Risk Insider: Grace Crickette

Mental Jiu-Jitsu and the Art of Listening

By: | November 4, 2014 • 3 min read
Grace Crickette, a leader in enterprise risk management, is special administrator, Finance and Administration for San Francisco State University. She can be reached at [email protected]
Topics: ERM | Risk Insider

This is the third chapter in Grace Crickette’s series of posts focused on how to gracefully bring together traditional risk management, change management techniques and enterprise risk management concepts by using phrases and tactics to develop strategies devised by Sun Tzu, a Chinese military general, strategist and philosopher.


rainbow peace sign copyBefore we continue with Chapter III, I want to do a deeper dive into the art of listening. I know few and cherish greatly, those who have mastered the art of listening, because they learn more, irritate others less, and are invaluable to those of us who have such active minds that our ears are swallowed up by our heads.

Importance of Knowledge, Wisdom, and Understanding

A theme that is embedded in virtually every other theme of the Art of War — especially in regard to knowing self and opposition — is the importance of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Knowledge, wisdom, and understanding are borne from asking questions and listening.

One of my colleagues told me that she was concerned about remaining silent during meetings, “I don’t want my silence to be perceived as weakness.” I can completely relate to her statement, as I often find myself feeling that I must respond, even if I’m not invited to speak, for fear that decisions will be made without my input. While I have not mastered the art of listening, I have developed a technique that gets me to focus, to be quite and to listen effectively, without giving up my position (power).

For those martial arts experts out there — please let me take some liberties … I have adapted Jiu-Jitsu to aid me in developing a self-defense system that focuses on grappling and especially “ground fighting.” My mental Jiu-Jitsu promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using proper technique.

“Let them talk and whatever you do, don’t interrupt them. Unless they ask a question of us, there is no reason for us to speak.”

A number of years ago, I was headed to a meeting with one of my colleagues. As we rode along in the taxi, we talked about how we were dreading what was before us. We knew that we were going to be outnumbered and that our host was going to be on the offensive. As we went along, I proposed that we practice mental Jiu-Jitsu …”what?”

“Let them talk and whatever you do, don’t interrupt them. Unless they ask a question of us, there is no reason for us to speak.”

“But what if they’re wrong … what if they are attacking us?”

“I’m telling you, if they don’t ask a question, we don’t need to respond. I’m going to sit there with my arms open, so that my body language is just the opposite of how I’m feeling internally. It is going to hurt; they are going to throw some body blows …”

So we went to the meeting and we practiced mental Jiu-Jitsu. They attacked us and our ideas for at least 10 minutes straight without ever asking a question … and then there was silence. I waited, and waited till it was uncomfortable, and then I spoke … “I understand you have concerns, but this is what we are going to do …” The adversary had exhausted themselves and we were able to get the important initiative moving forward.

Maybe it is not a coincidence that “Carlos Gracie” is known as the founder and creator of modern Jiu-Jitsu.

Key Takeaway: Know your weaknesses and develop strategies to overcome them. Unless someone is asking you a question, you have no responsibility to speak.

Remember — it’s not Risk Management, it’s Change Management!

Read all of Grace Crickette’s Risk Insider articles.

4 Companies That Rocked It by Treating Injured Workers as Equals; Not Adversaries

The 2018 Teddy Award winners built their programs around people, not claims, and offer proof that a worker-centric approach is a smarter way to operate.
By: | October 30, 2018 • 3 min read

Across the workers’ compensation industry, the concept of a worker advocacy model has been around for a while, but has only seen notable adoption in recent years.

Even among those not adopting a formal advocacy approach, mindsets are shifting. Formerly claims-centric programs are becoming worker-centric and it’s a win all around: better outcomes; greater productivity; safer, healthier employees and a stronger bottom line.


That’s what you’ll see in this month’s issue of Risk & Insurance® when you read the profiles of the four recipients of the 2018 Theodore Roosevelt Workers’ Compensation and Disability Management Award, sponsored by PMA Companies. These four programs put workers front and center in everything they do.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top,” said Steve Legg, director of risk management for Starbucks.

Starbucks put claims reporting in the hands of its partners, an exemplary act of trust. The coffee company also put itself in workers’ shoes to identify and remove points of friction.

That led to a call center run by Starbucks’ TPA and a dedicated telephonic case management team so that partners can speak to a live person without the frustration of ‘phone tag’ and unanswered questions.

“We were focused on building up a program with an eye on our partner experience. Cost was at the bottom of the list. Doing a better job by our partners was at the top.” — Steve Legg, director of risk management, Starbucks

Starbucks also implemented direct deposit for lost-time pay, eliminating stressful wait times for injured partners, and allowing them to focus on healing.

For Starbucks, as for all of the 2018 Teddy Award winners, the approach is netting measurable results. With higher partner satisfaction, it has seen a 50 percent decrease in litigation.

Teddy winner Main Line Health (MLH) adopted worker advocacy in a way that goes far beyond claims.

Employees who identify and report safety hazards can take credit for their actions by sending out a formal “Employee Safety Message” to nearly 11,000 mailboxes across the organization.

“The recognition is pretty cool,” said Steve Besack, system director, claims management and workers’ compensation for the health system.

MLH also takes a non-adversarial approach to workers with repeat injuries, seeing them as a resource for identifying areas of improvement.

“When you look at ‘repeat offenders’ in an unconventional way, they’re a great asset to the program, not a liability,” said Mike Miller, manager, workers’ compensation and employee safety for MLH.

Teddy winner Monmouth County, N.J. utilizes high-tech motion capture technology to reduce the chance of placing new hires in jobs that are likely to hurt them.

Monmouth County also adopted numerous wellness initiatives that help workers manage their weight and improve their wellbeing overall.

“You should see the looks on their faces when their cholesterol is down, they’ve lost weight and their blood sugar is better. We’ve had people lose 30 and 40 pounds,” said William McGuane, the county’s manager of benefits and workers’ compensation.


Do these sound like minor program elements? The math says otherwise: Claims severity has plunged from $5.5 million in 2009 to $1.3 million in 2017.

At the University of Pennsylvania, putting workers first means getting out from behind the desk and finding out what each one of them is tasked with, day in, day out — and looking for ways to make each of those tasks safer.

Regular observations across the sprawling campus have resulted in a phenomenal number of process and equipment changes that seem simple on their own, but in combination have created a substantially safer, healthier campus and improved employee morale.

UPenn’s workers’ comp costs, in the seven-digit figures in 2009, have been virtually cut in half.

Risk & Insurance® is proud to honor the work of these four organizations. We hope their stories inspire other organizations to be true partners with the employees they depend on. &

Michelle Kerr is associate editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]