This week, I spoke at the WCI 2018 conference in Orlando regarding the choices we make and the impact they have both short- and long-term in our lives, our careers and the lives of others we connect with each day. Currently, you have a choice to read this synopsis or, instead, view the video of my full speech.
Each of us has a moral compass or set of values that guide us. Our parents or mentors provide advice on what we should do in life. Society has created expectations about how we should interact with each other. We make choices, and then we say, “I would have, but…, I wish I could, but…, I know we should, but…”
We make hundreds of choices a day. Choices have ramifications. Some of them will shape you as a person, shape others’ opinions of you, or shape your future. Some of your choices impact your role in our industry. When you make choices, you are creating your personal brand and deciding what you want to be known for.
You could say these things are easier for me in my role, but you would be mostly wrong. Choices are harder as you move up the ladder. You have more risks, bosses, people watching what you do, and lives impacted. In my case, I think about 21,000 families every day with every choice I make while leading Sedgwick. Learn to make good choices that will define you throughout your career.
In 1982, I received my first big promotion that resulted in a choice that was not planned. I was promoted to director and was told I would receive a company car. I asked Jane, my friend and previous director, why she didn’t mention that directors receive company cars. She told me that at this company, only men received a company car. Women chose to work and most had husbands so thus, the theory was that they didn’t need a car. I immediately went to the manager and laid the car keys back on the desk.
Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest choice.
Choosing to not do something is a choice. Choosing to not do what is right in your belief system is a significant choice. If you choose to not do the right thing, then that choice will influence those around you. Ultimately, those around you will believe you will make the wrong choice before you even act. People will be afraid to go to you in the future. Make the right choices now and we will come to expect that you will make the right choices later.
In the world of claims, we have many choices. We have statutes and guidelines that help us, but if it was as simple as following them, we could program it all into a machine. The main variable in workers’ compensation is the person – at the center of it all, there is an injured worker who, in most cases, is not trying to defraud the system. They have a family and obligations, so they want to return to work. The system is complicated and scary to them yet, in turn, after an examiner offers calming words of reassurance, we send 38 pages to read and sign. Confusion guides their actions, their actions guide us and all of a sudden people are assuming the worst. This is where a simple claim becomes complicated.
Above all else, do the right thing to take care of the injured worker. I am not saying break the rules or jeopardize your ethics. But exercise your most precious thing – choice. Be the colleague you want your company to embrace. Demonstrate the characteristics you want to see in both your boss and your clients.
Three of the most discussed topics in my office are client relationships, diversity or people-related issues, and technology. They are indicative of what almost every major employer is facing and doesn’t have a clear path toward solving.
It is relatively simple to base a business relationship purely on financials; the hard choice is when it comes to not doing business with a client. These choices are almost always relationship-related, based on how a client treats your colleagues and the ramifications that has on the organization. Keeping a client in this scenario, you tell your entire organization that you choose to side with the client and not them. Professionally, politely, well-informed, and with integrity, you can make the tough decision. As a leader, it sets the tone moving forward.
Technology is creating moral and ethical challenges in our industry. Investing in technology comes with a choice; we cannot and will not ignore it, but I believe the decision to invest in automation is a choice to not invest in people. The candid truth is we can’t invest in everything. To invest in technology, we have to grow faster or reduce expenses to pay for it. These are tough choices our generation is making right now.
We have new generations of workers who are more like me than I ever remember. They are unique, career-oriented and respectful of hierarchy, but only if it serves them. They don’t want to work at home, but want a home-like setting at work. They want my job and will probably be competent to do it soon. They are eight keystrokes away from knowing everything I know and even then some. They also demand technology as a way of life. We must make choices about technology, but also the needs of our people. These choices in the short-term, at least, may not be aligned.
I care about this topic personally and believe it is important to our company. You would think this would be an easy one, since it is easy to talk about what the objectives should be. Doing something about diversity is far more easily said than done. It is much more difficult when, for example, you have a hard-working, long-term colleague who wants and deserves a promotion and you also have a minority applicant who is equally qualified and applying for the position. What is the right thing to do? We say hire the right person, but many times that is cover for doing the easy thing versus the right thing.
Finally, I leave you with three thoughts:
- Consequences of making a choice. Not making a choice is the same as making a choice. Choose to do something with thoughtful action vs. passive inaction. You will be judged either way, so you might as well take your best shot.
- Own it. You may think that one decision doesn’t matter. You may do the wrong thing and, after the fact, try to convince yourself you were misled or not given all the facts and therefore you shouldn’t be held accountable for the choice you made. In these cases, you are wrong. Own your decisions. Learn from mistakes.
- Every single choice you make becomes a part of you. The big choices will be a reflection of who you are. There will be choices you make that you will be proud of and some that you will not be proud of. The ones you are not proud of are the ones you have to learn from. For example, I thought I understood diversity and was not a prejudiced person because of how I grew up. Then I heard Gloria Steinem speak at “Women to Watch” a few years ago, heard her talk about unconscious bias, and ultimately learned that I was wrong. Her words changed my view and how I make choices around diversity. If you only glance through your lens, you will only see it how you want to see it. I was wrong for years about diversity – giving one set of keys back and attending a school where I was a minority didn’t give me all I needed to see the world. To see the real world requires vision and personal honesty.
If you read this far, I hope it’s given you a moment to reflect on how your choices affect others. If you are an examiner, your tone affects the lives of those you talk to each day. Those claimants will tell others about you, so be thoughtful in your interaction. As a leader, your choices affect those you lead. The choices you make are yours. The way you are perceived is based on the choices you make. So, I leave you with this – make good choices.