Since I’ve been blogging on off-the-beaten-path topics lately, I thought I’d touch on this one: What’s the best way to handle a relationship with a storm manager when you just don’t click?
At the end of my first CAT claims assignment, something I had suspected the entire time was confirmed; my storm manager didn’t like me. It turns out that he didn’t like me from the moment he met me. I’m not sure why, because I think I’m pretty likable, but there it is. I heard this all through a friend. Perhaps it’s because he never thought I would make it in the business. Whatever the reason, he had misjudged my character and resolve. I was determined to make it, and I did. I’ll probably never be bowling buddies with this guy, but I darn well earned his respect, and I sure got called back for the next storm! This brings me to the main point of this post; how to succeed regardless of how well you click with your Storm Manager.
I’ll start with a question: what is success? The answer to this question depends a lot on what you’re talking about. For instance, a successful marriage is defined quite differently than a successful bake sale. Moreover, there are lots of ways to measure success. Take a bake sale; success could mean that all the kids who participated had fun, or it could mean that it raised $X for the school. In business, success is a little less vague. Business success is measured in results. Theorize all you want, but this is the bottom line, isn’t it?
This principle is true in the claims business too. It’s true for the claims company, and it’s true for the adjuster. What does this have to do with getting along with your Storm Manager? I guarantee you that he/she wants results, even more than he/she wants to get along with you. So what results is your Storm Manager looking for? Clean, hassle-free reports – done according to protocol – and lots of them. So point one: your Storm Manager wants RESULTS. In the end, that’s what won over my first storm manager; I kicked butt, and there was no arguing with my results. Friendship or not, when there was another adjuster in my territory that was not cutting the mustard, he’d call me and ask if I could handle the slacker’s claims. My answer was always “yes!” and I got it done.
This brings me to my next point. In the beginning of an independent adjuster’s career, he/she is just learning and there’s a tremendous fear of making mistakes (this fear is actually reasonable because an adjuster has a lot of responsibility). The temptation is to call your storm manager with lots of questions. I know this because I did it, and most new adjusters that I know did it too. Let me share my experience with you. The first few times I called, my storm manager was friendly and helpful. This encouraged me, so I kept calling him. After several calls, he got much less pleasant. Now that I’ve been in the business for a while, I understand why. When you’ve got adjusters working under you, you’ve got a lot on your plate. You don’t mind the occasional, reasonable question from an adjuster, but for goodness sake – you’re not wikipedia! I like to call this the “noise factor.” We’ve all got noise coming at us, i.e. different things clamoring for our attention at all times. A storm manager, especially in the heat of a CAT, has noise to the hundredth power. If you want to be on their good side, don’t add to their noise by calling in with every question or need that comes to mind! This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t call in, just that you must think before you call your storm manager. That’s point two. Is there any way you can figure it out yourself? Can you reread your policy? Can you look something up yourself? Basically, can you use your native resourcefulness to solve the issue without adding to your manager’s noise? One final thought – if you must call, be sure you’ve done your homework first, and try proposing the solution you think will work before asking his/her opinion. This shows that you’re doing the heavy lifting (i.e. real thinking) and not just leaning on him/her.
Point three is not too much different than point two; it also has to do with noise. When an adjuster in the field hacks off a claimant, it creates a s**t storm that has to rain on someone. Make the claimant mad enough, and he/she will call everyone he/she can to get some satisfaction. This includes their agent, their insurance company, the insurance commissioner, any politician they know personally, and the list goes on. Those people will, in turn, look to pass the heat on to someone else. The short story is that it will filter it’s way back to your storm manager and the company he/she works for. You do not want to be the cause of this noise! It will be remembered, and not fondly. So don’t cause trouble in the field. Be nice to people. Return phone calls. Don’t talk religion or politics with claimants, contractors or Public Adjusters. Don’t do anything shady or anything that’s not allowed. To sum up point three: don’t cause any trouble in the field. Be a noiseless, hassle-free claims machine.
Every manager is different; personality, experience, preferences, etc. Take the time to get to know them. I’m not talking about being scraping or sycophantic; no one likes a brown-noser. I’m talking about stuff like paying close attention to the feedback on the reports that are kicked back to you, so you get to know what irks them and what pleases them (report-wise). Stop doing the things they don’t like and do more of the things they do like. If they like long, descriptive notes in the estimates, put them in. If they don’t, leave them out. Point four is do it their way. Adapt your style to their style while you’re working under them. Don’t ever compromise your ethics or go against your conscience, but do take good heed of their preferences.
So, to summarize these points:
a) Produce Results
b) Don’t Make Needless Phone Calls
c) Don’t Make Trouble in the Field
d) Do it the Way They Like It
But there’s an even simpler way to summarize the key to this issue; be excellent at what you do.
It’s my opinion that we can’t click with everyone, but we can sure earn their respect. Everyone’s in this game for results. Respect your Storm Manager’s job, and earn his/her respect by showing results.
Have a great ’11 season, and let us know how we can be of service to you!