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7 Questions with Shannon Harjer

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Jonno White

7 Questions with Shannon Harjer

Name: Shannon Harjer

Current title: Executive Vice President

Current organization: Producers National Corporation

Ms. Harjer is an insurance industry executive focused on driving process improvement, integration of technology and quality resolution of insurance claims. With her diverse background and education, she is sought after as a thought leader, mentor and transformative claims organization executive.

7 Questions with Shannon Harjer

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1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

Without a doubt, culture change is a challenge. Adding in the disruption and heartache of the pandemic, priorities of organizations and our people changed. The emotional toll of 2020/2021 events realigned my view of what a challenge is in our business and how best to manage it for the well-being of our people, customers and business.

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My aspirations began while at State Farm in the mid 2000's when I began noticing the strong, confident women moving into significant positions within the organization. One leader in particular took interest in me, held my hand and lifted me up during my darkest hours. She shared her story with me and helped chart my course for success. While leaders serve others, she told me to always make sure to do my personal best as we cannot be enough for our people if we don't have faith in our own abilities.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I prepare days if not weeks in advance for some items as I know I need time to assess and create a path to properly execute on the mission. Keeping a normal sleep schedule along with proper diet and exercise allow me to focus on the daily issues, plan for the future and balance a personal life. This allows me to handle the surprises in a more relaxed, focused state.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

I read a quote that says, "Don't adapt to the energy in the room, influence the energy in the room". I don't know who wrote it, but I remind myself of this when working through challenging situations. As leaders, we solve problems. We are human and can fall victim to reacting to situations instead of influencing the situation.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

As a graduate student at Gonzaga University studying Organizational and Servant Leadership, I read "The Courage to Teach" by Parker Palmer. It spoke to me about the gifts I possess that I never put into words. Responsibility to commitment to helping others, a willingness to take risks, leading with respect and the ability to bridge the gap between business and the person. Being able to bridge that gap and know why I am able to do it was enlightening, empowering and affirmation of my path.

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

Most will say delegate. While it is important, one must understand the person's capacity, needs, resources and abilities. With data and the story behind it, I help the organization and the leaders understand how to best adjust, prioritize and delegate to further their efforts. Helping others learn this technique, I see the burdens lifted off their shoulders. It shows them how much I value them not just as leaders but as people.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

One of the benefits of being an executive is being able to make decisions to positively change the course of someone's life. Over the past several years, I began creating new roles and opportunities for people who don't have an equitable experience or education to excel within our space. I see too many good people pass by for opportunity because they don't "have what it takes". Whether it is a degree, years of experience or just sponsorship, I want to help those with potential and passion. By providing a network of support and ensuring their individual needs are met, I am always beyond delighted to see the strength, passion and career progression take off. They inspire me to keep dreaming up ways to create opportunity wherever I go and to always make time to serve others.