The weeklong educational course, designed for members of the Chubb distribution network, exemplifies how education and professional growth do not stop no matter how important you get.
"Our target audience for that program is agency principals," said Elizabeth McDaid a vice president of agency education with Chubb & Son, "People who are running the agency and are looking for new ways of thinking and developing strategy."
Students could come from the operational side as well as the strategy side of the business, she added. Based on past feedback and on available Wharton courses that would best meet agents' needs, McDaid formulates the syllabus for the program with her Wharton counterparts Sandhya Karpe and Professor Neil Doherty, who is also chairperson of insurance and risk management.
And believe it or not, even leaders can still learn a thing or two. The sessions include lectures and interactive discussions with professors from Wharton, in Philadelphia where the program is held. Topics range from the meaning of leadership to ethics to best practices for mergers and acquisitions.
At the end of each day, the participants break off into teams for a simulation exercise, in which they compete on running a theoretical agency based on lessons learned in the earlier sessions. This component is new for this year.
All of it is geared so that participants have new tools and ideas that they can use as soon as they return to the office on Monday. One class member at the most recent session in April joked that his office always braced for his return from this program, and the inevitable whirlwind of change that it wrought. Many other participants agreed that what they learned was immediately applicable.
"They walked out of the session with valuable tools," said McDaid. "There were some formulas that they learned, some leadership tips that they heard, even the network that they develop with peers from around the country."
And perhaps this network and contact is just as valuable as anything else gained at Wharton. Think about it. Most of the time, these men and women are not in a room with their peers, but with their subordinates. And if they are with peers, they typically are competitors who they want to smash, crush, acquire. That's even the case at a chamber of commerce meeting, say, when they're supposed to be cooperating toward similar ends yet market share is always on the mind.
But at the Chubb event, friendliness and openness prevail, even to a magazine editor poking his head in.
"They don't get a lot of opportunity to network in a somewhat safe, neutral environmental," said McDaid. She has noticed how the participants can "let their hair down" with people at the conference because these are leaders from all over the country, not from each other's particular markets.
The ultimate goal of all this learning, cooperation and self-reflection is The Chubb Wharton Recognized Insurance Leader certificate, which is meant to show that a person is serious about their professional and personal development.
The one-week core competencies program is followed up by in-depth programs, such as a four-day Advanced Leadership program or a three-day finance piece.
MATTHEW BRODSKY is senior editor/Web editor at Risk & Insurance®.
June 1, 2008
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