Ric Rosario believes in luck, both good and bad, but he’s not one to simply cross his fingers and hope for the best as the CEO at CAMICO Mutual Insurance Co.
“Luck favors the prepared mind,” Rosario says. “All that means is you don’t know what lucky opportunity is going to present itself to you unless your mind is open to see it.
“It’s critical that the leadership of an organization has that ability to be realistic about what’s going on in this world and be perceptive enough to recognize that you can’t plan on which opportunity is going to show up.”
Prepared minds are big for Rosario, both for himself and the 110 employees who work for him at CAMICO, which took in $76.9 million in gross income in 2008. So when he speaks, there is always purpose behind the words to make sure his employees’ minds are prepared.
“You need to have good content, and you have to know how to deliver it,” Rosario says.
Smart Business spoke with Rosario about how to think before you speak and how to be a better listener.
Be aware of your role. Remember that people are always watching you, no matter whether you are doing something or doing nothing. You’re in a fishbowl. That’s just the way it is. You have to be comfortable enough with the idea that your people are watching you.
They are looking at your schedule. They are looking at why you are not doing something. You’re not always going to make everybody happy. There’s constantly going to be someone who is not going to be happy or has a disagreement with you. You have to learn to accept it.
That opportunity where everyone is looking at you is the opportunity that allows you to lead in a way that inspires people. When things are bad, the leader’s opportunity is to help them get through bad times.
Build trust. You can’t just have a meeting with the staff every six months right when there is a big announcement or a problem. There has to be consistent, forthright and honest communication.
Tell them the bad news, but put it in a way that they can follow the progression. They may not be working on the solution for that particular issue, but they can understand what it is and the things you are working on.
Follow up with the staff and say, ‘OK, you remember that this happened? This is what we’ve done, this is what is going on now, and this is the next step and the direction we’re going to take.’
Trust is built on being able to communicate good things and bad things and do it on a reasonable and periodic basis so it’s almost like a dialogue that you’re having over a period of time. The staff gets accustomed to it. They are accustomed to once a month getting an opportunity to hear about where we are, good or bad, what the management team is doing and then stay tuned until the next one.
Be prepared to speak. Obviously, you have a message to get across in a public speech or in talking to your staff, but make sure you anticipate some of their needs versus what the speaker thinks their needs are. Talk to some people that are going to be in the audience. Say, ‘These are some of the key things I’m going to be talking about. How do you react to that? Is there anything you think I should cover? Any part of those key ideas that you think would be helpful?’
Getting some feedback before you ever do the speech is really important. Talk to the staff, meet with your board, it’s the same idea. If you know you’re going to be talking about something, have the opportunity to talk to someone who is in that potential audience group who can give you some insight that may add to your content.
Having access before you speak to a few people that you have confidence in that are kind of well-centered on what some of the issues that people would like to hear about is really important.
You could be the smartest guy in the world on a particular topic. But if you don’t know how to deliver it, you’ll lose 75 percent of the audience in five minutes. On the other hand, you could be the world’s greatest deliverer, but if you don’t have any content, they’ll quickly be amused, but they’ll walk away with nothing.
Have a plan. Figure out what two or three points you want them to walk away with. Start with it, repeat it and finish with those two or three ideas. If they are going to retain anything, it’s going to be the things you frankly beat into them.
If you want people to retain something other than from memory, you need to give them walk-away points. You’ll have more retention if they have something to walk away with.
Make listening a priority. As a leader and also as a personality type, I oftentimes feel like I need to rush to action or speak to action sometimes sooner than I should. Within an organization, there’s a lot of really good people that want to do the right thing for the organization and want to offer up their point of view. There is a tendency where it’s easy to follow into a trap of not listening to that. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. I’m constantly working to listen first and speak second. That’s not as easy as it sounds.
It’s something you have to discipline yourself to. As much as a leader needs to be a good communicator as we’ve talked about, it’s absolutely just as important for the leader to be a good listener.
People will reach out if you allow them or if you’re open and they know you are willing to listen. Let people finish out what they have to say. If you like it or not, do everything you can to not respond immediately and let the communication soak in.
How to reach: CAMICO Mutual Insurance Co., (800) 652-1772 or www.camico.com