Growing diversity in the insurance world, especially in the higher tiers of management, is something to be celebrated. But it also makes collaboration and problem-solving more challenging. Insurance leaders need to be able to bring together multiple perspectives, experiences, approaches, and values to steer their organizations toward success.
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It’s an opportunity that Yiana Stavrakis (pictured) knows well as the head of an insurance company. “The more you undergo [the problem-solving process], the more you realize a mix of social and analytical skills are required,” observed Stavrakis, president of Monarch E&S Insurance Services.
That mix of social and analytical skills includes emotional intelligence, teamwork, and sound decision-making. “Not once have I effectively solved a problem in a vacuum,” Stavrakis admitted. “A singular perspective will lead to incorrect assumptions, incorrect decision-making, and ultimately a lack of credibility. The problem-solving process takes longer using a team approach, but the results are always worth it.”
Before joining Monarch in 2020, Stavrakis provided strategic sales and marketing guidance as chief sales officer for Specialty Program Group. But her insurance journey started with Metro Insurance Services, a real estate MGU, where she honed her underwriting and claims management skills.
She is among a stellar line-up of insurance leaders speaking at the Women in Insurance Summit in San Francisco next month. As the leader of a full-service MGA and wholesale brokerage, she applies her own five-step problem-solving process on the job, which she shared with Insurance Business. The first step, she said, is identifying the problem while ensuring an environment of transparency and open-mindedness.
“I try not to jump to blame or even answers immediately, so my team feels comfortable coming to me with issues and are engaged in helping find a solution,” she stressed.
The second step is considering possible solutions and forming a working group of stakeholders to collaborate with. For Stavrakis, creating a safe environment for sharing ideas and creative brainstorming is critical for this stage.
The third step, and the most difficult, is making a decision. Pulling a trigger on a solution can be frightening, but Stavrakis cited wise words from the pilot Amelia Earhart: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity.”
She explained: “There will never be a perfect answer, ever. If you are open-minded to feedback, research thoroughly, and monitor results consistently, you will make the best decision with the information you have at that moment.”
The fourth step is to create a plan to implement the solution. During this phase, proper communication is integral to success, Stavrakis said. It’s also more than likely that mistakes will occur at this stage, but leaders should stand firm and keep pushing forward toward the goal.
“There will be times when we must take ownership of missteps, but this makes us human, and if we act quickly based on valid feedback, there will be minimal collateral damage,” she added.
Finally, the fifth step is to solicit feedback and monitor results. A robust plan at this stage should identify roadblocks and opportunities quickly, allowing for course correction on the fly, Stavrakis said. Leaders should have the patience and flexibility to pivot when things aren’t working as planned.
Stavrakis also favors a “conceptual” approach to problem-solving, which involves prioritizing based on impact and strategically tying solutions across various problems. Insurance leaders should also have the foresight to consider how each decision impacts another.
Though decision-making calls for tenacity, she cautioned fellow insurance leaders against prioritizing speed and making calls based on personal impulse. “Don’t jump to solutions quickly and get the right people engaged, so you have well-thought-out proposals,” Stavrakis advised.
“You don’t have all the answers alone, but you are responsible for guiding the ship there with the right people rowing in the same direction.”
Insurance leaders are addressing some of the industry’s most impactful issues at the Women in Insurance summit in San Francisco on October 4 at the JW Marriott Union Square.
Visit sanfrancisco.ibwomenininsurance.com to learn more about the event.