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Column: Workers' Comp

How Poor Leadership in Washington D.C. Hurts Workers’ Comp

By: | May 1, 2018 • 2 min read
Roberto Ceniceros is senior editor at Risk & Insurance® and chair of the National Workers' Compensation and Disability Conference® & Expo. He can be reached at [email protected] Read more of his columns and features.

President Abraham Lincoln penned a letter to General George Meade detailing disappointment with the general’s Civil War performance. But Lincoln never delivered it, not wanting to alienate Meade at a critical time.

It was typical of Lincoln, taking time to evaluate his own emotions, thinking through the consequences and sometimes doing nothing rather than acting hastily.

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Consider that in contrast to President Donald Trump’s style of broadcasting seemingly impulsive, emotion-laden Twitter tirades. Washington D.C. leadership, or lack of it, impacts workers’ compensation. I’ll get back to that.

But first, Lincoln’s reflective style of understanding his own emotional reaction to events before acting on critical matters is a behavioral characteristic shared by five historical figures described in “Forged in Crisis: The Power of Courageous Leadership in Turbulent Times.”

Written by Harvard Business School historian Nancy Koehn, the book offers management nuggets for anyone in leadership roles, including risk managers and workers’ comp professionals. The book delivers those nuggets through five biographies of people who faced personal challenges and their own human limitations. Yet they persevered against extremely difficult circumstances to attain their goals and help guide others out of danger.

[Poor governance] distracts from time that could be spent leading on important issues such as those impacting workers’ comp, including opioids, the potential creation of infrastructure jobs, and health care.

The book includes the story of Ernest Shackleton, hailed in previous business-management books for leading his shipwrecked and isolated crew off Antarctic ice flows. The other biographies feature abolitionist Frederick Douglass; Dietrich Bonhoeffer, imprisoned by the Gestapo and murdered for opposing the Third Reich; and scientist and author Rachel Carson, who raced against cancer to finish her manuscript on the dangers of mass pesticide use.

They shared an ability to focus without allowing lesser problems to distract them from their larger missions. They led with their humanity, often with an understanding of their personal weaknesses. That allowed them to deploy empathy when motivating and supporting others.

Empathy as a leadership trait would mesh well with the injured-worker advocacy movement gaining popularity among some of today’s savviest risk managers.

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It’s also a style that could help show the world workers’ comp can genuinely care for injured workers even in the face of a system that doesn’t always promote that.

The protagonists in Koehn’s book were persistent yet resilient under extremely difficult circumstances. They found alternate ways to move forward. Like Lincoln, they possessed the ability to slow down, take stock of their emotions and not immediately react, especially when the stakes grew increasingly critical.

Today, many of us yearn for steady, well-thought-out political leadership from Washington D.C. Instead we get distracted governance, along with mega-doses of gloating, porn-star accusations, Putin praising, sensational staff shakeups and the like.

It distracts from time that could be spent leading on important issues such as those impacting workers’ comp, including opioids, the potential creation of infrastructure jobs, and health care. Koehn’s book may make one yearn even more for courageous and steady leadership. On the other hand, it offers highly interesting examples of how to do it well. &

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Management

The Profession

The risk manager for Boyd Gaming Corp. says curiosity keeps him engaged, and continual education will be the key to managing emerging risks.
By: | May 1, 2018 • 4 min read

R&I: What was your first job?

I was trained as an accountant, worked in public accounting and became a CPA. Being comfortable with numbers is helpful in my current role, and obviously, the language of business is financial statements, so it helps.

R&I: How did you come to work in risk management?

Working in finance in the corporate environment included the review of budgets and the analysis of business expenses. I quickly found the area of benefits and insurance — and how “accepting risk” impacted those expenses — to be fascinating. I asked a lot of questions. Be careful what you ask for — I soon found myself responsible for those insurance areas and haven’t looked back!

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

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I have found the risk management community to be a close-knit group, whether that’s industry professionals, risk managers with other companies or support organizations like RIMS and other regional groups. The expertise of the carriers and specialty vendors to develop new products and programs, along with the appropriate education, will continue to be of key importance to companies going forward.

R&I: What’s been the biggest change in the risk management and insurance industry since you’ve been in it?

As I’m sure many in the insurance field would agree, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 changed our world and our industry. It was a particularly intense time and certainly a baptism by fire for people like me who were relatively new to the industry. This event clearly accelerated the switch to the acceptance of more risk, which impacted mitigation strategies and programs.

Bob Berglund, vice president, benefits and insurance, Boyd Gaming Corp.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you?

The fast-paced threat that cyber security represents today. Our company, like so many companies, is reliant upon computers, software and IT expertise in our everyday existence. This new risk has forged an even stronger relationship between risk management and our IT department as we work together to address this growing threat.

Additionally, the shooting event in Las Vegas in 2017 will have an enduring impact on firms that host large gatherings and arena-style events all over the world, and our company is no exception.

R&I: What insurance carrier do you have the highest opinion of?

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With the various types of insurance programs we employ, I have been fortunate to work with most of the large national and international carriers — all of whom employ talented people with a vast array of resources.

R&I:  How much business do you do direct versus going through a broker?

We use brokers for many of our professional coverages, such as property, casualty, D&O and cyber. We are self-insured under our health plans, with close to 25,000 members. We tend to manage those programs internally and utilize direct relationships with carriers and specialty vendors to tailor a plan that works best for team members.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have been fortunate to have worked alongside some smart and insightful people during my career. A key piece of advice, said in many different ways, has served me well. Simply stated: “Seek to understand before being understood.”

What this has meant to me is try everything you can to learn about something, new or old. After you have gained this knowledge, you can begin to access and maybe suggest changes or adjustments. Being curious has always been a personal enjoyment for me in business, and I have found people are more than willing to lend a hand, offer information and advice — you just need to ask. Building those alliances and foundations of knowledge on a subject matter makes tackling the future more exciting and fruitful.

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

Our benefit health plan is much more than handing out an insurance card at the beginning of the year. We encourage our team members and their families to learn about their personal health, get engaged in a variety of health and wellness programs and try to live life in the healthiest possible way. The result of that is literally hundreds of testimonials from our members every year on how they have lost weight, changed their lifestyle and gotten off medications. It is extremely rewarding and is a testament to [our] close-knit corporate culture.

R&I: What’s the best restaurant you’ve ever eaten at?

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Some will remember the volcano eruption in Iceland in spring of 2010. I was just finishing a week of meetings in London with Lloyd’s syndicates related to our property insurance placement when the airspace in England and most of northern Europe was shut down — no airplanes in or out! Flights were ultimately canceled for the following five days. Therefore, with a few other stranded visitors like myself, we experimented and tried out new restaurants every day until we could leave. It was a very interesting time!

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

I am originally from Canada, and I played ice hockey from the time I was four years old up until quite recently. Too many surgeries sadly forced my recent retirement.

R&I: What do your friends and family think you do?

That’s a funny one … I am a CPA working in the casino industry, doing insurance and risk management, so neighbors and acquaintances think I either do tax returns or they think I’m a blackjack dealer at the casino!




Katie Dwyer is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]