The importance of diverse networks that challenge you and push you forward
Vinit Shah has more than 20 years experience in sales, implementing complex change projects with a long-term vision in mind, whilst setting direction at pace, to provide clarity and focus with a fun, high energy leadership style. Vinit is the author of Slice (Panoma Press, £14.99) which encourages aspiring sales professionals to harness the power of personal development.
The importance of diverse networks that challenge you and push you forward
To understand the importance of having a diverse network, we first need to acknowledge and understand our own limitations. Whether we choose to accept it or not, we all harbour biases (conscious and unconscious) which impacts on our ability to appreciate and understand all the perspectives that are at play in any given situation. Our individual limited capacity means that utilising the help of those around us from different backgrounds, cultures, industries etc is crucial in challenging our own thought process and pushing us further, and at an accelerated pace.
Embrace alternative perspectives
Diverse networks that offer an alternative perspective and those that challenge you or your business are essential for long-term sustainable growth to be established. The more diverse your network, the more vigorously thought through the conclusions that you will be able to develop because your network will challenge you and put forward different viewpoints. This not only benefits you when solving a particular problem, but supports your personal growth on the whole as you appreciate more perspectives to consider in future situations.
Overcoming the fear of asking for help or advice and seeing it as a weakness is an important step in embracing a diverse network. The benefits of talking to those that think differently to you and see something from a different point of view can be a significant strength that helps validate your own assumptions and ideas as well as building confidence, which will support your own self development and growth. Putting the ego to the side for the benefit of the task at hand and not being afraid to use all the tools available to you will help you and ensure the solution is innovative and designed appropriately in accordance with your objectives and outcomes.
Use the experience of others
It is important to utilise the power of a diverse network when you work in a sector that straddles different industries. We live in a society where we are surrounded by experts, and the complexities of the multitude of different industries that exist make it extremely difficult for you to understand every single nuance. The diversity of your network can help you navigate the technical jargon so you can close the deal, or provide an opinion on a subject that may enhance your thinking or challenge your current thought process. Because of their extensive knowledge or experience in a certain field, they may offer a perspective you might have never considered.
From my own experience, talking to experts is crucial to test your assumptions and understanding. I’ve often found that it equally helps me to talk to my niece and nephews about some of my business challenges - children and teenagers have an excellent way of telling you whether something makes sense or if it’s too complicated and unconvincing! Distilling your unique offering into a simple and clear message will help you to attract more customers.
Always surround yourself with people that will grow you
The best managers and leaders know and appreciate that they need to surround themselves with people that are different to them. As a leader especially, it can be extremely scary to have people question and challenge you, but if you’re able to understand the benefits this open communication brings and how it can help you, you’ll quickly see progress in your development as well as those around you. The ability to harness the collective knowledge from a diverse group is hugely important, especially when the impact of those very decisions will have consequences that will impact people within the team and across the sphere.
A good example of this is when you’re recruiting people to work with you or within your team. It would be easy to recruit someone very similar to yourself, but depending on the role, identifying individuals that bring something from outside of the core competencies that are required is, and should be seen as an opportunity for growth of that individual and the team as a whole. Identifying individuals with complementary skills to yours or others in the team supports growth and development, as well as pushing any boundaries that may have manifested. Within most large metropolitan cities, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to work with diverse groups. This exposure helps us understand different cultures, share our different experiences and provides invaluable context, which supports the ongoing appreciation of differences that exist. Openness to diversity will not only expand your problem-solving abilities, but it makes you a much more attractive organisation to prospective employees.
Appreciating different views
As you learn to consider more diverse opinions and perspectives, naturally you’ll come to your own conclusions and determine which ones you agree with versus others that you do not. Regardless of whether you agree, it’s important to appreciate these different views respectfully, as at some point they could become relevant and provide the context that you need. If you’re unable to relate to certain points of view, it doesn’t mean they are not valid. It’s better to see it as an idea that you haven’t been sold on just yet and need more convincing.
If we’re able to deeply understand ourselves, our teams and appreciate the multitude of perspectives at play, in any given situation the better and more thought through our solutions will be whilst ensuring they are aligned to the needs of those that they impact or need to consider.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.