By Jay Ledesma

A leader’s challenge: M.E. in the new world 

THE world is changing. And it's changing fast. The current pandemic has changed our world in a manner and speed that we have not seen and experienced before. The world we know 12 months ago is no longer the world we now have. In order to survive and thrive in what is now called the new normal, we are forced to adjust, adapt, and adopt. Otherwise, we make ourselves irrelevant and non-existent.    

This cannot be more true in the case of today’s leaders. Leadership per se is already challenging and demanding.  But the pandemic and the disruptions it has brought along made a leader’s job a much tougher act. For the leaders of today,  the new world demands that they are Malleable enough to help their teams navigate through these volatile and uncertain times while upholding the highest standard of excellence in their field. They do not only have to adjust and adapt to the changes but they are expected to continuously explore and introduce new and better ways of doing things. They are in a constant challenge to help their team members not only survive in the now but thrive in the future. For some, this is just an enhancement of what they were doing pre-pandemic but for most, it requires a complete transformation.  

Insurance agency leaders are not excused from this reality. In an industry where face-to-face interaction has always been the norm, a sudden and total shift to digital selling was no easy feat.  From selling, client servicing to recruitment and team management, almost everything is now done on the virtual platform. Amidst this backdrop, insurance agency leaders, some of whom are technology-challenged themselves, have to be at the forefront, leading their teams towards this major digital transformation. They had to conquer their own fears and insecurities.  Those who shied away from the digital platforms in the past, are now in front of their computers and other gadgets attending webinars or doing zoom meetings.  Technology became their primary means to connect with their people and run their operations during the quarantines and lockdowns.    

Now, more than ever, insurance leaders have to retool, upskill and reinvent, not only themselves but every member of their teams,  in order to serve the changing demands of their team members and clients.    

The recently held 26th GAMA (General Agents and Managers Association) Phils. convention could have not chosen a more fitting theme to reflect the above reality.  

According to GAMA Phils President Susan Lee, ”We chose the theme, 'M.E. in the New World' where M stands for Malleability and E for Excellent, to emphasize the need for agency leaders to always exhibit their winning agility and adaptability to respond, with the highest standard of excellence and professionalism, to an evolving market’s ever-changing needs.  New leaders from different generations need to be continuously molded to be the next stewards steering the industry to succeed in the face of unprecedented challenges. Most importantly, to assure the safety and security of every Filipino family, after we emerge from this so-called new normal."    

As big gatherings are still not allowed under the General Community Quarantine, this year’s GAMA convention had to be done again thru the virtual platform.  Staging this all-virtual convention tested the resourcefulness, agility, and creativeness of the organizing committees, which had to deal with 21 speakers, 8 of whom are from other countries. “It was a great challenge coordinating with some of our speakers given the different time zones we had to deal with, but it’s all worth it.  We have a roster of acclaimed authorities whose expert opinions and rich perspectives opened our minds”, says Pauline Uchi, GAMA Convention chair.  

This year’s GAMA convention with around 17,000 attendees, was offered for free for both members and non-members leaders from the Philippines and from at least 9 international GAMA chapters. As Pres. Susan explained, “This is the 2nd year that we have offered the convention for free. We wanted to be able to reach out and help as many leaders as we can, especially during this challenging time, by equipping them with better leadership knowledge and skills. We want our agency leaders to know that they are not alone in this pandemic and that GAMA Phils will always be a partner in their professional and personal growth."

Despite the challenges of 2020, the Philippine insurance industry performed well and posted growth in premium income. In his message, 

IC Commissioner Dennis Funa congratulated the membership for the 5.9%  growth registered by the industry last year, amidst the lockdowns and quarantines.  He lauded the group for its resiliency in the face of the different digital technology innovations that had to be introduced such as remote digital selling, online licensing exams, etc. Changes had to be done quickly and he was very happy that the leaders and the advisors were quick to adjust and adapt too. Moving forward, Comm. Funa sees stronger coordination and alliance with GAMA Phils in advancing the welfare of the industry leaders. Taking off from last year’s performance, the Commissioner maintains a positive outlook for the industry this 2021 and acknowledges the vital role that leaders play in the continued growth of the industry.

Following this year’s theme, the convention topics were divided into M and E: M for Malleable sessions featured topics which were all aimed at helping the attendees learn more about mental conditioning and mental toughness and how these can help them and their team members find their ways through the complex and ambiguous environment we now have. As mental health impacts our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors towards the changes happening around us, it is crucial that enough attention should be given to this important topic.  One message resonated from all the speakers: Only by having the proper frame of mind can we view and respond to all the changes and challenges of the new world, in a more responsible, mature, and logical manner. A leader who has the right mindset Is in a better position to bring his people to greater heights.     

On the other hand, the E for Excellent sessions talked about the different leadership fundamentals, principles, and disciplines that leaders must possess and exhibit and how these have evolved and changed considering the givens of the new normal. The speakers also stressed that while leaders continue to make and adapt to changes, their eyes should remain focused on maintaining and delivering the highest form of excellence. With or without pandemic, leaders must be in constant pursuit of excellence. Pandemic is no excuse to take shortcuts and compromise one’s standards. The speakers reminded the Leaders to always challenge and ask themselves: Are we already doing the best? Or is there still a better way to do things? When there’s excellence, success cannot be far behind.    

All the 21 speakers delivered more than what’s expected from them. Their powerful presentation and sharing gave the attendees so many takeaways to digest and act on. As Convention Chair Pauline said, "all the sacrifices we made to bring this convention together was all worth it."

Great job GAMA Phils for doing this convention and for reminding our leaders that in order to be relevant, thrive, and succeed in this new world, we need to be malleable while we pursue excellence. As PLIA President Benedict Aquino said at the end of his keynote speech, “Malleability and excellence when taken separately may be conflicting.  Malleability requires us to be flexible and try new and various alternatives while Excellence is best achieved when we do something repeatedly.  But they should not be in contrast. They can very well complement each other.”  

This is the balance that the leaders of today are challenged to maintain, as they continue to play a key role in the lives of their advisors and their clients, as well as their respective families.

Thankfully, they have GAMA Phils. ready to assist each member to be a better ME in the new world. 


About the Columnist

Image of Jay Ledesma

Ms. Jay Ledesma writes about local tourism and business bits that delve on investments and insurance.