. I love my job and my company, and this wasn’t a decision that came easily. Making such a decision has prompted a lot of reflection on what I’ve done and accomplished over nearly 50 years of…

  • Leadership
Oct 5, 2021
by Phil Kalin

At Pinnacol Assurance, the verdict is in: we will retain our current flexible working model for the foreseeable future. We came to this conclusion after extensive research and discussion with our teams. The process and findings were so rich, I think it’s valuable to share them. Beginning in June,…

  • Leadership
Sep 9, 2021
by Phil Kalin

It’s time for Colorado CEOs to lead the state’s way out of COVID.  I drafted this column in mid-August, before the FDA gave official approval (not just emergency authorization) to the Pfizer vaccine. I hope that by the time you read this, more of you will be requiring your staff and, in some cases…