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My army training helps me to be a better leader

12 Dec 2019 By Neil Wright

Neil Wright explains how his military background benefits his role at the helm of a multimillion-pound insurance business

My nimble team of 23 recently achieved an annual turnover of £20m, and we’re about to reach five million customers. So what’s my secret to success? My approach to leading a team involves drawing on my army training, which includes taking full responsibility for under-performing staff members; training up my team for their next job beyond CoverForYou; over-staffing the customer team to ensure calls are answered in 10 seconds; and purposefully not setting sales targets for the sales team. 

And it’s working. Our policy sales were up 155 per cent this summer compared to last year, and we’re on track to reach a £24m turnover next financial year. Here are the key elements of my somewhat unconventional approach to leadership:

Accountability

If someone isn’t performing in their role, as MD I believe I am liable in all instances. I tend to draw on my army background, so if a team member is floundering it’s because, as leader, I’ve either trained them up incorrectly or assessed them incorrectly. The upside of this is that all situations of this nature are therefore fixable through better training or a more suitable role.

Unique measurement

I don’t enforce targets on the sales team. In fact, I avoid pushing sales full stop. I work with the team to prioritise retaining customers above all else – through giving genuine advice and forming a solid relationship built on trust. This has paid off: 49 per cent of all annual multi-trip policyholders renew with us, and we are very highly rated on customer review platforms.

Nurture talent 

To get the best out of people, you have to trust them, treat them as adults and motivate through praise. I’m aware that some talent will only be with the company for a certain period, but I want each member of the team to be trained up to the best of their abilities while they’re with us. This means paying for external training for all of my employees and even enforcing compulsory study time for exams during the working week. I have also introduced the rule that no one works on their birthday.

The power of one-to-one

As a tech business, human interaction is even more vital – it’s what sets you apart in an online world. This is for everything, from face-to-face internal meetings to a customer service team that is readily available at the end of the phone.

Fine-tune customer service

Overstaffing our customer service team has really paid off. Ninety per cent of our customer calls are answered within 10 seconds – including our 24-hour emergency medical helpline – meaning happy customers who return time and time again. I also regularly listen to employee and customer feedback and make a point of implementing change. For example, customers fed back on their challenges with medical issues abroad, so we introduced a map on our app that geolocates customers and directs them to the nearest hospital. There’s also a handy medical translator.  

Transparency with the team

The more a team knows, the more they’ll understand the bigger picture and work towards the common company goals. Listening to everyone’s ideas is vital too, as you never know where a good idea might come from.

Neil Wright is founder of CoverForYou

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