7 Questions with Robert James
Name: Robert V. James
Current title: Executive Vice-President and CHRO
Current organisation: The Amynta Group
Experienced operating executive with a successful track record in business (P&L) management, marketing, operations, investment banking, offshore sourcing, data ad analytics, and business transformation. C-Suite and CEO experience with leading U.S. and International insurers in operations, underwriting, sales, sales management, marketing, technology, P&L management offshore sourcing, and business transformation. Involved in the Insurtech ecosystem with experience in business plan development, capital raising, and connecting startups to the insurance industry. Specialties: P&L Management, Sales, Sales Management, Marketing, Operations, Underwriting, Strategic Planning, Executive Coaching, Investment Banking, Technology, Offshore Sourcing, Data & Anaytics, and Business Transformation. Broad executive Property & Casualty Insurance experience, from small regional/niche companies, to large multi-line companies, and large brokerage operations. Member of the Board of Trustees for The Institutes (www.theinstitutes.org). The Institutes is a leading provider of insurance education and insurance professional designations including the Chartered Property and Casualty Underwriter designation.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
It's always difficult to balance the need for immediate earnings, or EPS improvement, quarter-by-quarter, and the longer-term actions needed to sustain the organization into the future and deal with the change that is affecting all businesses. It's also a lonely job, with confidants you can trust not easy to find and important to foster.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
It was luck meeting opportunity. A progression of experience in my industry over the years combined with the willing to take risks and do new things (both geography and positions). Plus, a few good mentors who've given me the opportunity and courage to step out of my comfort zone.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I keep a to-do list, a follow-up list, and I sort by both priority and timeline. I try to communicate more in person (phone, Zoom, etc.) than through email.... Nuance gets lost in emails oftentimes.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
You know less than you think you do, listen to others, but trust your gut (try to be informed by data), and then act.... but, also be quick to change course if things don't go according to plan.... and mostly, remember, the people who are in your charge have lives outside of work, they are more than their title.... say please, thank you, and when needed say I am sorry.
5. What one book has had the most profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The road less traveled.... E Scott Peck, M.D. It reminded me that work is only part fo our lives, not all of our lives.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
You need to care, focus, and work with people... there is no substitute for taking the time to be with your people, and on down the chain, they do too. If you're not authentic people see it and they check out, but come in everyday. Read Winnie the Pooh, what does it take to be real... A children's book, but it says it all.
7. If you had to pick just one story, what would be the most meaningful story from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
Deliver bad news yourself. Deliver it personally. Deliver it with empathy. Don't let the corporate/PR people make you a talking head. You'll come across as inauthentic. That will kill your leadership gravitas.