The 2022 Annual Issues Symposium presented by the National Council in Compensation Insurance was an enlightening experience. As per usual, there were a variety of statistics, measures, and data. Say what you want about this industry, but do not ever forget that it is data-driven and the volume of data seems to increase each year. However, perhaps the most valuable presentation was an interview by Bill Donnell, president and CEO of NCCI.
This was billed as "A Conversation with Roger Ferguson," on inclusion. He is a former CEO of TIAA, has worked with Swiss Re, and was Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve System. His experiences, leadership, and involvements speak for themselves. But, his views on leadership dovetailed into some of my recent writings. See The Time is Now (April 2022) regarding the up-and-coming generations, and and Consensus in the Absence of Proof (January 2021) and Science, Standards, and Government (April 2020) regarding the dangers of “groupthink.“
Mr. Ferguson is seemingly not a fan of groupthink. Groupthink occurs when there are no dissenting voices in discussions, and thereby "echo chambers" march forward without meaningful discussion or introspection. Mr. Ferguson introduced the importance of both diversity and inclusion. He likened diversity to being "invited to the dance.“ However, inclusion is “being asked to get out on the floor and dance." That is, to contribute, to provide input, criticism, and feedback. Mr. Ferguson stressed that such dissent is a prime methodology to combat groupthink.
Mr. Ferguson is a vocal fan of mentors. He had multiple encouraging comments regarding mentorship generally and offered some concrete examples and suggestions. He first encouraged recognition of mentors that we perhaps too often overlook. He explained how individuals in his past, beginning with his parents, provided him experiential and tutorial mentorship opportunities. His comments reinforced that mentorship and leadership can be demonstrative (by example and experience). Mr. Ferguson stressed how these experiences have instilled in him a spirit of academic interest, and valuing mentor ship.
Diversity came into this discussion again as regards mentorship. He further described how individuals with very different world views managed to both foster his development, and assist with finding his voice. Mr. Ferguson described how he has striven to deliver the same kind of diverse approach as he mentors those who are following in (or perhaps parallel to) his footsteps. There is a commitment in his comments to mentoring people who are not necessarily like us in background, foundation, or experience. This is tied to the concept of gathering and providing different perspectives, and resisting the groupthink.
One of the most intriguing comments that he voiced regarded "reverse mentoring.“ This seems perhaps a misnomer, as mentoring is mentoring. With that caveat, what he described comes from his leadership role(s) in corporate America. He explained how he expanded efforts beyond his mentoring the next generation of leadership by recruiting young employees to provide him mentorship from their expertise. He mentioned that as regards technology, and social media. Thus, he actively engaged young individuals in his organization, pulling them into discussions of their strengths, to teach and train him. This built rapport and community, as well as acknowledged that leaders are not all-knowing. Leaders can and should learn, and the perspective of the young is valuable and worthwhile.
Finally, Mr. Ferguson's perspective was demonstrated outside of the presentation capacity. Through various events at the conference, he interacted with small groups at luncheons, receptions, and networking breaks. As I discussed this in a small group, it occurred to me that I am exceptionally poor at this. I go to conferences, and I tend to gravitate to those I already know and who are familiar to me. Why do I not gravitate to the unfamiliar? Why don't I take the time to engage younger, up-and-coming individuals when I see them at receptions, dinners (or even in the event hotel restaurant)? Why don't I (you) lead by following Mr. Ferguson's suggestion, example, and premise?
Let's get out there and engage in a meaningful way. Let's approach the next generation and absorb their perspectives, energy, and intellect. Let's challenge ourselves to ditch groupthink for good and actively seek and engage those who are not like us, do not share our professional foundations, and who bring diverse ideas, perspectives, and even emotions to the world of workers' compensation. I am committing to do this, despite it being out of my personal comfort zone. I hope you will do so also and that you will call foul if you catch me not living up to the idea.
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