By: Shannon Harjer, Vice President of Personal Lines, Founders Insurance

At a leadership conference many years ago, I received a “sticky note” holder engraved with the wording “Attitude & Environment Matter.”  While I do not remember the specific details of the conference, I do remember who designed this special item – and his legacy of being a leader whose value system was based on serving others. This keepsake has been on every desk I occupied in the last decade as a visual reminder of the importance of professional leadership attitudes and the impact it has on the workplace environment.

Recent studies on psychological safety and work product improvement corroborate the importance of creating a culture of inclusiveness through a myriad of leadership behaviors and corporate strategies.  Studies also indicate that more work needs to be done on leadership inclusiveness wherein positive psycho-social climates are examined from a diverse group perspective. Even without these studies, we can act now with a focus on deterring the effects of status difference on engagement and our environment by examining three contributors: leadership, culture and strategies.

Leadership. From a leadership vantage point, developing an inclusive, genuinely collaborative workplace starts with each leader, at all levels within the organization. This is not driven by Human Resources as a mandated leadership behavior or class, but within oneself to build self-efficacy to truly “walk the talk” of inclusionary leadership. It is a deep conversation you have with yourself, analyzing your thoughts, decision-making processes and actions impacting others. Performed with honesty, it can develop your self-awareness beyond normal feedback and personnel surveys.

Culture. An organization’s culture is often guided by value drivers – not the mission statement. For many organizations, value is derived by who they serve. It is ingrained in their attitude and decision-making processes, noticeably impacting customer and employee retention. They exist to serve their customers’ needs, quickly adapting to new expectations faster than their competitors because they are value focused. They lead with intensity because it matters to those they serve.

Strategies. Strategies are a piece of the environment often overlooked. You might think they only exist in the silos across your matrixed environment. Organizational strategy is the sum of all strategies and the beacon to which all strategies align. When business functions are not in congruence, cracks begin to form. Collaboration across the organization and genuine service to those you serve may be inconsistent, feigned or nonexistent, resulting in unsustainable deficiencies.

Transforming an organization where your leaders execute the behaviors and actions aligning with your value drivers is key to success beyond revenue. It starts with being true to oneself and those around you through true service. Here are my personal commitments that help me stay the course:

  1. Focus all strategies on organizational value drivers.
  2. Inspire others through an unbreakable spirit of service to others.
  3. Recover quickly from disappointments and learn from them.

As we move into late summer, please take the time to discover more about yourself. Your attitude and impact on the workplace environment do matter!

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Utica Mutual Insurance Company, its subsidiaries and affiliates.

Join RISE at the Connected Claims Conference in Chicago as we interview American Modern Insurance Group’s CEO, Andreas Kleiner, on the industry, technology, hiring, and career advice. He talks about having a truly global career with a positive impact.

Your heart is racing and your palms are clammy. You take deep breaths and resist the urge to wipe your hands on your stain-free suit. It’s interview day, and you’re stressed. It’s almost impossible to avoid—nerves and interviews go hand-in-hand, but going in armed with these helpful tips could save your suit and help you land that job.

Preparation Makes Perfect

Do your research. Channel your inner student and study like it’s finals week. Do not underestimate the value of putting in serious preparation time before the big day. Gather useful information about the company or client and the interviewers, and don’t be afraid to use LinkedIn as a tool to help you. They may see that you viewed their profile, but this doesn’t make you a stalker—in this case, it can only serve to show that you’re taking the time to learn about them and the company for whom you hope to work.

Know Yourself

Remind yourself of your achievements; exude confidence with a healthy dose of humility. If you’re interviewing for a claims-specific job, be certain of how many claims you have handled at any given time. If you’re interviewing for a position outside of claims, re-familiarize yourself with your sales numbers if necessary, and be sure of the amount of time you have been with each company. Ensure that you have concrete examples of your accomplishments, and how those accomplishments have helped the company. Furthermore, if a hiring manager asks about your knowledge of a specific tool or software program—such as Xactimate—you should be able to provide real life examples of your experience with it and how it has helped you in your previous positions.

You should also be prepared to address your weaknesses as well as your strengths. When discussing your weaknesses, however, avoid portraying yourself in a negative light. Focus on “faux weaknesses” that could have a positive result for the company, such as working too hard or being a perfectionist. Lastly, think of a few hobbies to share with the interviewer(s) that show them you are the dynamic, well-rounded individual they are looking to hire, not someone whose only hobby is binge-watching their favorite show every night (even if that is the case!).

Suit and Tie

You’ve done all of your research and refreshed your memory with regards to your performance metrics. You’re almost ready. Almost. In order to truly impress the interviewer(s), you need to look the part. It is always safer to overdress—wearing a suit despite the company’s lax dress code shows professionalism. Underdressing in a formal environment sends the wrong message. Make sure what you’re wearing is appropriate for the situation, which means no B’s. Don’t wear an outfit that shows your Boobs, Butt, Back or Bellies. Save the flashy number for a night out on the town after the interview is over. Unless you’re interviewing for a fashion-focused position, keep it simple. It’s hard to go wrong with a clean blue or charcoal/grey suit for men and blue or black suit for women. Avoid brown or tan suits, as these colors don’t tend to inspire confidence.

In addition, avoid distracting the potential employer from your accomplishments and skills with extreme odors at both ends of the spectrum; arrive fresh and clean, but there’s no need to bathe in Chanel No. 5 beforehand, either. Today is about you and your qualifications, not your perfume.

Go Time

The time has finally come. You’re well-equipped with information about the company, your interviewer(s), and yourself, and you’re looking fresh. Now, you need to be certain you have all of the necessary materials to help you. Print and bring multiple copies of your resume, just in case there are more people in your interview than you anticipated. It’s a simple gesture that proves your level of preparation. In addition to your resume, you should also bring a pen and a notebook with a few questions to ask. Even if your questions get answered during the course of your interview, a quick flick through at the end to check that all of your questions have been answered will show the interviewer that you came fully prepared. If you happen to arrive early, instead of sitting while you wait, stay standing. This helps you maintain decent posture, and means you’re ready for a handshake as soon as they come out to greet you. If you’re kept waiting long enough, have a look around the lobby. Take stock of your surroundings and try to use them to your advantage. You might find some information on the wall such as a recent award or staff announcement, or even just the age of the business, which could give you an edge in the eyes of your interviewer(s).

During the interview, don’t ask about benefits or PTO. Think of the first round of interviewing as a first date—you wouldn’t ask your date how many kids they want when you shake hands, so don’t ask your interviewer what the company intends to do for you when you first meet. Save those questions for when you know you like each other.

The End is Nigh

The interview is coming to a close and you’ve done just about as much as you can to show them you’re the right person for the job. But it’s not over yet! Before you leave the room and breathe a sigh of relief, ask the interviewer(s) if they have any reservations about your application, your resume, or yourself as a candidate. Let them know you’re happy to address any concerns they may have. Addressing any doubts that the interviewer(s) may have in person means that you can leave safe in the knowledge that you’ve shown them your best self and all that’s left is for them to decide. Before you run through the goodbye handshakes, be sure to ask about the next steps. This reaffirms your interest in the job, shows that you are proactive, and brings the interview to a natural but firm close. Lastly, remember to ask for the interviewer’s business card or contact information so you can easily follow up with them after the interview.

Don’t You Forget About Me

Show how much you care about the job by following up with a thank you note for every interviewer within 24 hours of your interview. Make sure each note is specific to the person you met, not just a generic note that you’ve copied and pasted for the whole team. If you really love the job, send an email and follow up with a hand-written note. Writing the note by hand adds a personal touch and helps you to stand out in a crowd over-saturated with technology.

Remember that people hire people they like, so go in with a friendly, positive attitude and let your awesome self shine. Follow these tips, take a deep breath, and go get ‘em. You’re destined for success.

These tips are from Chelsea Buzer, Head of Recruitment at Insure National Staffing, and written by Rebecca Kirkpatrick. For more information please contact Chelsea Buzer at Che[email protected] or go to