Once again, I assembled the brain trust at Mid-America Catastrophe Services to discuss a topic of vital interest to the independent property claims adjuster. The question I posed was this:
As far as intangibles or personal traits go, what do you see as absolutely essential to the successful adjuster?
Each person had a little different way of saying it, but they all pretty much said the same thing – and that says something!
I have watched men and women excel in this business as field adjusters, desk adjusters, and file review/quality assurance professionals. I can say without hesitation that those who have stood out have done so in these areas.
[NOTE: I will not deal as much with the moral compass issues in this article. We will address essentials like integrity and empathy in other articles. Here, I want to focus on traits (or tools in your intangible toolbag).]
Let’s count them down from bottom to top.
#5 – Be a good listener, even if you are being criticized!
The four-person Mid-America panel consisted of Zack Meadows, CEO and Co-Owner; Robert Uhler, Executive Vice President; Keith Craft, Director of Field and CAT Operations; and Jonathan Rice, Director of Training & Development. Two of the four listed this, albeit in different terms and maybe for different reasons. Keith Craft mentioned the need to be a good listener while Jonathan Rice wrote, “Accept criticism.”
Adjusters who tune out instructors and instructions because they already “know everything” they need to know are never as successful or beneficial to the cause as those who listen. The tune-out is a turn-off. Whether it is the CAT Director, account manager, file reviewer, client representative, insurance agent, contractor, or the insureds themselves, they deserve – and demand – to be heard.
Here are some rules for effective listening:
- Listen to understand. You may want to respond by repeating it in your own words and asking if that is correct. Too many adjusters end up with the “it was all a big misunderstanding” excuse when, if they had just listened, would not have been misunderstood.
- Listen empathetically. Imagine you are in that person’s shoes. What would you be saying? How would you say it?
- Listen without offense. Taking things too personally or reacting to perceived personal attacks will always result in some level of failure, and possibly disaster.
- Listen without preconception. Don’t think you already know why until you know why.
- Listen! Don’t just wait your turn to talk.
- Listen to learn. “Accept criticism.” You don’t know everything and if you know you don’t know everything, then you are in a position to learn and grow. You don’t know everything but if you think you do, then it is settled. You will learn nothing.
#4 – Be tenacious.
Three of the four respondents to the survey included this, but each with a different word. Zack Meadows called it “drive.” I know Zack. He is driven and he understands the absolute necessity of driving yourself, pushing yourself to achieve a goal. Bob Uhler called it “work ethic.” That is a broader term but it certainly includes a motor, right? You have to put it in drive if you are going to work it. Jonathan Rice used the word “tenacity,” which the one I chose to represent this trait.
“Tenacity” is the quality or state of being “tenacious.” Interestingly, Merriam-Webster has the meaning of tenacious as follows…
1a: not easily pulled apart : COHESIVEa tenacious metal
b: tending to adhere or cling especially to another substancetenacious burs
2a: persistent in maintaining, adhering to, or seeking something valued or desireda tenacious advocate of civil rightstenacious negotiators b: a tenacious memory
I like that picture. Ever buy something with the label on the product in a place where you definitely do not want a label or the residue of a label showing? But the glue they used! You scrape and peel and work the corners. You get a little piece of a corner up and think you can pull it off if you go real slow, but not. The surface of the label pulls away but the bottom, the gluey side. It is tenacious. It will warm water, soap, and scrubbing…or some chemical to get the dang thing off. That is tenacity. You sticking with it until the last residue of glue is gone is also tenacity.
Tenacious people are not easily discouraged. They have stickability. They won’t be pulled off by the first thumbnail that tries to pry them free.
I once watched a flag football game where one team had a distinct advantage. While their opponents had Velcro holding the flags to their belts, the home team had snap-on flags. Those snaps were tight, too! The ref allowed the snap flags and throughout the game, players would be pulled down or the flag would slip through the defender’s fingers rather than the flag unsnapping. One pint-sized kid in a gallon-sized game grabbed a flag and was pulled fifteen yards, almost to the goal line, before the flag snapped free in his hand. It was the last play of the game and a touchdown would have won the game for the snap-ons. His tenacity sealed the victory for the Velcros.
Tenacity is the difference between almost and all the way.
#3 – Be self-motivated.
Zack Meadows and Keith Craft each listed this and I concur. You are an independent adjuster. If you are going to succeed in business for yourself, you have to kick-start the thing, you have to keep fueling up, you have to wake up every day, fire it up, and go. If you need someone else to hold your feet to the accelerator, do yourself a favor and find another path. You will not succeed here.
You have to get your carcass out of the bed early and then burn some midnight oil if you are going to survive, let alone thrive as an independent adjuster.
Katrina was my first storm as an adjuster. I was so green. Every day, every claim, every new encounter was an education. I persevered and about four months into the storm, my manager asked his field team if anyone wanted to go day rate and stay longer as a supplement adjuster. If you did, just let him know. I did. I let him know. The storm lasted nine months for me. I later asked why he chose me.
“No one else volunteered,” he answered. “You were the only one who asked to stay.”
Sometimes, motivation is the only difference between the haves and the have nots.
#2 – Be confident.
Confidence is not the same thing as braggadocio. The latter is usually a sure sign of low confidence or low self-esteem. Confidence is not beating your chest or howling like a hyena. Confidence is assurance. Confidence is knowing you can do a thing successfully. Confidence is the result of…
- Education – learning your business; knowing your business
- Preparation – Getting everything you need together and in order
- Experience – you have done it before; you can do it again
- Exposure – you have encountered enough scenarios to prepare you for the next one
A lack of confidence makes an adjuster vulnerable. Believe me, you can smell fear on an adjuster who lacks it. Just imagine the trainer in the cage with tigers, just him and his whip…and his confidence. Better not let those kitties know you are scared of them. They will eat you alive.
#1 – Be organized!!!
Keith, Zack, and Bob all mentioned this one. Organization equals efficiency. Efficiency equals increased earning and instills confidence in others that you are the one for the job. Plan your work. Work your plan. If you do not, you will expend way more energy and get way less done. Organization keeps you on point from the time you get a claim into your queue to the time you close that claim and get paid.
- Consult with successful adjusters, mentors, managers.
- Put a game plan together.
- Write it down.
- Tweak it as you go – adapt and overcome.
- Review your work
Organization includes the obvious, in terms of claims handling. It also covers things like…
- Personal business/family
Your success starts before the job ever does. But it does not end there. Being organized ensures you are ready going into storm season, throughout the storm, and when the storm is done and you are headed home, satisfied that you have given your best and that your best was good enough.
At Adjust U, we are investing in adjusters every day, helping you to assemble your tools, sharpen your skills, and succeed. Visit us online today to sign up for the classes you need to round out your toolbox.