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Women’s Leadership Series 2020: Women Leading Through Change in 2020

Change, Challenge, Handling Adversity, Navigating Excellence

A wise man said to me, “When you are in the middle of a spin – on ice or in life – hold steady on the wheel.”

When we expect desirable outcomes for others, our focus becomes clear, lessening self-depreciating thoughts, stress, and anxiety. We cannot afford to be our worst enemies and allow self-doubt to creep in. Women are strong and challenged in a variety of ways. This year has shown what we are made of – forcing change management.

With six women on my leadership team, together we reach consensus, along with our four male team members. Change management has been tested in every way as disaster recovery programs were updated this year with a world-wide pandemic. Our employees and clients are living their stories and they must be heard. It is important in change management to listen.

We all have various means in which we listen, with four listening styles, according to Lumen Learning:

• People oriented — People tune into people’s emotions, feelings, and moods, seeking common interests and tend to work to build relationships.

• Action oriented — People value clear, organized and error free messages, wants thoughts presented in easy to follow and straight forward communications, tending to judge errors and are listening for inconsistencies.

• Content oriented — Listening is for people who favor technical information, enjoying complex and challenging information, listening to everything before making judgements. These individuals enjoy listening to debates to form their own opinion from both sides of the situation.

• Time oriented — Listeners want you to get to the point promptly and may not be concerned with details. The example used is a doctor in an emergency room who needs to quickly seek to understand to quickly diagnose.

Barriers to listening include information overload, personal concerns or issues prejudice, distractions, and the rate of speech and thought. Leaders must constantly improve their listening skills and hear what is being said, gather the information, curate it, and then make decisions overall, making individuals feel heard and responded to. When giving an employee survey in times like this, one must respond in a non-diverse manner, addressing concerns and issues as needed. Leaders must switch their style of listening depending on the situation and their role when listening to employees or clients.

This year presented executives with a need to be quick-witted concerning a wide array of issues, including:

• Technology

• Security

• Equipment for those working from home

• Employment law changes with FFCRA

• Workflow changes for communicating virtually

• Allowing employees with children the time they need to adjust their work schedules

• Challenges to policies on diversity and safely returning to work

• Serving clients creatively

• Listening to needs

• Scaling up or down depending on the industry

• Being prudent with finances

• Caring for wellbeing and physical needs.

HR has dealt with COVID-19 testing, communicating back to work schedules safely, furloughs, layoffs and closing businesses. The Payroll Protection Program helped many employers with government support, covering two months’ payroll and now we are looking into forgiveness with zero communication, causing mixed messages from government resources.

We prepared for a 20% loss of revenue, expected 10%, and have seen a 2% loss, as clients continue to pay employee benefits. The terminations are thoughtfully coming in since July. Through continuous education, we helped many clients with COVID exposures get through them, and we are now working with clients through loss control and disease management to assist them in safely opening. Our HR director is fielding calls about an uptick in legal and compliance.

This has been the time to analyze and keep the right players, staff teams, align executive teams and test vendors for value-add partners. We must increase work life balance, promote wellness and mindfulness for self and staff and clients, shift mindsets, identify cost savings, lean management, design virtual concepts with methods to serve clients, consolidate meetings for saving time, increase trust-based management, listen and communicate authentically and lead with steady hands on the wheel.

Danone Simpson is president & CEO of Montage Insurance Solutions.

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