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New York, New York!

I am writing this at New York’s JFK Airport, where I will shortly board the first of two planes to bring me home to Cyprus, and, unsurprisingly, I’m thinking about the past five days (18-22 September), which have been among the most

I am writing this at New York’s JFK Airport, where I will shortly board the first of two planes to bring me home to Cyprus, and, unsurprisingly, I’m thinking about the past five days (18-22 September), which have been among the most exciting, rewarding and educational weeks of my professional career.

It all started with the live broadcast of episode 141 of #AskVirardi on Tuesday, 19 September from the Head Offices of the Shipowners Claims Bureau (SCB), Managers of The American P&I Club, located on the 31st floor of their building in the heart of New York’s Financial District. My guest – Vincent J. Solarino, President and Chief Operating Officer of the Club – was on fire as he delivered his answers straight from his heart, backed up by the wisdom garnered from his 40 years of experience. The broadcast, which was very warmly received with over 200 shares and another 200 comments, was followed on Wednesday by an all-day Management Workshop on networking, sales and teamwork. The final part was my own keynote speech delivered to all the company’s employees.

For a trainer like me, a workshop, a seminar or a keynote speech is more than an excellent opportunity to meet new and exciting professionals from a variety of backgrounds, disciplines and cultures. It is a vehicle by which a trainer can help enhance productivity within an organization by educating, motivating and spurring the participants to positive action but even if all the goals and objectives agreed with the company’s Management have been met, the trainer is still not a ‘winner’ if he (or she) hasn’t gained something more and is able to walk away feeling better off as a professional.

In my case, I am definitely better off because of what I will call the ‘Solarino Effect’.

The ‘Solarino Effect’

Being exposed to the wisdom of a man like Vincent J. Solarino is an unparalleled experience. Vince, as he likes to be called, is not only a highly experienced professional but a kind-hearted man who positively impacts his organization through his personality and shrewd decision-making.  He reminds me a lot of my late father and, within a very short space of time, he succeeded in impacting and impressing me as his organization’s latest trainer.

I can only urge you to view #AskVirardi 141 to catch a glimpse of this ‘larger than life’ man who, at times, appears wiser than a Zen Master. His eloquence will not only impress you but will probably make you want to take action in order to improve yourself. This, at least, is one of the effects that he had on me.

Among the many pearls of wisdom, which he unleashed during the workshop and at several lunches and dinners, was this: “You do not process a claim, you manage a claim.” Since Day One, this phrase has been simmering in my mind.

“You do not process a claim, you manage a claim.”

This concept is, of course, specifically relevant to insurance organizations but I saw it in much a broader sense. “Managing” and “Processing” may, on the surface, seem to be in many ways the same but they are not.  By managing – rather than processing – you are connecting with the heart as well as with the mind. It is all about “three-dimensional thinking” which, says Vincent J. Solarino, is something we can all do but people often need to be educated about it. It means seeing more than what is right in front us (“two-dimensional thinking”) in order to be aware of everything. In the business arena, if you work in one department, you have to know how all the other departments are interacting and only then can you formulate ideas, make suggestions and come up with solutions.  Three-dimensional thinking takes into account the whole ‘forest’ rather than a single ‘tree’ and, in essence, means treating people – customers, associates, colleagues – as individuals and not numbers. Thanks to his 3-D thinking, Vince has come to understand that there is no problem for which a solution cannot be found. It is just a matter of time and ingenuity.

As I contemplated this positive principle and the difference between “Managing” and “Processing” I was reminded of an incident that happened to me personally, and which I often refer to in my seminars as a learning experience that can happen to all of us. Having discovered a pimple in the palm of my hand one day and wanting to be sure that it was nothing serious, I arranged a 10:30am with a doctor. I arrived at the appointed time and waited to be called into his surgery. And I waited… And waited… By the time he finally did ask me in, it was 11.30am and, affected by my own busy schedule, I told him rather angrily that I had not more time to waste and asked for another appointment. 

The doctor listened to my outburst and apologized before informing me that his previous patient had just been diagnosed with cancer and, consequently, he felt that he needed to spend time with him, explaining the diagnosis, prognosis and the man’s chances of staying alive…

Needless to say, I felt bad – not only at hearing about a possible human tragedy but because I realized that I had violated one of the principles I teach and repeat on a regular basis when I tell students that we have two ears and one mouth and should listen twice as much as we speak. I had reacted angrily to the doctor’s delay before giving him the chance to explain the reason why he had, in essence, made me his second priority and not his first. Why? Because he was treating his patients as individuals, not numbers. In his mind, Mr. Virardi may have been due to see him about a pimple on his palm but for the other patient, a longer consultation concerned matters of life and death.

We all make mistakes. But the key is to never stop learning from them. I am sure that Vincent J. Solarino has made that a pillar of his own success and I feel that I gained a lot, simply from the time spent in his company, as well as the satisfaction of knowing that my address to the American P&I Club was very well received.

You won’t be surprised to learn that throughout my stay in New York, there was only one song that remained on repeat in my mind: Frank Sinatra’s classic rendition of “New York, New York”. And every time I sang it in my head, I felt myself gaining more confidence and looking forward to my next overseas workshop (Hong Kong in November). As Sinatra said about New York, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere” and I hope to prove him right. But now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a plane to catch!