Lead the way

Drew Povey, inspirational headteacher, from Channel 4’s ‘Educating Greater Manchester’ joined the Crawford UK team at BIBA 2018 to discuss leadership at a time of change for the insurance industry.

The insurance industry is undergoing a transitional period more pronounced than any previously experienced. Expanding client demands, increasing regulatory burdens, the rise of disruptive technologies and a growing number of external competitors are placing companies under extreme strain.

During any transition, effective leadership is paramount; yet the insurance sector has long recognised that there are deficiencies in its approach to attracting new talent to the industry, reflected in a sluggish pipeline of potential leaders of the future at all levels.

“Being able to manage the degree of uncertainty faced not only by the insurance industry but virtually every other sector, requires strong and effective leadership,” says Clive Nicholls, president, UK & Ireland at Crawford. “Yet we need to evolve our approach if we are to lead effectively through this period of change.”

Clive Nicholls - Preferred

Clive Nicholls, President, UK & Ireland

For Nicholls, leadership encompasses multiple functions. “Leaders at all levels within an organisation have the ability to create and promote a clear vision of the future that is recognised and accepted by all,” he believes. “That vision helps to create a clarity of purpose, instil a collective will to succeed, promote an inclusive, united workforce and engage and motivate those around you.”

Crawford has long acknowledged the importance of evolving its leadership approach in tandem with a changing industry environment. In the UK, for example, many staff members are undergoing ILM leadership and management courses aimed at formalising its approach and expanding the leadership remit out across the organisation.

As part of this, the UK team has also brought onboard Drew Povey, an innovative leadership coach and headteacher at Harrop Fold school, the focus of Channel 4’s recent Educating Greater Manchester series.

“Leadership is about leading teams of people,” Povey firmly believes, “inspiring and working with them to help them becomes the ones that make a difference. As American author and speaker John Maxwell famously said, ‘Leadership is influence – nothing more, nothing less.’ If you accept that definition, then you quickly realise that there are a lot more potential leaders across your organisations than the job titles might suggest.”

A central tenet of his leadership approach is the idea of creating one team. “It’s about getting everyone aligned and in synch to create a unified team,” he explains. “Businesses are moving away from being over-reliant upon particular individuals and recognising that no effective organisation can be built around a handful of star players. A team that is fully aligned, committed and pulling together will always outperform them.”

For Crawford, the over-riding aim of the program is to explore how to lead more effectively in the new and fast evolving insurance landscape. “The market is changing at a phenomenal rate and we have to find a way of navigating this relatively unchartered new marketplace as skilfully as possible,” says Nicholls.

Clarity of purpose is critical, he believes, to helping set the direction in which the company moves. “Take Tesla’s Elon Musk for example. He has distilled the company’s purpose into one phrase – ‘to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy’. Workers at Tesla know they aren’t simply building vehicles but have a much higher role. That’s what greater leaders do – they help create that sense of a higher purpose. At Crawford, our mission is simple but impactful:  To restore and enhance lives, businesses and communities. Our core values reflect this mission and are communicated frequently to make sure all employees are unified by a common set of beliefs.”

For Povey, the benefits of great leadership permeate every aspect of the business. “Good leaders help create an environment where every employee comes to work charged up and ready to play their part. They have a clear purpose, are fully engaged and acknowledge their role in boosting customer satisfaction, improving performance or boosting the bottom line. If through effective leadership you can establish that synchronised team with a clear direction then the performance benefits will come automatically.”

“At the end of the day,” concludes Nicholls, “we cannot rest on our laurels.  What got Crawford to where it is today will not necessarily keep us there tomorrow. We need to continuously find new ways of providing better service, delivering better value and generating better insight. To achieve this, we need a perpetual focus on placing effective leadership at all levels with a clear vision of how we get there.”

This article first appeared in Insurance Times BIBA Daily – 17 May 2018.

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