Note: This is a guest post from my friend and colleague, Bill Westrate.
Have you ever started a company meeting or event by sharing your work story?
Most of us have. If you’re like me, it’s a source of pride – and it should be.
But my story is a little different than most.
Later this year, it will be 20 years since I joined American Family … the first time.
Some of you may not know that early in my career I left American Family for a promotion into a management role with another Midwest insurance company. Unlike American Family, this company was a publicly traded insurance company, with an intense focus on quarterly results and the company’s stock price.
I quickly found this “results-only” environment was not for me.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely have results on my mind. We have to be financially strong to deliver on our promises to our customers. I also see American Family strengthening its culture of accountability – important progress as we play to win in our industry.
But, for me – and, I think, many of you – our work has to be about more than just results. To bring my best every day, I need my heart involved as well.
That’s why our brand message resonates so well with me. Our work is about restoring dreams when accidents or catastrophes occur. Our work is about protecting our customers, not stock prices or Wall Street expectations.
But, it’s more than our work.
We also have a tremendous, positive impact on our communities. We see this in big ways, like the American Family Children’s Hospital, which serves families throughout the Midwest and provides groundbreaking pediatric cancer research. And we see it through our work with the United Way, in Dane County where we’re headquartered, and in our regional and branch office communities. Our employees, agents and company support both organizations – with dollars and time.
We also make an impact in less visible, but important ways.
Our agents are the face of our company in their communities, and many of our employees have a strong presence as well. We provide small grants, support agent efforts in their local communities, and now have a matching program in place for agents and employees. I’m grateful our company supports the personal commitments our agents and employees make. We’re putting financial support to aspects that are, in my opinion, connected to the heart.
The purpose of this column, though, is not to promote what our company does. Instead, it’s to highlight that American Family is a place where you can bring your heart, your passions, and your personal commitments. When you care deeply and personally about our purpose and what we accomplish together, that’s when your heart is as fully engaged as your mind. That shows in the work we do. And our customers experience it, too.
Jack Salzwedel, CEO of American Family Insurance, has talked about individual performance in terms of IQ + EQ + AQ. I would suggest AQ (the ability to take action, get movement and momentum, and achieve results) is a function of the heart. It’s passion. It’s drive. It’s perseverance. And passion, drive, and perseverance come naturally when your heart is involved. We recently announced several retirements and promotions – I think these leaders embody the strong combination of heart and mind that built this great company and that we need to keep it that way.
Being a place where you can make a difference on our business results AND bring your heart to work with you … that’s what makes American Family special to me.
– Bill Westrate is Chief Operating Officer for American Family Insurance in Madison, Wis.